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The 8 worst mistakes Jiu-Jitsu gym owners make with local SEO

If you are a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym owner looking to grow your BJJ academy, acquiring new students is the top priority.

While there are many ways prospective students may find your BJJ academy, Google searches are undeniably one of the top ways new students discover your business and ultimately, walk through your doors.

Ranking in the top Google results for local searches is key when it comes to leveraging the immense power of the Google search engine for growing your business.

However, in a competitive business environment, ranking in coveted top positions on Google can be difficult, and achieving the top ranking requires a thoughtful, strategic approach to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

To put it simply, gone are the days of simply throwing up a website and business profile and expecting new students to flood through your doors.

Despite this, many Jiu-Jitsu gym owners still fail to recognize the importance of local SEO strategy for long-term growth of their academy, and consistently make mistakes when it comes to building out a strong, organic presence on local search results.

In this article, we look at the 8 biggest mistakes BJJ gym owners make with their local marketing strategies and break down the following key components of a proper approach to SEO:

  • Understanding the purpose of local SEO
  • Key aspects of local SEO for BJJ gyms
  • Best practices for outranking the competition

By the time you finish reading, you will have a much better insight into the best approaches to take when it comes to outranking your competitor academies on local Google search results.

Let’s do this!

Table of contents

Mistake 1 – Failing to understand the purpose of local SEO

Most Jiu-Jitsu academy owners intuitively understand the power of showing up first on Google results when a student searches for a nearby BJJ gym.

Despite this, many BJJ gym owners do not actually understand local Search Engine Optimization, or even know what it means.

To put it simply, local SEO is the marketing strategy a business uses to outrank nearby competitor businesses on Google search results when prospective customers are looking for the products and services the businesses offer.

The goal of a perfect local SEO setup is to rank your business on the Map Pack, your website on the organic search results page, and finally, your business on the Google Maps results page. 

Google Map Pack

The Google Map Pack highlights the top 3 ranking Google Business Profile results in the target area. Note that the proximity of the searcher to your business plays a direct role in how high up you will rank, but it is not the only factor.

The map pack in Google’s search results.

Organic search results

The organic search results are the list of websites that appear under the Map Pack. Often, the top results will be Yelp or other third-party lists, which can be difficult to outrank. 

Organic results on a search results page.

However, you should aim to be the first actual Jiu-Jitsu gym website ranking in the organic results

Screenshot of Google search result for the search "best jiu jitsu in Los Angeles" with first jiu jitsu gym result highlighted.
The first jiu jitsu gym in the organic search results is a reasonable position to aim for in your local area, but may be lower on the results page.

Google Maps results

The Google Maps results look like an expanded version of the Map Pack but they are not always the same. 

You can see these results when you click the “Maps” button on the Google search console, or alternatively, when you search for a business within the Google Maps app.

Although the Map Pack and Google Maps results are not always identical, both depend heavily on how well you optimize your Google Business Profile.

Screenshot of Google Maps results for the search "best jiu jitsu in Los Angeles" with gyms results highlighted
Google Maps results showing gyms in a specific area.

While your rankings on each component often correlate to one another, ranking across each of the three search results requires you to optimize multiple areas of your web presence.

Unlike marketing strategies such as paid traffic, where you pay a fixed cost per lead and can have your ads running that same day, local SEO is a medium-to-long term strategy that requires investment into your website, business profile, and the presence of your business listed on other areas of the web.

However, once your Google ranking presence is established, your marginal cost per lead is effectively zero. If a prospective student finds your business profile and website on Google, you are not paying for that lead.

With this in mind, SEO usually takes a 3 to 6 month investment to improve rankings depending on the SEO of your competitors but can be much cheaper in the long run than relying entirely on paid traffic.

In the next sections, we will look more in-depth at the common mistakes made with local SEO.

Mistake 2 – Neglecting keyword research

Keyword research is the foundation of good local SEO.

Also termed “key phrases” and “search queries,” these are the words potential customers type into the Google search box when looking for your business.

Ranking on Google for a given keyword requires targeting that keyword in a natural way in the content on your website and Google Business Profile. You want Google to understand that your business matches up with the search intent of the keyword.

Common local search examples include:

  • Jiu-jitsu near me
  • Best BJJ in [my city]
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu [my city]

But not all keywords are created equal.

Certain variations of searches are used far more often than others. Proper SEO strategy includes researching the specific ways customers search for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms near your location.

