Content marketing. It seems like everyone is doing it. But how can small businesses be effective at local content marketing, and why should you?
In this post, we’ll run through the what, why and a detailed breakdown of how to make your local search marketing and content marketing work together.
What is Content Marketing?
We define content marketing this way:
Content marketing is the strategy of creating and distributing quality content with the purpose of enhancing consumer experience and influencing consumer behavior.
More plainly, content marketing is using content (such as blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts and eBooks) to market your business.
Why do you need a content marketing strategy for local search marketing?
I know you really want some statistics to prove to you that content marketing can be a lucrative way to promote your business, so here you go:
- Content marketing is not only 62 percent cheaper than traditional marketing, but it also generates around three times as many leads as traditional marketing
- Conversion rates can be six times higher for content marketers than those who do not use content marketing
- Sixty percent of the most effective B2C marketers have a documented content marketing strategy
- Eighty-two percent of marketers who blog see a positive return on investment (ROI) from their inbound marketing
Oh, and you know, content often attracts inbound links, which help improve your local search ranking.
Content marketing (specifically blogging) has even been called your "secret weapon" for local search marketing.
How can you tailor your content marketing strategy to local search?
A big part of content marketing and local search marketing working together will be creating locally focused blog posts. While other forms of content can work for your business, this post will focus on how to write hyper-local blog posts to target a local audience and rank higher in relevant local searches.
One of the ways search engines determine how to rank your business in local searches is called "on-page signals." This could be anything from having your businesses name, address and phone number visible in the header and/or footer of your website to having keywords in titles. This means that your website content, if locally focused, will send signals of local relevance to search engines.
I’m not saying you should only write about local events and places (there’s so much more to content marketing). But it will certainly help search engines that need to know where your business is located in order to know where and when to rank your business in search results.
And hey, maybe your locally focused content will even seem interesting to the humans who read your blog.
Dissecting a Blog Post
We’re going to break this down into pieces so that you know how to create each piece of a locally focused blog post.
The important things to remember when writing blog posts will be that the posts should be relevant to your location. (While not every single post should be locally focused, we'll focus on local blog posts in this article.)
Bonus points if the posts are relevant to your industry as well.
Local events are fun to write about, but evergreen content such as a local resource (think a post about your favorite things to do around town, or any other local resource you think might help residents and tourists in your area) will have a longer lifetime.
Evergreen content is more likely to be valuable for longer because events end, making the blog post about the event obsolete. Meanwhile, your evergreen content, if refreshed periodically, will continue to be relevant long after you publish it.
Before you write a single post, you need a plan. As with all forms of marketing, content marketing is better with a strategy. Here are some things you should consider when deciding on your content strategy.
1. Why do you want to start a locally focused blog?
Decide what your goals are before you start writing. Whether your goal is to get more email subscribers or to drive sales, you need to know your specific, measurable goal.
Once you have a goal, figure out how you’re going to achieve that goal. Your posts will need to be able to meet your goals. Otherwise, why are you writing?
2. How often can you write and/or publish a new post?
If you own a small business, you probably don’t have a ton of time to write blog posts. So, realistically, how often can you write a new post? And if you’re not the only one writing, how often can the other people who will help you write be available to help with blog post writing and editing?
3. Do you actually have something useful to say?
Do you have something original, interesting or useful to say? Will people actually read what you write? Think about this before you ever sit down in front of your keyboard.
Try this: If you have a bunch of blog post ideas floating around in your head, choose a few. Do they seem like something people want to read? Have you seen similar posts online that have done well with their audiences?
4. How will you measure the success of your blog?
This again aligns with your goals. You need some sort of success metric to decide if your content is going to do well. For instance, when we published our new review marketing guide, our success metrics were the number total of downloads the guide got and the number of Renown demos requested as a result of the guide.
If you’re not sure what kinds of goals you should have or what metrics to track for your content marketing, check out our post about the six key metrics you should measure to drive your social content strategy.
5. Who will read your posts?
Your blog will need an audience, so who is that audience? Do you already have email subscribers you think would be interested in reading what you write? You’ll need to know your audience before you start writing so that you know what they actually want to read.
You probably did audience research when you started your business, right? You should do the same for your blog.
Here’s our post on the science of creating buyer personas in case you need some help figuring out who your target audience is. Our tips for building a buyer (or audience) persona include:
- Installing Google Analytics to see who's already using your website
- Looking into your social media insights to see who's following you on social
- Consider demographic information as well as pain points (If you know your audience's problems, you can write blog posts to help solve them!)
Tip: Be specific. Don’t just write to a target audience. Write as if you’re telling your story to a single person. This will help you make sure your posts are specific.
You can also anticipate questions when you are writing to a single person.
For instance, if you’ve done research and found that your target audience is a 35-54 year old male small business owner who wants to start a blog, you can nail down a more concrete, exact persona. Write specifically to him. During the editing process, while you’re rereading your post, you can imagine reading the post as that persona.
This will help you decide what questions your posts might raise with your target audience. Use that information to answer any possible questions rather than leave your reader more confused than before they started reading.
