As a local business owner, you know that you have no chance of competing with big name brands in terms of content. They can pay experts to write fantastic guides, case studies, white papers, and blogs. So just how does a local business compete and enact a content strategy that has measurable impact on their business?
Despite what may seem like overwhelming competition, content must be central to your core strategy as a local business. You just need to be strategic about it. In this post, I’ll explain two ways to go about building a content strategy that will set your business apart from the competition and deliver results.
First things first, the absolutely most important thing that you must do for your business is to ensure it has an accurate Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) on Google. If you don’t have this entered and verified accurately, your entire content strategy will be a waste of time. To learn how to set this up, check out this post on How to Ensure Your Local Business Appears on Google & Google Maps.
Acquiring New Customer Leads or Helping Current Prospects Decide
It pretty much goes without saying that you need to adhere to a strategy that capitalizes on your local expertise and focuses on unique customer needs in your area. However, to build a successful local content strategy, there are two main routes one can take.
The first thing you need to do is to determine if your content strategy will be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) or Customer Journey focused. We’ll look at both in this blog post and the next one.
Here’s a quick summary:
- SEO – Focused on ensuring new customers find your website when doing general searches for products or services your business offers. For example, someone searches for “best plumber in Indianapolis” on Google. You want your business’s page to pop up at the top.
- Customer Journey – Rather than helping your new customers find you, like in SEO, this approach is focused on creating valuable content that you send to people who have already found you online. Now you need to build trust and a relationship by providing useful information that can establish you as the expert and go-to business.
Of course, certain articles can serve a dual purpose, but, when starting out, it’s important to keep things simple with a single goal and strategy.
How Customers Find You Through Great Search Engine Optimized Content
First off, search engine optimization sounds like some big, enigmatic term. It really just means we want content that will appear on the first page of Google. That’s your big goal. Think about it, how often do you click on the 2nd or 3rd page of results for a search? Almost never, right?
In fact, according to a study done by Cornell University that tracked both clicks and eye movement, 56% of all customers only click on the 1st search result they see! Only 13% click on the 2nd result. The rest, of course, is far less. When it comes to Google results rankings, Grant Cardone was pretty close when he said, “If You’re Not First, You’re Last”.
Now that we understand just how important Google ranking is for your organization, how do we improve it? Let’s take a look.
Here’s the great news: as a local business, you don’t have to compete with the big boys! Google is very focused on delivering relevant search results for local searches. They know that people in Indianapolis do not want to know about pizza restaurants in Avon. Google even knows users want the pizza restaurants closest to the them, not across the city.
This means that there is much opportunity for you to become regarded as a local expert, which will get you ranked high for local searches.
Let’s say you are a small business that sells swimming pools. You could write a series of articles on how to keep your pool clean. The important part here is to make sure you are using your local city name in your website pages and blog posts. This will help Google know you’re local and your customers will also be assured they aren’t on some random big company page. Here are some example headlines:
- Preparing Your Pool for an Indianapolis Winter
- How to Keep Your Pool from Becoming a Mosquito Breeding Ground
- The 5 Things You Must Check Before Uncovering Your Pool for the Summer
- 6 Places to Find Great Used Water Toys in Indianapolis
Remember, customers may land on your website from anywhere. So the first page they see may be a blog article rather than your home page with your name, address, and contact info. It’s important to have your local information visible in a side bar or in the header or footer of your page.
Find Out What Customers Are Searching For
Another focus for local content is what’s important for your customers. What questions or problems do your customers generally come to you with? Write these down and write a blog post on every single one. Most customers do 60% of their research online before visiting or calling a local store, especially for large purchases. This means that you want some rock solid content that clearly establishes your business as top-notch experts. Here are some example questions people might be looking for:
- How do I keep my pool safe during the winter?
- Is there a way to keep bugs out of my pool?
- What should I check before our first swim after winter?
Did you notice how each question could have been answered by one of our blog posts above? You got it! They should match. Your blog posts want to answer questions your customers are searching for. This helps you appear in the top of results.
Pro-tip: If you’re a local business selling something that can be bought more cheaply on Amazon or some other online retailer, focus on writing about and promoting services that can’t be bought from afar. For a pool company, this would be cleaning services. No matter where you order a pool from, you’ll always need a local business to help you clean it.