For example, you might be surprised to learn that “jiu jitsu” is used far more often than “BJJ” in certain regions. 

While you can likely rank for both variations, you would want to ensure the phrase “jiu jitsu” is naturally included in your content, because Google does not necessarily know that “BJJ” and “Jiu-Jitsu” are the same thing.

Screenshot of Google Ads keyword planner with keywords highlighted.
Google Keyword Planner showing keyword ideas.

The Google Keyword Planner is a free resource to do keyword research available to anyone with a Google Ads account, but most SEO specialists use paid third-party software for keyword research.

Targeting the high-volume keywords variations that customers near your business use to search for your products and services is important, as you do not want to waste time and money ranking for terms that customers do not actually type into Google.

As such, quality keyword research is the core foundation of a targeted local SEO strategy.

Once you have the list of keywords and variations that receive traffic, you are ready to begin incorporating them effectively into your content.

Mistake 3 – Not optimizing your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile is the number one ranking factor for the Map Pack and the Google Maps result. When you see a local business pop-up on the results page on the Map Pack, it is the Google Business Profile, not the business’s website, that you are viewing.

Screenshot of Vagabond Jiu Jitsu Google Business profile.
A Google Business Profile for a jiu jitsu gym.

A fully optimized Jiu-Jitsu gym Google Business Profile includes the following:

  • High quality photos of your BJJ academy, including the storefront with a visible sign and photos of the inside of the gym
  • Fully filled out business details such as address, business name, phone number, and website
  • Business description that naturally incorporate relevant high-volume keywords
  • Properly selected business categories and services
  • Customer reviews with responses from the business that naturally incorporate keywords
  • Q&A content section that answers common questions about both the gym itself and BJJ in general
  • Consistent posts of high-quality photos and keyword-incorporated text that shows both Google and prospective students that your business is humming along

The better your photos, the more consistent your posts, and the more reviews and responses you have, the better you will rank on the Map Pack and Google Maps result.

While the quality of your business website can have an impact on your Google Business Profile rankings, you cannot rely on your website alone to rank on the Map Pack and Maps results.

Additionally, a visually appealing and fully filled-out Google Business Profile will increase the likelihood of an individual walking through your front doors, which is the entire goal of ranking number one to begin with.

If you think of your Google Business Profile and website as the “front-end” of your SEO, then citation and link building are the back end.

Citations are any instance of your business name, address, and phone number being listed online.

This typically occurs through local and global directory sites such as NiceLocal or VerView, but there are many others.

Screenshot of Nice Local website showing Legacy gym profile.

It’s vital that your business details are consistent across all your citations. If you have different phone numbers or addresses listed on various directories, you could be hurting your rankings.

Backlinks occur when a different website links back to your business website from somewhere on their site.

This could be through a listing site that also includes a citation alongside the business web page listing, but you can also earn backlinks by sponsoring local events, networking with websites that cover local business, or when other websites reference articles on your blog.

The best backlinks come from high-authority websites that lend credence to your own web presence. 

Link building can be a time-intensive and tedious process and is often sold by SEO companies as a standalone service.

However, a good backlink profile sends a powerful message to Google that your site deserves a high rank on the search results.

Citations and backlinks signal to Google that your business actually exists as you claim it does and are a key “behind the scenes” factor when it comes to ranking well on Google results.

Mistake 5 – Not asking students for reviews

Although we touched on reviews in the Google Business Profile section, it deserves its own focus.

You must ask students for reviews, period.

Reviews are one of the few things you cannot change on your own. You must earn them by having a satisfied student take the time to post.

To encourage this, make sure you have a quick, easy link for students to leave a review on Google, and perhaps offer an incentive such as merchandise or even a temporary membership discount to students who leave reviews.

Whatever you do, do not attempt to fake reviews, as Google is getting really good at detecting fake reviews that are not written by actual customers.

Additionally, be sure to respond quickly to any bad reviews and attempt to resolve the issue.

Finally, respond to all good reviews by thanking your student for the review and for trusting you with their Jiu-Jitsu journey.

Yelp and other review sites can be used as well, but when it comes to ranking on the Map Pack, getting reviews on your Google Business Profile is a top priority.

Mistake 6 – Neglecting website SEO and content building

It’s all too common that Jiu-Jitsu gym owners put their blood, sweat, and tears into transforming a commercial storefront into a beautiful dojo for training Jiu-Jitsu, yet spend an hour or two putting together a single-page, static website that looks like it was built before 2010.