What to write about
Now that you have your strategy, you need to decide what to write about. Topic generation and research can be difficult. If you struggle with it, here are our favorite ways to generate topics for content.
- Google Keyword Planner
- Keyword Tool
Another fun way to find possible topics (and a personal favorite) is Portent’s content idea generator. Though it often comes up with hilariously outlandish topics, it’s good for sparking creativity.
We might never write about “7 Reasons Your Facebook Strategy Isn’t Working as Well as Justin Bieber’s” (sorry, Biebs) but we'll definitely write about “7 Reasons Your Facebook Strategy Isn’t Working.”
When searching specifically for local blog topics, here are a few topics to consider:
- Favorite things to do in your city
- Local news
- Local guides
- How-to posts (think how to find the right [service or product] in [location])
So now that you know what you’re going to write about, an outline is essential. Outlining what you want to say (even if it’s the most bare-bones outline possible) is the best way to organize your writing and something.
If you struggle with outlining, Hubspot has a great post about how to create a blog post outline.
Your headline is what hooks the reader. But here’s the problem with that. Eighty percent of people will read your headline while only 20 percent will read your article.
That’s why you need to write an intriguing headline that makes your readers want to know more. I’m not telling you to go all clickbait on your readers. “Top 10 Things to Do in Columbus - #8 Will Absolutely Terrify You” is probably not the way to go.
However, you do need a title interesting enough to get people to read your blog post. So, what kinds of headlines do best with readers?
- Lists – who doesn’t love a good list?
- How to headlines – think “How to Find the Best [service or product] in [your city]
- Headlines that evoke emotion – find a common pain point for your audience or your location and tell them how to get past it
And if you need help with your headlines, check out CoSchedule’s headline analyzer.
Writing Your Post
Okay so you’ve researched, outlined and planned your post. You have a headline. Now you just need to write. While you shouldn’t stuff your blog post full of keywords, you do need to mention your location and topic a couple of times.
Search engines will penalize your site if you overindulge in keywords. If you repeat the same word or phrase over and over in a post, search engines see that as trying to manipulate their search rankings. This in turn will actually get you slapped with a penalty (lower search rankings) so try to be natural about it instead of partaking in any kind of keyword stuffing.
Write conversationally. Remember you want people, not just search engines, to be able to understand what you’re trying to say. And the last thing you want is for search engines to think your website (and your business) is untrustworthy.
Editing and Proofreading
Now that you’ve written, give yourself a break. Leave it overnight if possible, but definitely focus on something else for at least 10 minutes. The point of this is to come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.
If you’ve just written a blog post, you’re going to remember most of what you typed. But if you give yourself a little time, you will be able to look at it differently.
Even if you give yourself a little time, though, it’s easy to miss typos and word omissions because you know what you meant to say when you typed up your post. That means you might read the same paragraph three times and miss the same typo.
You might not have the budget to pay someone to edit your posts for you, but ask someone (anyone at all) like your significant other, a friend, relative or employee to read the post for you. This person will be able to catch errors you would’ve otherwise missed.
As for online tools, I love Grammarly and Hemingway. Grammarly is a spelling and grammar checker. Hemingway will make sure you’re not using too much technical jargon (or too many long, confusing words and sentences) while writing.
What to Do After Publishing
So, you published your locally focused blog post. What now? Well, now you need to share it so people will actually know it exists. How do you get it out there for people to see?
- If you already have an email subscriber list, send out an email to let your subscribers know you just published a post.
- And don’t forget to share the post on your business’s social media profiles. You can even ask your followers to share it if they find it interesting or helpful at all.
- If you know any local bloggers (and have previously established a relationship with them) you can ask them to share your post.
- Do you have a few loyal customers who would be willing to spread the word about your post for you? Just ask them!
- And if all else fails, ask your friends and family to share it for you. That's what family's for, right?
How often should you post?
As a small business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities in your business. I mean, someone has to keep the place running, right?
While posting more often usually means more traffic, that might not be possible for you. So don’t spread yourself too thin. Try not to decide to post more often than you actually can. Content marketing should never take precedence over making sure your business is running smoothly.
The important thing is to be consistent. Even if you can only publish a post every couple of weeks, that’s fine as long as you don’t fail to publish consistently.
How much should you write?
You know what types of posts (lists, how-tos, answering a question) do best. But how many words do you need to write?
Well, some writers do well with writing mostly short-form (fewer than 1,000 words) posts, while others swear by long-form content. So which should you do, long or short form content?
For small businesses, it probably isn’t realistic for you to consistently write 2,000+ word posts. However, if you have a lot to say on a particular subject (think an in-depth local guide) you can always chip away at that bit by bit while creating and publishing shorter content.
A healthy mix of short and longer blog posts should work for you.
And remember, you don't have to write only locally focused blog posts. This type of post should just be a part of your well-rounded social content marketing strategy. Try mixing it up and sprinkling a few local blog posts in with your industry-specific or business-specific posts.
Well, there you have it, your step by step breakdown to creating locally focused content. Now it’s up to you to start writing!
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