Brand Battle: LA Fitness v. 24-Hour Fitness | Street Fight

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One Fitness Brand is Flexing Mobile to be Found by Local Customers

New year, new me.

Every January, this phrase drives millions of customers to create new habits and break old ones. This could be the time to entice and retain loyal customers, so brands should never give consumers a reason to drop out on their resolutions. From Fitbit and Jawbone to Misfit and more, 70 million fitness trackers were purchased at the beginning in 2015 to meet the growing demand of health-conscious consumers. With 39.6% of Americans resolving to lose weight and gym memberships skyrocketing, can brands afford to not meet these connected customers in the moments that matter most – on their mobile devices?

The Players

Growth in health and fitness related apps is 87% faster than other industries and because of the New Year, overall search traffic is at a high. In the ultimate test of customer satisfaction, we compared two fitness heavy weights to see which brand could best KO Local. Based on the depiction below of user interest in both of these brands, we can assume that LA Fitness is the brand that has recently garnered more search traffic. But this study will show that between the two, 24 Hour Fitness was the champion – making a clear effort to capitalize on the Local and reach connected customers.  

Established within a year of one another, LA Fitness has expanded to 627 locations while 24 Hour Fitness has 453 fitness centers. We found that the greatest area for improvement for both brands was in its local SEO and mobile optimization of listings, local landing pages, and keywords to match the demands of on-the-go fitness fanatics.


Graph via Google Trends

The Battle

Round 1 — Data Quality

Infographic: Brand Battle by the Numbers

WHY LA FITNESS WON: At the hub of a brand’s local presence is its data quality. From Yelp to Google and Facebook, making local data readily available proved to be a challenge for 24 Hour Fitness. 20.5% of 24 Hour Fitness’s locations had local data quality errors on Google alone, compared to only 11.5% for LA Fitness.  Moreover, 7% of 24 Hour Fitness’s locations are unaccounted for on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare.

Drilling in deeper, we saw little focus on social data accuracy and presence, with 99% of both brands’ locations showing up as unclaimed on Yelp. This is a huge area of opportunity for both brands to develop long-standing relationships with customers by simply developing a presence and getting listed with accurate location data. Overall, the weaker brand in this round was definitely 24 Hour Fitness, with 13 non-existent Facebook locations and a Data Quality score of 55 compared to LA Fitness’s score of 64.2.

Round 2 — Reviews

WHY 24 HOUR FITNESS WON: A growing area of opportunity for any brand in the fitness and health arena, customer reviews managed to even out the playing field for both LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness. Between the two brands, LA Fitness has been aggregating more on a monthly basis but garnering nearly 60% of negative sentiment in reviews using terms such as “staff,” “equipment,” “classes,” “pool,” and more. One particular review on a LA Fitness’ Google Plus page demonstrated the need for this brand to pick up the pace on recognizing customer sentiment and finding new ways to engage in order to convert local haters into lovers.

“I like the building and equipment. I dislike how dirty the place is. No one cleans. Hair, dust and crap all over the floor. Nobody cleans and I get sick literally from going there! If it wasn’t a couple of members wiping down equipment after using it the place would never get cleaned! I work out at night so maybe it’s just an accumulation of crap from throughout the day but it’s gross!”
– Google Plus review left by customer in December 2015

Overall, both brands face significant difficulty in the reviews arena, but 24 Hour Fitness was able to KO LA Fitness.

Round 3 — Local Advertising

WHY 24 HOUR FITNESS WON: By now, enterprise brands who haven’t begun online advertising campaigns are particularly missing out on the local opportunity to gain traffic based on consumers with high intent to purchase. Especially with users seeking out gyms to join at the front end of the year, intent is at an all time high and users are looking for immediate answers.

The difference in ad strategies between LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness was the number of keywords versus spend. With a $17.6 budget for ad spend, we saw that 80% of 24 Hour Fitness’s ads target branded keywords and competitor keywords for LA fitness and other local gyms. All of 24 Hour Fitness’s key words are optimized for its website instead of local pages. In comparison, LA Fitness pays for 46 non-branded keywords that are more focused on general facility terminology and phrasing.

Overall, 24 Hour Fitness’s recent ad campaign is returning 79% of search results in the first 3 results. These varying approaches helped 24 Hour Fitness win in the Local Advertising category, barely beating LA Fitness by a mere 10 points.

Round 4 — Engagement

WHY 24 HOUR FITNESS WON: Overall, it’s safe to say that 24 Hour Fitness has more #gymflow aficionados following it on both Facebook and Twitter. This significant amount of followers was accompanied by more check-ins to local fitness facilities, blowing LA Fitness out of the water by almost 4 million check-ins.

Interestingly, while more conversations circulate around 24 Hour Fitness and its locations, LA fitness holds true to engaging with customers, with 17.6 times as much engagement on social posts as 24 Hour Fitness.

