Joe Warner is the editor of IronLife and one of the UK’s most respected fitness magazine journalists. He has written more than 12 workout books and guides and is based in London.
The rise of drag-and-drop websites means it’s never been easy to build your own presence on the internet, whether you want to attract new PT clients, blog about the latest and best health and fitness research, or sell workout and diet plans to the world.
But the ease in which you can set up a site also means competition is fierce for clicks and eye balls, and with more fitness ‘professionals’ than ever ripping of other peoples’ training plans, before and after pics, and other intellectual property to enhance their reputation – when it that does is undermine it – you need to stand out from the crowd to build a loyal online audience that will further your industry standing and earning potential. Here’s what you need to do.
1 Keep it focused
In the pursuit of trying to sound as knowledgable as possible when writing online articles or blogs it’s all too easy to lose sight of the number one reason for the post. Before you type a single word understand exactly what the post subject is about, then identify two or three areas of this topic you want to bring to readers’ attention. Then, for each of these sub-points, identify three points you want to make. And that’s it.
You now have a blog-post plan that it’s almost impossible from which to deviate. If your approach is to sit at your laptop and just start typing, unless you are an extremely talented writer, all you’ll get is an outpouring of disconnected points and observation in a stream-of- consciousness writing that fails to achieve the main points of fitness blog posting: inform the reader about something they want to know more about; leave them with some takeaway points that can be put into action; and keep them engaged and entertained for the duration of the post. The internet is awash for health and fitness content and 99% of it doesn’t deserve to exist. Make sure yours is in the 1%.
2 Keep it simple
I see this problem time and again in the writings of fitness industry professionals. Or let me put it in their terms: ‘I optically visualise this predicament in perpetuum in the manuscripts of fitness commerce specialists.’ We get it. You can use a thesaurus. But let me be brutally honest: the more you try to convince people your grasp of the English language is on a par with Shakespeare or Dickens, the more you sound like you don’t know your arse from your elbow. You are not writing to impress people; you are writing to help them. To educate them. And if they can’t understand what you’re the hell you’re talking about then they won’t read past the first paragraph. There goes your potential customer or client.
It’s the same when using biological or anatomical terms. Your blogs and articles should not require the constant referencing of a medical dictionary. George Orwell’s six rules of writing, taken from Politics and the English Language, should be read before the start of every single writing session. Here they are in full:
1 Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2 Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3 If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4 Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5 Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
It really is that simple to write clear, concise and informative articles. If in doubt, imagine you are explaining it to a ten-year-old. If you can’t do that? Then you don’t understand it yourself.
3 Use supporting references
So many online articles fail to make any references to support the claims they are making. If your post or article is about anything to do with health, fitness or nutrition – which I assume it will be if you are reading this – it takes five minutes to find a handful of scientific studies, journals and papers that will add genuine weight to your writing. Google Scholar is the web giant’s complete resource of all published journals, with almost all abstracts available for free. PubMed, ScienceDaily and a host of other research aggregators will also help you find a suitable study in next to no time. Linking back to the original study webpage, so that your reader can find out more for themselves, builds goodwill towards you. And if you give your readers what they want they’ll come back to you for more.
4 Give credit where due
This point should go without saying, but the more fitness blogs, websites and social media posts I see, the more I believe it’s the Wild West out there, with PTs and other industry figures shamelessly stealing other trainers’ content. It takes months and years to build a reputation as an authority on fitness, but only one click of a mouse for it all to come undone. By all means reference and link to other peoples’ work or website, giving your own take or views on it, or adding to the online conversation, but passing off other’s work as you own? Your reputation will be in ruins, not to mention potential legal issues. And if you’re good at what you do, try to set your own agenda, not piggyback off your rivals.
5 Use social smarter
Unless you’re spending thousands of pounds on Google Ads, the way most people are going to find your website is through direct-link clicks on your social media accounts. Firstly, don’t buy followers: when you’ve got 155,000 Instagram followers but average 175 likes per post, it’s painfully obvious and anyone with half a brain cell can work out you’re spending your hard-earned cash on bots.
And use your social media accounts smartly: if you’re a transformation or fat loss specialist post the before and after pics online – with client consent, of course – with links back to your website. Is there a big-name coach or trainer you admire? Ask to interview them or for them to write a guest post that you can then Tweet about, and maybe they’ll do the same to their following too. There are myriad ways to increase your social media audience and, crucially, increase the engagement of your active audience. Experiment with training pictures, fat-loss after pics, quick videos until you find what works best for you. Just quit posting those ‘motivational’ posters of lions and giant pizzas, please. All that motivates me to do is log out of my account.
6 Give it away
If your business is built on winning new online clients or selling training and nutrition plans or guides, you need to get better at email data capture. It’s so simple to set-up a simple database but you need to give people a really good reason to sign over their personal details. Try giving away something for free – a PDF workout guide, your top 10 training rules, a fat-loss diet plan – anything you think your target demographic will be desperate to get their hands on.
Once you start capturing email addresses you can then start communicating with them directly, which is obviously very powerful. As you build up your database you can get as sophisticated as the time and money you can afford on nurturing it and doing more specific email campaigns, but if you want to keep it simple a weekly email from you, ideally offering the recipient some instantly-actionable tips and advice that will improve their health, fitness or life, is the way to go. You have to keep giving them something they don’t have the time or energy to find somewhere else. Because if you do, they’ll keep coming back or, more importantly, start telling their friends about you. And the more eyeballs you can get on your site or social media accounts, the more success you’ll have.