Key Largo Fitness website screenshot

Small Business Website shoots to top of Local Search Results

by on June 14, 2009 · 11 comments

How one small business owner used WordPress and Thesis to outrank big advertisers in her local area

Melanie, the owner of the KeyLargo Fitness and Tanning club in Columbia, MO already had a website, but it was not bringing her any new customers. It was simply acting as an online brochure. She was having trouble updating her website, and it was quickly getting outdated.

To make matters worse, many of her competitors were spending big dollars on TV, radio and print advertising campaigns. What could she do to get the word out about her business without spending an arm and a leg?

A Solution Emerges

She started talking with a friend from her church, Diana, who is a web designer based in Columbia, MO. Diana filled her in on some of the ways she could use her website as a powerful tool to promote her business. Diana explained to her that with the right kind of website, an email newsletter, and some local search optimization she could get results quickly.

They agreed to redesign her website, and Diana brought me in. Together we built a new website for Melanie based on WordPress. WordPress is an ideal platform for building small business websites for a number of reasons (easy to publish content, inherent SEO benefits, and a lot more…)

And because Melanie had some specific design requirements in mind, we chose to customize her site with the Thesis WordPress Theme since it is almost infinitely customizable.

The Results…

The new KeyLargoFitness website started paying off almost immediately.


  • Almost no referrals from the web
  • Not in the top 50 search results for local area
  • Could not update the website herself
  • Broken newsletter signup form


  • Ranks #2 for primary keywords (health club columbia mo) in Google 10-Pack, #1 in natural search results!
  • 261 local subscribers to her email newsletter (and counting…)
  • Easy to update her website without knowing HTML
  • Steady stream of new customer inquiries from Google and Yahoo searches
Google Search Result for "health club columbia mo"

Melanie is very pleased with the results. In her own words:

I just can’t be more pleased with the look and the user-friendliness and the
feedback that we’ve gotten from the new site!

Listen to the Complete Interview

podcastYou can listen to an audio interview where Don interviews both Diana and Melanie about the project here:

“Right Click” here to download the PDF transcript

Article by »

Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

Author Connect » Twitter | | Facebook |

See my disclosure about advertising and affiliate links

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

David Mihm June 14, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Don, this is a fabulous case study. Very timely given my upcoming article on SEL this week–I am sure you and your readers will enjoy. There are plenty of opportunities in Local Search for these kinds of successes if business owners can find the right consultants to help (like yourself and Diana).


Don Campbell June 14, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Thanks David – I’m looking forward to the SEL article and will share a link to it here when it goes live!


Jeff M Howard June 17, 2009 at 8:10 am

I’ve had a similar experience with a local gym. Although they are not so involved with regularly blogging, the results from SEO were evident after 1 month. Here is the case study…


Diana Ratliff June 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

Thanks SO much for the interview, Don – on behalf of me AND Melanie. She’s up to 352 subscribers…


Gordon Stewart December 9, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Great case study. I am working with a client in my local area and have convinced her to move to Wordpress for the same reasons you gave: it is flexible and allows her to continue developing her online presence without me. Giving small business owners the tools and skills to market online themselves is very empowering and rewarding.


Yvonne Herbst February 6, 2010 at 7:08 am

Hi, Don — wanted to add my 2 cents to this discussion.

Within a week of completing the website for Cecil’s Tractors in Warrenton, Virginia ( using your new image rotator theme, they have #1 spots in the Google Maps Local Business listings for 2 of their keywords: “tractors warrenton” and “used farm equipment warrenton.” And #2 position for “farm equipment Warrenton” They are very pleased to say the least!


Diana Ratliff February 6, 2010 at 9:31 am

Congratulations, Yvonne! I’m sure your client is thrilled.

Don, I hadn’t seen this theme of yours before and don’t find it on your site – is it publicly available?



Don Campbell February 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@Yvonne – that’s a great story, thanks for sharing it! Yes it’s amazing what a business can do with a little properly optimized WordPress website!

@Diana – the site Yvonne mentions above is a variation on my SmallBiz WordPress theme. I’ll send you some details on how we did it.


Kevin August 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Great story Don,

Are people looking past the first page on local search results if you don’t immediately make it there?

Competition is fierce in my field.

Just curious.


Don Campbell August 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

Somewhat. The trick in competitive fields is to have many listings for many different keyword results. You’ll find many areas of opportunity where you can rank your website or one of your local profiles (like your Google Places Page) for special keyword that may be locally modified.


Derek Carroll March 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

Hey Don,
This is excellent stuff.
I work locally and have been using Xsitepro for years, but to be honest since I’ve come across you and your SmallBiz theme in particular, I’m thinking of migrating to WPress for my next clients.
I want to get them in on the whole mobile scene for local search, and your theme looks perfect for that. In fact, I just got a Samsung Apollo mobile to show them some samples when I talk to them, and encourage them to go for it.
Thanks for putting the theme together for us.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: