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AFA boosts organic traffic by 65% and student enrolments by 12% in 2 years with Semrush

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When I started with AFA in January 2019, we were lacking some clear analytics showing how the company was performing across our marketing channels. By utilising Semrush, we have been able to get a clear picture of our results across SEO and social media and come to understand that we are very well-positioned in the top 2-3 fitness education providers in Australia.
Ash Shenker, Marketing Manager, Australian Fitness Academy

About Australian Fitness Academy:

The Australian Fitness Academy began delivering health and fitness qualifications in 1993 and has since become the leading online fitness education provider in the country. AFA has helped thousands of graduates to create rewarding careers as exercise professionals and built a strong network of industry relationships connecting students to the fitness industry through work placement and employment.

In addition to delivering the nationally-accredited Certificate III and IV in Fitness, AFA also has a suite of Professional Development courses aimed at assisting fitness professionals to continue their learning journey beyond becoming a qualified personal trainer.

Business Challenge: boost the company’s performance across various marketing channels

Despite experiencing significant growth in revenue and organic traffic over multiple years, Australian Fitness Academy remained unclear about exactly how it was exactly performing across a range of marketing channels

“I remember starting with AFA and not knowing exactly how our SEO was performing, what the health of our site was like and what the best opportunities were to improve our performance,” recalls Ash Shenker, marketing manager. 

With no internal reporting on the success and growth of AFA’s presence across SEO and social media, there was some ambiguity about where exactly AFA was positioned in comparison to its competitors on these platforms. 

Solution: Site audit, Backlink analytics, Social Media and Keyword rank tracking

When Ash joined AFA in 2019, one of the first projects he embarked on was the implementation of Semrush to better understand the position of the company and the health of the site.

Site Audit to define main website issues

First off, Ash started with conducting a site audit to identify current website issues and create a plan to fix them.

Using Semrush’s Site Audit Tool, the team found a number of problems, such as: 

  • Broken Links, images and pages;
  • Images with no ALT attributes;
  • Pages with low word count;
  • Duplicate or missing title tags and meta descriptions;
  • H1 tags missing from pages;
  • Pages returning a 4XX error code;
  • URLs with temporary redirects.

Taking into account the recommendations, AFA went about fixing the issues and within just two months, they had reduced more than 1,200 of their website’s total issues.

Some of the biggest improvements were:

  • Removing pages with a 4XX error code and ensuring broken links were being led to active pages;
  • Adding additional content to pages with a low word count;
  • Updating Title Tags and Meta Descriptions to the recommended length and removing duplicate Meta Content;
  • Adding H1 tags to pages where it was previously missing;
  • Adding ALT attributes to images where it was previously missing.

“We knew we had some issues with our website, but it was far more helpful when Semrush came in and showed exactly what our key focuses should be when making improvements,” explains Ash.

Running regular site audits has allowed AFA to continually identify and fix new and existing issues with its website, resulting in a 13% improvement in overall site health in two years.

Position Tracking

Using Semrush’s Position Tracking tool , AFA was able to understand how they were performing on Google for the most relevant keywords for the business. The tool was able to identify opportunities to rank for important terms where they were positioned outside of the top 100, or improve on rankings where they were positioned outside of the top 10 and top 3. 

“In addition to understanding what our site issues were, we were also able to identify keywords that we were and weren’t ranking for and established a content plan that would help us improve our SEO and continue our growth in organic traffic, which we know is our best-converting marketing channel.”

Over the course of 9 months, AFA was able to gain 19 new keywords in the top 3, 2 new keywords in the top 10 and improved 42 keywords in the top 100.

Backlink Audit

Australian Fitness Academy produces lots of high-performing blog posts on a regular basis that are linked to across a wide range of sources. Before using Semrush tools, the team didn’t know the extent of AFA's reach and how the company had become a major voice in the industry.

When they started using Semrush’s Backlink Audit Tool, AFA discovered that there were thousands of backlinks to their website that they didn’t even know about. In fact, they identified a total of over 3,800 backlinks from more than 400 referring domains, including several prominent websites.

“It was amazing to see the huge number of backlinks that were popping up, showing us where our blogs had been linked to. In fact, we were recently featured in articles across Insider.com, Yahoo.com, Livestrong.com, WikiHow.com and other websites with really significant domain authority,” shares Ash.

In addition, AFA was able to identify almost 400 toxic backlinks that could have been causing a negative SEO impact. Using Semrush’s Disavow List, they exported the toxic referring domains and uploaded the list to Google’s Disavow tool to ensure their toxicity score remained low.

New approach to content creation

In a competitive industry, AFA has adopted a content-centric approach to attracting people to their website.

Utilising Semrush’s Topic Research Tool, AFA explored a range of content ideas that allowed them to create relevant, engaging and insightful blog articles that focused on critical short and long-tail keywords.

“By implementing a systematic approach to our content marketing, we’ve been able to attract a lot more people to our site not just through generic fitness and education terms, but also through some more niche topics that we’ve focused on for our blogs,” Shenker explains.

Not only did these blogs attract new and returning website visitors, they also performed very well across social media, driving up engagement on Facebook by over 17%, including a direct increase in comments of 81%.

Social Media Tracking

Using Social Media Tracker by Semrush, AFA has a clear picture of its social following, engagement and activity. Rather than collating data from across all platforms, AFA is able to see the performance for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all in the one location. AFA particularly uses it to see how similar content performs across platforms, as well as how it stacks up against its competitors in a social setting.

“In our industry, performing well on social media and building strong engagement with large audiences is key to maintaining our position as one of the largest players in the market. It’s incredibly helpful to get a clear understanding of our growth in numbers across a range of social channels, but also the interactions we are having with both prospects and current/former students,” shares Ash.

Through conducting regular site audits, weekly backlink audits and establishing SEO position and social media tracking, AFA now has all the data it requires to understand its position in the market and to improve the health of its website.


+65% increase in organic traffic over two years

With an improvement in ranking for high-volume keywords, AFA achieved significant growth in its organic traffic, also resulting in a 12% increase in enrolment numbers in its fitness qualifications.

“As is key with any website, we’ve focused on making it far more conversion-friendly so that we’re generating as many enquiries as we can from those visiting our site each month,” - shares Ash.

Improved site health from 67% to 80% and reduced more than 4,700 total site issues
Significant growth across social media

AFA also experienced large increases in both followers and engagement across a number of social media channels, including:

A massive 110.3% growth in LinkedIn followers:
11.5% growth in Facebook likes
9.3% growth in Instagram followers
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