Fitness blogs create fitness experts.
An intelligently conceived and well-executed blog gives you a world of opportunity:
- To share your ideas
- To build an audience
- To attract customers to your brick-and-mortar business
- To launch an online training business
- To add passive income through affiliate commissions
- To create and sell digital and physical products
- To get the attention of industry leaders and gatekeepers
- To grow your network and expand your influence
- To open up opportunities as a speaker, writer, or consultant
- To charge more for what you do
- To achieve the kind of wealth that gives you control over your life and work
None of that is easy or automatic. None of it happens right away, or without hard, focused work, usually over many months. And none of it is guaranteed. If you’re a first-time fitness blogger, you’re building your audience one reader at a time.
My goal is to help you get started in a way that gives you the best chance to succeed. That includes the seven key steps I explain in this article.
You can click the links below to jump to the step that’s most important to you, or scroll down to see the entire process.
- How to choose a good name for your fitness blog
- How to set up hosting for your fitness blog
- How to write a fitness blog
- How to set up an email list for your fitness blog
- How to offer an ethical bribe to promote your fitness blog
- How to make money from your fitness blog
- The secret to a successful fitness blog: Write less, and promote more
- A final note about fitness blogging
1. How to choose a good name for your fitness blog
It’s not an exaggeration to say this is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your career. The name of your blog is often the first piece of information a potential customer, client, or fan has about you. It tells them who you are (sometimes literally, as you’ll see), what you do, and for whom you do it.
If that’s not enough pressure, it’s also getting harder every day to find a good domain name that isn’t taken or only available at a premium price. Expect to spend some time using the domain search tool at Namecheap.
Let’s look at your options.
Option 1: Your name
Companies come and go, but your name is yours for life. As fitness writer John Romaniello once wrote about this option, “Your parents already did all the work for you, so it’s easy. And unless your name is John Smith, it’s unlikely that your name will be taken.”
Lots of well-known fitness pros have built personal brands online: Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Leigh Peele, PTDC editorial director Lou Schuler, and dozens more I could name off the top of my head. This is typically your best choice if your goal is to build a career as a writer, speaker, or consultant.
Even if you don’t plan to use your name on your blog, I recommend purchasing any available domains with your name. Start with yourname.com, if you can, along with .net and .org. I live in Canada, so I also have jonathangoodman.ca and several variations.
Option 2: Your name plus
Some people are named John Smith. Or Maria Rodriguez. Or James Johnson. The more common your name, the harder it’ll be to find a domain name that isn’t taken.
Other names are hard to spell or pronounce, or shared by a celebrity. That’s why Romaniello chose Roman Fitness Systems, Mike Boyle went with Body by Boyle, and Kelly Coffey branded herself as Strong Coffey.
As Romaniello has noted, the goal of your site’s domain name is to “create implicit understanding” of who you are and what you do, and from there “create explicit trustworthiness and value.”
Option 3: What you offer
What I’m not talking about here is a super-spammy-sounding name like getahotbodysostrangerswillnoticeyou.com. Nobody expects a site like that to have authoritative information. The one exception I can think of is Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, who calls his site Look Great Naked because that’s the name of one of the first books he wrote, and the URL was still available when it came out in 2001.
Or consider my own site, the Personal Trainer Development Center. I had three reasons for choosing it, instead of building the brand with my own name:
- I wanted to show the site stands for something. “Personal trainer development” achieves that in a straightforward way.
- Because I was asking well-known fitness pros to contribute, I wanted it to appear to be a bigger deal than it actually was at the time. “Center” makes it sound important.
- I wanted a name that could be shortened to something simple and easy to remember. “PTDC” rolls off the tongue. More important, my only competition for the acronym was the Pakistani Tourism Development Corporation.
Option 4: All of the above
One other reason to get domains with your name, even if you won’t be using them for your blog: If you become well-known, someone else will snap them up. Same with variations and even misspellings of your name. That’s why I also have jongoodman.ca and johngoodman.ca.
