January 18, 2005

WebPosition Finds Athletic Club Sites Need to Shape up Search Engine Optimization for New Year

Use of Flash Affects Search Engine Visibility for Five of the Ten Athletic Clubs Analyzed


Press Release

SAN JOSE, Calif.

WebTrends, the web analytics market share leader and a business unit of NetIQ Corporation (NASDAQ: NTIQ), today unveiled results from its WebPosition® Search Ranking study focused on how effective the nation's leading athletic clubs are in leveraging Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies to help gain their share of Internet users looking to make good on New Year's resolutions to get in shape.

According to top-level findings, 24 Hour Fitness was the clear leader in both paid and organic search listings, with an organic Visibility Percentage* more than double that of its closest competitor-Bally's Fitness. 24 Hour Fitness, Bally's Fitness, Gold's Gym, LA Fitness, Wellbridge and five other athletic clubs' search engine positions were analyzed using WebPosition® Gold. WebPosition examined the visibility each web site has achieved in both organic and paid search results on Google, MSN, Ask Jeeves, Teoma and Yahoo! Web Results for a sampling of keywords identified by Wordtracker as popular terms for the category, including: "athletic clubs," "fitness," "exercise," "weight loss," "health clubs," "weight training," "personal trainer," "nutrition," "work out" and "gym memberships."

Organic Search Visibility Healthier than Sponsored Search Visibility

The data suggests that, as a category, athletic clubs are focusing more on organic search listings to achieve greater search engine visibility.

  • The most visible site in organic search engine listings for the targeted keywords was 24 Hour Fitness with an organic Visibility Percentage of 20.87%.
  • The next most visible site for organic search listings was Bally's Fitness at 7.73%, with Gold's Gym at 3.75%, Wellbridge at 1.92% and LA Fitness at .75% rounding out the top five.
  • When WebPosition analysis included sponsored search listings, there was a drop in visibility indicating the companies did not invest in paid placements for these key search terms. As a result, 24 Hour Fitness' visibility percentage fell slightly to 16.07%, followed by Bally's at 6.67%, Gold's Gym at 3.25% and Wellbridge at 1.75%.

Athletic Clubs Need to Get Search Engine Strategies in Shape

Results indicate that the category fared poorly overall with five out of the ten web sites examined having a Visibility Percentage of zero, thus precluding their mention in this study. While there are myriad factors that may impact search engine visibility, many of these sites were using Flash introduction screens and Flash navigation menus, which search engine spiders can't follow.

To help increase search visibility, sites should use HTML for the content they want searchers to find, using Flash as additive content. In the instance of Flash navigation menus, sites should replicate navigation using HTML so that search engine spiders and users who don't support Flash can follow links and reach deeper pages, improving site prominence for targeted keywords.

"This study reveals an issue that many companies are facing when it comes to search engine strategies. While the use of Flash is effective in web site design, it may hinder a company's search engine visibility if it is not handled properly," said Jason Palmer, vice president of products, WebTrends. "By leveraging insights WebPosition provides, companies are able to enhance their SEO and SEM strategies to help improve visibility and drive site traffic."

Methodology

This data shows how well known athletic clubs are using SEO and SEM techniques for 10 popular keywords identified using Wordtracker, the leading keyword research service integrated with WebPosition Gold 3. WebPosition produced search rankings for the 10 keywords for each of the sites examined using the manual query setting in its Reporter module. *Visibility Percentage reflects a site's overall visibility within the first three pages of search results for all the keywords and search engines examined, providing a higher-level understanding of search effectiveness than provided by search rankings alone. A data snapshot was taken on January 6 to compile these findings.

About WebPosition Gold

WebPosition Gold 3 optimizes a web site's relevancy, visibility and overall performance with search engines, by enabling businesses to understand how their sites perform for various keywords and what they can do to achieve higher search positions on each of the major search engines. With WebPosition Gold 3, WebTrends offers organizations solutions for managing the entire Search Engine Optimization (SEO) process: organizations can conduct keyword research through the integrated Wordtracker service, increase visibility and improve search engine positions with WebPosition Gold, and understand conversions and revenue from paid and organic search terms with WebTrends® On Demand and software solutions.

About WebTrends

As the worldwide leader and trusted standard for web analytics, WebTrends delivers award-winning solutions that help marketing executives improve their return on investment. From campaign performance and search engine marketing to web site conversion and customer retention, WebTrends provides marketers a complete solution to accelerate their web results. Thousands of organizations worldwide, including more than half of the Fortune and Global 500 companies, rely on WebTrends everyday to measure and optimize their results. Offering both an On Demand service and software solutions, WebTrends uniquely provides customers with complete choice and control to ensure the solution can adapt with their dynamic business needs. WebTrends is a business unit of NetIQ Corporation. For more information, visit www.webtrends.com.

About NetIQ

NetIQ Corp. (Nasdaq: NTIQ) is a leading provider of Systems & Security Management and Web Analytics solutions. In addition to managing Windows-based applications, NetIQ delivers cross-platform solutions that enhance business performance resulting in higher returns on infrastructure and Web investments. NetIQ products are sold worldwide, directly and through a network of authorized NetIQ distributors and resellers. The company is headquartered in San Jose, Calif., with development and operational personnel in Houston, Texas; Portland, Ore; Raleigh, N.C.; Bellevue, Wash.; and Galway, Ireland. For more information, please visit the company's web site at www.netiq.com or call (888) 323-6768.

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