Overall, both brands have just under 20% of unclaimed locations on Facebook, which opens the opportunity to utilize growing Facebook’s local search platform and satisfy users who may be trying to engage at the location level.

Round 5 — Local SEO

WHY 24 HOUR FITNESS WON: On a brand’s website and its local landing pages, back-end optimization is key to getting found over the competition. In this round, we found that one brand in particular was prioritizing mobile optimization for users on local pages and website properties, making it the victor of this round and the Brand Battle as a whole.

24 Hour Fitness’s website has responsive design, optimized for desktop, mobile, and tablet. This website makes use of user location for multiple screens, whereas LA Fitness has no optimization for either interface. On desktop and mobile, we found that 24 Hour Fitness’s neat and navigable local properties integrated driving directions, linking to local Facebook pages, photos, and even 360-degree tours with in-depth details on personal trainers.

The area of deficiency that put 24 Hour Fitness on par with LA Fitness was the lack of “send to phone/email” features within local pages. LA Fitness, which does not have a mobile-optimized website, has local pages that are unresponsive to user location and do not include important features such as click-to-call, local social media pages, or even driving directions.  Aside from this, 24 Hour Fitness’s local page performance succeeded in building an authoritative presence on SERPs. 

With respect to keywords,only 18% of Google searches rank LA Fitness as #1 when searching for the words “fitness trainer,” “gym,” or “fitness center”. However, more than half (51.8) of LA Fitness locations are ranking first for the same keywords on Bing. This might be partially due to a difference in demographic trends, but shows a great area of opportunity for this round’s victor, 24 Hour Fitness, to boost its local SEO score of 50.

Brandify Recommendations: LA Fitness

This brand may have gained some overall search traffic, but LA Fitness lost four of the five Brand Battle rounds and earned a lower Brand Score of 589, in part due to a weak local strategy.

  1. ANALYZE LOCAL SEARCH AUTHORITY. Panda was recently integrated into Google’s core algorithm, giving LA Fitness an opportunity to supercede on organic search if local pages are more valuable and show authority. LA Fitness should consider integrating social icons, click to calls, weekly ads, and responsiveness to GPS location for local pages.
  2. IMPROVE MOBILE OPTIMIZATION STRATEGY. Currently, LA Fitness’s local properties are far from mobile optimized. With local customers always on the go, including responsive information on both local pages and the brand’s app could potentially drive users into nearby centers upon search. The LA Fitness app currently supports Apple Watch, so it needs provide relevant local information for wearable-wearing gym goers.
  3. INVEST MORE IN AD CAMPAIGNS. LA Fitness has definitely recognized the fact that advertising is key. The approach, however, is not effective because of vague keyword targeting strategies and a lack of monetary investment in backing branded terms that prospective customers might be searching for.

Brandify Recommendations: 24 Hour Fitness

This brand, with a final winning Brand Score of 621, is all warmed up in local. It’s time to pick up the pace to keep ahead of the competition on mobile.

  1. ENGAGE MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. With only 9k followers on Instagram in comparison to LA Fitness’ 42k, there is a huge opportunity to be seized in generating engaged local customers. This channel and its parent, Facebook, should be closely paid attention to in particular, because these are generally channels where user generated content is shared and where local brand content can be easily proliferated.
  2. EXERCISE YOUR MOBILE REACH. Because this brand has the upper hand in Local presence, it’s time to take their local ads to the next level. This brand should leverage its ad budget by geo-targeting branded keywords to mobile customers and send contextual promotions to users within its own app. This is the start of developing a local loyalty program and can keep the competition in the dust.
  3. DEVELOP VARIOUS STREAMS OF LOCAL TRAFFIC. This brand has optimized its local presence on Google, but what about Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, and more? LA Fitness understands the importance of driving traffic through various streams, and with a tool that recognizes ranking opportunities on those alternate channels, 24 Hour Fitness can develop that strength as well.

February Brand Battle Winner: 24-Hour Fitness

The battle was scored using Brandify’s Social Data Matching (SDM) technology with data from various channels,* including Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare and. Data was entered into the Brandify analytics engine to test the two companies’ local digital marketing footprint to determine a final Brand Score for each.

The Brand Score is calculated with an algorithm that consists of 250 variables grouped into six pillars: Data Quality, Local SEO, Reviews, Social Engagement, Local Advertising, and Competitor Benchmarking.

Street Fight and Brandify will publish a new Brand Battle each month.

*Other channels sources included in this analyses: Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Brandify is transforming the way businesses connect to consumers by leveraging location technology and offering unrivaled personal service. Brandify has helped hundreds of brands understand and improve their local presence. Current and past clients include In-N-Out Burger, True Value, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Applebee’s, Black & Decker, and more. For more information about Brandify, go to