If you’re a small, local company, you're always looking for new ways to bring in business. But the Yellow Pages are dead and traditional advertising is expensive. But the ongoing stress to create new business persists.
There’s likely one thing you’re not doing that can help.
Local search engine optimization is one of the best tactics for growing your awareness in the community. But local SEO can be misunderstood and difficult to master.
Start small. Start simple.
[Editor Note: This blog post is Co-Authored with Patrick Armitage and Matt Lee.]
Local SEO Starts with Blogging. Here’s Why.
Regular blogging helps local businesses’ SEO efforts in three ways:
- Blogging gives other businesses and outlets a reason to link, refer and share your website, making link building easier.
Without content to share, how will you get the word out about your business? Blogging keeps your company relevant. Each blog post is a new opportunity to promote your business, position yourself as a thought leader in your community, and create partnerships with other businesses and local media outlets.
- Blogging allows you to target additional keywords and gain greater search engine “real estate.”
If you’re a small business, your website is typically your largest marketing expense. Once your site’s up, the work isn’t over. And it can’t just sit there and collect dust. Search engines and prospective customers want to see activity on your site. They want to see you engaged in your industry.
Blogs rank as the most important source of information for buying decisions by 18-34 year olds and second-most important for those aged 35-54 (Source: Research Now)
A static webpage can only target so many keywords. With a blog, you’re growing the search relevance of your site by writing blog posts about topics important to your customers and growing ranked keywords.
- Your blog will also help create a return path between your email list and social media followers.
If the only time customers hear from your business is when you want to sell them something, they’ll eventually unsubscribe and never return.
No one likes pushy sales people and no one likes pushy sales content.
Your blog is a softer approach to earning trust and credibility among customers. Use your blog to answer customer questions, address a recent news item relevant to your industry, or promote a customer success story. Share your blog posts with customers via email and social media channels to avoid inundating them with only sales, promotions and offers.
If you're looking for a starting place, check out these three local business blogs that are getting it right.
Example 1: Clean Conscience: How Frequent, Shorter Posts Grew Local Interest
Clean Conscience, located in Denver, Colorado, offers house cleaning, move out, and maid services to its customers. Because their blog does so much heavy lifting, they can leave their website clean, with nary a trace of nefarious keyword stuffing. Clean Conscience's blog has everything it needs to draw in a variety of local customers who are interested in their services. The blog is helpful, filled with cleaning tips and information relevant to potential customers in the Denver area.
Be a consistent, frequent blogger. Although Clear Conscience doesn’t post daily, they do post at least once a week. And making blogging a habit within their company has seen results.
According to Founder Greg Macchia: "Our blog helps us gain more exposure from our local community. A percentage of our leads come directly from our blog. Plus, it gives us additional items to share with our growing social media audience."
Start with localized, industry-specific blog posts. For example, this post on cleaning with baking soda is not only helpful, but an extension of their brand promise—cleaning while being environmentally friendly.
Although published in July 2014, this post has received 528 unique pageviews in October 2015. Now, for some companies that might not be much. But for a local company trying to build their online presence, that’s 528 new visitors that didn’t exist prior to this post going live.
This post about summertime activities in Denver draws in traffic a different way. Instead of focusing on the cleaning industry, it focuses on families who are local to the company. For local businesses, location-specific traffic is critical to attracting potential customers.
One or two blogs post won’t change your bottom line. However, since Clear Conscience’s commitment to blogging, they now get 50% of their traffic from their blog.
For your own business, consider the information that drives interest in your blog and, by association, in your brand. Pick and write about topics that are interesting, helpful, and relevant.
Work on growing local traffic and industry-related backlinks. Posts like these help increase visitors from the local area, which increases awareness of a company's services. In addition, the industry related posts give other websites in the industry a reason to link to Clean Conscience.
A blog like Clean Conscience’s is a perfect example of how frequent blogging can drive traffic, local interest and business while supporting a company’s brand promise.