By focusing your efforts on services that require local and in-person touch points, you are able to build customer relationships and inspire trust, so that they will make the bigger purchases from you as well, even if they’re more expensive.
You can always throw in additional local services like a free yearly inspection or easy to handle support for replacement parts that also put you at an advantage over purely online retailers.
Use Local Keywords
We’ve covered this a bit already. Remember to use local keywords like your city as well as customer problems that your actual customers are having. You’ll notice how many times I mentioned Indianapolis in this blog post. That’s not a mistake.
Other keywords to think about adding are other locations, notable people, or nearby businesses. Maybe there are special events running like the Indy 500. A great post or promotion to run on your site at that time would be something related including that phrase. This makes it so people searching for “Indy 500” may actually see your business returned in the search results as well.
Local PR and Cross-promotions
Content doesn’t start and stop on your website. You can also share content across like-minded businesses. Maybe you and another business are members of your local chamber of commerce. Or maybe a local café is interested in selling your locally farmed honey.
One Google ranking factor for local businesses is how often they are linked to and mentioned by other nearby businesses. So sharing or cross-promoting content doesn’t just get you in front of potentially new customers, it also can boost your search engine rankings. How cool is that?!
Ads are another way to get yourself to the top of the first page of Google results. They aren’t clicked on as much as organic search results, but the beauty of online advertising is that you only pay for clicks. Google even recently launched a new ad type where you only pay for actual calls to your business. Often around $1-$5 a call, that’s a great deal to acquire a new customer.
A word to the wise, if you are going to run Google Ads, and I suggest you try it, DO NOT use Google Adwords Express. This is marketed as a simple-to-use tool, but you will not get results with it. Without getting too technical, you basically end up paying for literally hundreds of clicks from customers that have no interest in purchasing from your business.
For Google Adwords to work well, I’ve found you generally need to spend a minimum of $1,000 over a 3-6-month window to really optimize your audience and ad copy. Like any marketing venture, consistency and regular testing to find what works are key. You won’t get results right away. Running great Adwords campaigns requires a lot of time and know-how. If you’ve ever looked at your Google Analytics report for the first time, you’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s why companies often outsource this work to people like us J.
Both Google and customers put a lot of stock in online reviews. In fact, after recommendations from family and friends, online reviews are one of the most trusted sources for identifying whether or not a local business is reliable and trustworthy.
It’s important to get as many 5 star reviews as you can on sites such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp. These not only build trust, but also increase your Google ranking. Ask frequently, have little signs at the register mentioning how you’d appreciate a review, and include opportunities to review in any email newsletter communications.
None of the big review sites like businesses offering incentives for reviews, but the reality is that you often have to to encourage customers to take action. They should always get something out of the deal, even if it’s just a coupon or entry into some prize drawing.
Pro-tip: Customers can change reviews! This is why it’s so important to constantly be monitoring your online reputation. If you get a bad review, even if you get a 3-star review, immediately contact that customer and see what you can do to fix the situation. Not all customers will go and change their reviews, but even if only a few do it, it’s worth it to your business.
Strategy Is Everything
The fact of the matter is that content writing is extremely time-consuming. This is why most businesses don’t do it or, when they do, they don’t do it well. This also means there is great opportunity for your business to succeed in this area.
However, it’s essential to be strategic. Creating content just to have it will do very little for your business in terms of greater visibility or gaining leads. Follow my advice in this post so that your time and money are used wisely to get results and you’ll be glad you did.
Even with all of that, ranking in local search engine results still may not be a worthwhile strategy. Maybe you’re a newly launched business. In that case, you’ll want to look at building an internal content strategy focused on delivering value to customers throughout their evaluation and decision-making process. We’ll detail how to do that in our next post.
Search Optimization Basics for Added Juice
There can be a lot to remember in these long posts. That’s why we condensed everything down to a simple checklist for our staff and clients.
We use a 17-point checklist to make sure we can get it as high as possible in the Google Rankings for any page or post.
If you’d like to use the same checklist that helps us get page 1 rankings for posts, you can have it for FREE. Just enter your name and email below and you’ll get it immediately in your inbox.