I also recommend buying domains for any event you sponsor or intellectual property you own, or expect to create. Get URLs with the title of a book you plan to write or the name of a product you have in development, even if it’s years away.
Register each for a minimum of two years. (I usually register mine for five years at a time.) I’ve been told that Google frowns on domains with short-term registrations, since it’s a hallmark of spammers.
2. How to set up hosting for your fitness blog
WordPress is the best platform for fitness blogging. It’s the most versatile and customizable, and the one search engines are most likely to smile on.
If you’re going to blog with WordPress, you need a host that’s optimized for it. That’s why I use and highly recommend WP Engine. It’s more expensive than some other options, but it’s blazing fast, easy to use, and offers great customer service. (Although if you use the link in this article, you’ll get the first three months free.)
Most important of all, it’s secure. The system automatically backs up your site every night, meaning your content is always safe.
Even if you’re hacked, you can revert to your last backup—which, at most, will be 24 hours old—and the problem is solved.
WP Engine also offers a reasonable “overage” plan. So if one of your posts goes viral, and you suddenly have a thousand times your normal traffic, your site won’t crash (downtime costs me thousands of dollars on a normal day, and many thousands if we’re in the middle of a launch), and you won’t be charged a fortune to accommodate the sudden influx.
To me, the peace of mind is worth a higher price. But I say that knowing there are lots of companies that can host your blog without any of the problems I mentioned. (My worst experiences with other hosting companies were several years ago.)
Do your research and ask around. Look for recommendations based on what’s most important to you. If you plan to post a lot of images or videos, look for fast loading speeds. If you plan to sell products, look for reliability and security. If you’re technically unsure of yourself, look for great customer service.
Configure your site
After choosing a host, you’ll need to do three things:
It can be a confusing process, but companies like Namecheap and WP Engine offer a lot of help, even if you need to be walked through it.
Choose and install a theme, or hire someone to design your site
Now you have to decide what you want your site to look like. WordPress has free themes you can install, and just about anybody under 30 should be able to follow the instructions and end up with a functioning site that works the way you expect it to.
If you’re not confident in your tech skills, and if you don’t want your site to look like countless others, you’ll need to hire someone to design it. I’ve never designed one of my own sites, so this is the option I recommend to anyone who can afford it.
What I don’t recommend is a dirt-cheap online freelancer. Your brand is too important to leave to chance. You should be able to find a competent, professional designer, preferably someone who has experience with fitness blogs.
That’s why I recommend My PT Website. Dan Salcumbe, the owner, has designed hundreds of fitness sites, and understands not just how they should look, but what you need your site to do for you. If you’re a local trainer, he’ll optimize it for local search. If you’re an online trainer, he’ll make it easier for potential clients to find you.
3. How to write a fitness blog
Your first job is to get in the habit of writing. Lou Schuler compares these initial blog posts to practicing free throws in your driveway. You don’t really want people watching as you figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Fitness bloggers fall into two broad categories: innovators and simplifiers. Lots of bloggers want to be innovators, especially when they begin. A handful (Bret Contreras, for example) become brand-name fitness experts.
Most of those who succeed are simplifiers. Skilled simplifiers can explain complex ideas in the language of their audience, and clear up confusing and often contradictory information for their clients and readers. The best (like Dean Somerset) can do this in an entertaining way without wasting readers’ time or dumbing down the information.
But you can’t speak in the language of your audience until you know who that audience is. And if you don’t have an audience yet, there’s an even more fundamental question: Who do you want it to be?
Fight the urge to write for your fellow trainers. Unless you’re someone who’s already well-known and highly regarded by your peers, there’s little chance they’ll pay attention, and even less chance they’ll be impressed.
Write for an audience who doesn’t already know what you know. The information in your brain is valuable to someone who’s confused about how to lose fat, which diet is the best for them, or whether they need to use supplements.
You don’t have to add anything new to the conversation. Even if you wanted to, it would be really hard to pull off. Here’s how Romaniello describes the challenge:
“Nearly everything you ever write—anything you even think about writing—has been written about a million times before by a thousand people. We can’t help but cannibalize one another’s content.”