Your business web site is your primary online presence beyond your business profile, and you should treat it as such. 

You wouldn’t put faded, low resolution posters with unreadable text on your storefront, so don’t do it on your website either.

Not only does a fast-loading, visually appealing, and keyword optimized website help you rank on Google, it also plays a key role in convincing your soon-to-be-students to show up to your doors.

A half-baked drag-and-drop website with low quality photos that takes forever to load is a fast-track to not having anyone show up to your business.

Additionally, building out a content hub or blog that answers common questions that prospective students have about BJJ helps drive your ranking to the top and brings more students to your doors.

Imagine you have a clean, professional article on whether BJJ can help you lose weight posted on your website.

A nearby student who wants to lose weight and heard about BJJ might search “is BJJ good for weight loss” and end up on your business site. 

Screenshot of Vagabond Jiu Jitsu blog posts.
An example of blog posts on a jiu jitsu gym website.

Over time, this content strategy can have a significant impact on how many new students come to your doors, and increases your ranking on Google assuming the site is properly optimized with keywords, headings, photos, and internal links.

A great Jiu-Jitsu gym website should have the following:

  • Visually appealing home page that loads in under 3 seconds
  • High-quality photos of the academy, instructors, and classes
  • Navigable menu with relevant pages dedicated to high-volume keywords
  • Title tags and headings that incorporate keywords
  • Quality blog section with articles on frequently searched topics in Jiu-Jitsu

When you combine a beautiful, fast-loading, and helpful website with a link-building strategy, you tip the scales in your favor when it comes to outranking the competition on Google.

Mistake 7 – Not tracking conversion metrics

You cannot determine the success or failure of any strategy unless you measure results. When it comes to local SEO, tracking your conversion metrics is vital to ensuring your strategy accomplishes your business objectives.

The main ways to track metrics are using Google Analytics or similar software as well as the old fashioned way of asking new students coming through your doors how they found your BJJ academy.

Google Analytics can track anything that involves a click. For example, students who Google ‘Jiu-Jitsu near me,’ land on your site, or click to call or get directions after viewing your Google Business Profile.

The best but least technical way is to ask students signing your waiver how they found your gym. If they say, “I found it on Google,” that’s the ultimate sign your SEO strategy is paying off.

Of course, it is up to you as the gym owner to ensure that once a prospective student comes through your doors, they feel welcomed and ultimately sign up to train with you.

Local SEO can do the work of bringing you leads, but it’s up to you as the business owner to ultimately close the sale.

Mistake 8 – Trying to do everything by yourself

If you made it this far in the article, you probably see that there is more to local SEO than meets the eye.

Is it possible to do a local SEO strategy yourself while running your business and coaching classes?

Of course.

However, there is a learning curve with virtually every step required to do SEO properly.

Whether it’s mastering keyword research, building citations and links, or making sure your website runs smoothly with great content, doing it right takes time and effort.

Furthermore, the software tools that allow in-depth research, site analysis, and other functionality for complete SEO can get expensive quickly, especially if you are only doing SEO for a single location.

With that in mind, if you are a Jiu-Jitsu gym owner who is serious about ranking number one on Google, it’s worth consulting with an SEO agency and potentially having them on retainer.

For a few hundred dollars a month, you can typically have most of your SEO needs covered by an agency that specializes in local business SEO.

Depending on what you feel your time is worth, outsourcing the grunt work of SEO to experts who can do it right may be the best investment you make towards outranking your competition on Google and growing your academy.

My team at Dynamic SEO specializes in helping Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym owners outrank their competition on Google and bring more students to their doors.

Check out our website to schedule a free consultation and audit to understand your current SEO rankings and discover how my team can help you grow your Jiu-Jitsu academy.

The bottom line

In the era of web and mobile searches for local business, an SEO strategy is an absolute must for any Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym looking to be competitive in the next decade in terms of growing their student base and business.

If you plan to do local SEO on your own, be sure to follow the tips in this article and avoid the common mistakes many BJJ gym owners make when it comes growing their online presence.

Alternatively, you can reach out to my team if you want to save time and get professional help to outrank your competition on Google.

Best of luck and cheers to growing your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy!


Jordan Fernandez is the Founder of Dynamic SEO and a purple belt training at 10th Planet Tucson in Arizona.

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