Example 2: Denver Party Ride: Fewer, Longer Posts That Make An Impact
Denver Party Ride doesn't post as often, but when they do post, they make an impact. Each post is carefully researched and filled with information that they know will be relevant to their customers and potential customers. These aren’t just blog posts, they’re resources.
Experiment with long-form content pieces. What Denver Party Ride lacks in frequency, they make up for in the depth of content. They're creating highly researched pieces that are put together with a great deal of attention to detail and relevance. They provide content that offers genuine value to their audience.
According to Founder Dane Kolbaba, "We prefer spending our time creating robust content resources for our local community. We then spend many weeks promoting each of them. This seems to work best for us."
Focus on creating local content assets with aggressive promotion and link building. For example, Denver's Hidden Gems post gives the reader a detailed look at 19 different places in the Denver area that visitors should experience. This post alone has generated a large portion of Denver Party Ride's backlinks, according to SEMRush’s backlink report. Heavy promotion of the post has also led to more than 2,400 social media shares.
Denver Party Ride is a niche company that created a blog and resources with broad appeal. Your company blog doesn’t have to be rigidly focused on your vertical. Widen your customer net by creating useful, evergreen content that will resonate with a broader, local audience.
Example 3: Re/Max of Boulder: Creating An Indispensable External Resource For Customers
Re/Max of Boulder is a real estate company that has its thumb placed on the pulse of everything happening in the Boulder area. Re/Max knows its audience and knows what information is relevant to its audience. For Re/Max, this blog generates a great deal of traffic for the company.
Your audience will dictate your posts’ content and frequency. Their company blog doesn’t have long posts. But by understanding that their audience wants useful, quick-hit information about the Boulder real estate market, they can create timely, newsworthy posts that showcase their thought leadership.
Consider launching an external site as an advanced local SEO blogging tactic. Re/Max created an external local authority blog to take their blogging strategy to new heights. This external blog, “The Boulder Source,” establishes Re/Max of Boulder as a helpful resource in the area. This strategy is perfect for slightly larger companies who have the resources to generate large quantities of content. An external blog has a number of advantages:
- Helps increase authority and trust due to the sheer volume of useful content
- Features local news and events in the Boulder area that are of interest to a wide variety of locals and increase engagement among residents
- Contributes to the local community awareness
- Creates a diverse backlink profile from numerous local sources (see screenshot)
Owner and Founder of RE/MAX of Boulder Tom Kalinski says, “We developed the Boulder Source as a way to give back to the community in Boulder Valley by highlighting the fascinating people, stories, news, and events of local businesses and nonprofit organizations that make this a great place to live and work. The Boulder Source is a hub of information that’s connecting and strengthening our community.”
What This Means for Your Blog
If you're ready to start (or re-focus) your own company blog, the strategies used by these companies can help. While you'll have to find your own niche and develop methods that work for your company’s unique content needs and audience, there are several tips worth reiterating:
Consistency is critical with blogging. Your readers will develop expectations for your company based on your blog. Not only that, it makes your company look more engaged. Blogging is a discipline and without making blogging a habit, it won’t create any value for your business.
Be relevant to both your industry and your local area. Relevance gives you more topics to write about and leads to more relevant backlinks from industry publishers and local media. Localized content speaks to a specific, highly relevant audience with needs unique to your community. Any visit to your blog is great, but if you're in Georgia and your visitor is in California, it's probably not going to lead to new business for you. Posts dedicated to your local area are more likely to create awareness and drive traffic.
Create evergreen local assets and resources. Going the extra mile to create long-form evergreen content pieces for your local community will help acquire more backlinks than competitors with basic blogs that don’t engage the broader community. Longer blogs may take more upfront effort and time, but a few key content pieces can go a long way toward generating local traffic when you start promoting.
Remember, creating a strong blog that will bring in regular local traffic for your website doesn't happen overnight. It takes hard work and discipline. But don’t start by trying to take over the world. Take over your local community first. You never know where the next post will take you.