Rather than despairing over this basic fact of early-21st-century blogging, Romaniello says you should embrace it. Make a list of things you’d like to write about, see what your favorite fitness bloggers have already said, and then decide if there’s something you can add to the conversation.
Is there an angle you think is overlooked? Were others too quick to jump to conclusions, or too slow to change their minds about something when evidence suggests they were wrong? Do you have a personal story to illustrate a point others have made, or that casts doubt on the conventional wisdom?
Let’s say your goal is to be an authoritative source of information for everyone who falls into a fitness niche—postmenopausal women, powerlifters, wheelchair athletes, cancer survivors. Or maybe you want to create a complete resource for your clients and their friends and families.
If every fitness expert you know of has weighed in on a nutrition or exercise topic, you want to make sure you have it covered on your blog, in your voice, with information that matters to your audience.
Is the diet of the moment right for them? What are the benefits and risks for them? Should they do the exercise or workout system everyone is talking about right now? If you think your audience needs to know, you should be the one to tell them.
4. How to set up an email list for your fitness blog
Let’s say you do the first three steps well, and you start to build an audience. Now you need a system to corral those readers and, eventually, monetize your blog. That’s where email marketing comes in.
Your email list is the most valuable asset you can have. The sooner you start one, the faster you can start making money from your fitness blog, and the more money you can make over time.
Here’s how to get started right.
Step 1: Choose your email program
Your needs are simple in the beginning: send basic messages to people who sign up for your list. For that, I recommend ConvertKit. It’s a simple, clean, and powerful system for fitness bloggers. I definitely would’ve used it if it had been around when I started.
You can always switch to a more versatile program as your list grows and your needs change. I changed to Active Campaign when I needed more automation and audience segmentation.
My advice: Don’t overthink this initial foray into email marketing. There are several good options. Pick one and get started. You can always move your list to another platform.
Step 2: Set up a form on your website
Make sure each visitor to your site gets a chance to sign up for your list. Here’s the copy we put at the end of each article:
Did you like this story? Become a PTDC Insider and receive content like this delivered directly to your inbox every week. Every single story we create is designed to help you be a more successful fitness professional. The best part: It’s 100% free. Click here to sign up.
You’ll see we ask twice—once at the beginning of the copy, once at the end, using different language. But both are phrased as a call to action. We tell readers exactly what we want them to do.
When they click on one of the links, they go to this page, where they see this simple form:
We use it twice—once near the top, once at the bottom—but once is enough. Just give your readers a reason to sign up, and make it easy to do so.
When they do sign up, make sure you thank them. This is what you see when you sign up for our list:
It’s considered good form to use a double opt-in, so when someone gives you their email, they get a message with a link to confirm their subscription. Their email isn’t added to your list until they click that link. In some countries it’s a legal requirement, but in the U.S. and Canada it’s just a courtesy.
Step 3: Set up your email template
Email marketing platforms give you a lot of design options. I highly recommend keeping it simple. Basic black and white works fine. You don’t need to include your logo or any distracting designs. You want people to focus on what you’re saying, not on the background.
Use 14- to 15-point type in a font that’s easy to read, like Times New Roman, Arial, or Georgia.
In the address section of the template, most use their home address. But if that makes you nervous for any reason, you can rent a P.O. box and use that instead.
You also need to include an email address. I recommend creating and using an [email protected] account, rather than your personal account.
Step 4: Write an email
A solid email has four key parts:
- A catchy title that entices subscribers to open the email
- An opening line that acts synergistically with the title to pique the readers’ interest
- A short message—maybe four to five paragraphs, with no more than four sentences per paragraph—that gets readers interested in the content you’re promoting (usually a blog post, but it could be a Facebook conversation, Twitter poll, or just about anything else)
- At least two links to the content: one near the beginning of the message, one at the bottom with a call to action to click through and read it
There are no rules about how often to contact your list. Some do it every day, some do it weekly, some only do it when they have something important to share. Any of them can work.
What never works is wasting their time with content-free emails, or wasting your time by producing content that doesn’t bring back any benefits to you.
So let’s talk about that.
5. How to offer an ethical bribe to promote your fitness blog
Anybody who produces content on the web should create a free ebook—a digital download, usually a PDF, that you give away in exchange for signing up for your email list. It goes by lots of names: ethical bribe, tripwire, welcome mat, content upgrade. If you haven’t already produced one, you’ve seen lots of examples.
The easiest way to deliver it is through an email marketing service like ConvertKit. You can deliver it directly from the thank you page the reader goes to after opting in to your list, or in the first email you send automatically to each person who subscribes.
Don’t try to do too much with your ebook. It should offer a single, actionable step toward achieving something your audience wants. It should be a little longer than a blog post, perhaps 1,500 to 2,000 words, and take four to seven minutes to read.
A lead magnet should offer something that’s additive and easy to implement—not a complete training or nutrition plan, in other words. These all tend to work well:
- Sleep tips
- Metabolic finishers
- Recipes (protein shakes, protein-rich breakfasts, etc.)
Hire a contractor on UpWork or Fiverr to design a simple cover, and another one to edit your content and create the PDF. That’s it; you’re done. It should cost $50 or less.
How to market your free ebook
Before you release the ebook, announce it on your social media, and ask your followers to send you a message if they’re interested. Tag them when it’s live, or send a message with a link to opt in and get the book.
Post about it regularly on social media, keeping in mind the law of diminishing returns; even your most dedicated fans will eventually get tired of hearing about it.
Display it prominently on your website. Any new content you produce should include a call to action to download it.
How to benefit from your free ebook
Let’s review what you’ve done so far:
- You’ve paid for domain names, web hosting, and whatever it cost to design your site.
- You’ve paid for an email marketing service.
- You’ve paid a copyeditor and designer to work on your ebook.
And you’ve done all this so you can deliver free content through your blog, emails, and ebook. At what point do you get something back?
Smart consumers—the ones you hope to attract—understand you have a reason for giving them so much information for free. If they like your material, they’ll be more likely to support you when you come up with a paid product.
In the meantime, there’s another way for you to benefit.
6. How to make money from your fitness blog
Commission, partner, or affiliate programs allow you to supplement your income while recommending products or services from people you trust, and that you believe can benefit your clients. Almost every major company has some sort of affiliate program. They all work the same way:
- You sign up as an affiliate or partner and get a custom link.
- You get paid when someone reaches the company’s website through your link and buys something.
What’s more, many of these links include cookies that identify someone who first reached the website through your link. You’ll get a commission on anything he buys on subsequent visits within a predetermined period, even if he doesn’t buy anything on that first visit.
You can easily embed these links in your blog posts. Someone who clicks on a link years later can still get you a commission.
Just keep in mind that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to disclose when you’re getting a commission for a product you recommend. My affiliate disclosure at the PTDC includes this statement:
In the PTDC newsletter and on the site I sometimes recommend products, other than ones we produce, and with those recommendations I often make a commission on referred sales. This commission is how I run the site and continue to keep the information free of cost and obtrusive ads.
Amazon Associates is the most popular affiliate program. I use it at the PTDC. Almost every book we recommend on the site uses my Associates link. You can do the same for any book, supplement, or piece of fitness equipment you mention on your blog or in your emails. You not only get a (small) percentage of the sale when someone uses your link to buy the product you recommended, you also get a percentage of anything else they buy on that visit to Amazon. (It can be surprisingly lucrative around the holidays.)
A lot of fitness equipment or supplement companies work the same way. After registering for their affiliate program, you get a custom link, which you can then embed on your site, include in emails, or share on social media.
But those are mostly nickel-and-dime commissions compared to the revenue you can bring in when you sell ebooks and information products. Commissions on sales are often in the range of 50 to 75 percent.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you sign up as an affiliate for a cookbook that includes video lessons and sells for $67. You write a blog post about cooking that builds to a recommendation for the product. If your commission is 75 percent, you’d earn $50 per sale; you’ll receive around $48 after payment processing fees. If 10 people buy, that’s almost $500 for a single link in a single blog post or email.
Now imagine if you have an archive of material, all with links to products related to the subjects of the posts. If people buy, you get paid. It’s a nice, almost effortless way to supplement your income.
And with a little effort, you can increase the opportunity to make money from affiliate links, new and old. More traffic from search engines could mean more sales. Sharing older articles on social media could mean more sales. If somebody asks you a question, and you link to an article, you may get a sale. Even better, if a client asks you where she can learn how to cook healthier food, you can send her a direct recommendation with your affiliate link.
It might come out to a few dollars a week, or a few hundred, or even a few thousand if you build a substantial, responsive audience. Whatever it is, it’s easy money, and if you follow the rules and disclose your affiliation with the seller, it’s honest money.
Just make sure you perform your due diligence and only recommend products, services, and books you would stake your reputation on.
7. The secret to a successful fitness blog: Write less, and promote more
In the beginning, your goals are simple:
- Get in the habit of writing and publishing your posts.
- Discover what works for you in terms of voice, audience, and topics.
- Focus more narrowly on what you like to write, and what your audience responds to.
You have to do a lot of writing to get there. That’s certainly what I did. At one point I was posting four times a week on the PTDC and attempting to post twice a week on my personal site. I was also writing occasional guest posts.
Not only was it exhausting, I was sacrificing quality for volume. I couldn’t put out my best work.
On top of all that, I ran out of ideas. I couldn’t come up with new and innovative solutions to my readers’ problems if I kept writing at that pace.
I made two big decisions:
- Each article I wrote would be the best I could do, no matter how long it took. I wouldn’t compromise quality.
- I’d repackage the material in as many ways as possible.
It’s all in the idea
Let’s say you have a unique solution to a problem experienced by a lot of people in your audience. That’s valuable, right? But you don’t know how valuable until you put it out on your blog and see what kind of reaction you get.
If it’s positive, you can then approach personal trainers with bigger blogs and offer them a guest post on the subject. Be transparent; share a link to your original article and tell them your guest post will cover the same basic territory.
When you do land a guest post, keep your author bio short—two or three sentences is plenty. The goal isn’t to tell them how great you are. It’s to sound interesting enough that they’ll click a link to learn more. That link should go to your squeeze page—the place where you squeeze emails out of readers.
Meanwhile, if the idea is getting traction, you can amplify it a few more ways:
- Make a YouTube video talking about the idea, or demonstrating specific parts of it.
- Talk about it on other trainers’ podcasts.
- Expand on the idea for a short ebook, which you can sell via Kindle or give away as an ethical bribe.
- When the book comes out, write about it again on your blog, incorporating new examples or detailing what you’ve learned since you published the original post.
- Do another round of guest posts, videos, and podcasts.
My point is, you won’t have many great ideas. Don’t waste them. When you get one with appeal beyond your current audience, develop it as fully as you can. Use every channel you can to help the idea spread.
A final note about fitness blogging
The point of writing a fitness blog is to produce good content.
The better it is, the more benefit there is to you. More people will read it and share it, sign up for your email list, buy things from your affiliates based on your recommendation, and eventually buy things from you—from online training to ebooks, programs, or physical products.
Writing consistently good posts takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen by accident. You learn as you go. The longer you do it, the better you get:
- At presenting information in a logical and entertaining way
- At telling stories that reveal your personality but also get to the point without wasting your readers’ attention
- At proofreading your work and double-checking your references
- At persuading people to respond to your call to action at the end of each post
The best fitness bloggers are always a little insecure. They know they can do better, but at the same time don’t paralyze themselves by striving for perfection on a platform that’s designed for trial and error.
Not everyone can be great, but all of us can do well enough to make fitness blogging worthwhile.