I frequently hear local business owners halfheartedly say, “I know I need to start blogging.” Yet they drag their feet, hemming and hawing, not really having a solid grasp of the true benefits of local business blogging.
Blogging isn’t simply a nice add-on for your local business. It’s not just about adding content for content’s sake. The benefits to local businesses are significant; not least of which is the impact on search rankings.
Consider these statistics compiled by Google:
· 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local businesses
· Half of consumers who perform a local search on mobile actually visited a store that same day
· 18% of consumers who perform a local search make a purchase within a day
Given these facts, business owners should be doing whatever it takes to rank in local search. Some of the most important strategies include getting listed on local review sites, and being active and engaged on social media.
And of course one of the most important strategies — the one we’ll dissect in this article — is blogging for your business. This article will list 9 ways to use blogging to rank highly in the local search results.
1. Use keywords, topics and themes of interest to your target market. It used to be that website owners ranked for their desired keywords by targeting specific 1–3 word keyword phrases, incorporating these keywords on a page-by-page basis. However, given the rise in usage of mobile phones over the past few years, this type of targeting is far less likely to work. Instead, recognize that consumers are likely using natural language via their smartphones (think Siri and Google Now) to find local businesses; for instance, “Where is the nearest Chinese restaurant?.” Brainstorm possible questions and search terms your prospects may have, and focus on incorporating these long-tail keywords into your blog content.
2. Incorporate city and neighborhood names where appropriate. While it’s likely that many local searches will incorporate your city name, be aware that there are many other possibilities in terms of locations. Be sure to incorporate neighboring cities and towns, neighborhoods and unofficial terms locals may use. Use a tool like this one to investigate all the possible variations your prospects may be searching for.
3. Write about local events and issues. Writing about local news and events is great for SEO, and also provides a valuable service for your readers. Capitalize on the popularity of an upcoming fair, community event, election, etc. by covering it from the perspective of a local business owner.
4. Keep your blog on your business’s main domain. If at all possible, aim to host your blog on your business’s domain for optimal SEO benefits (e.g. “www.mainsite.com/blog” rather than “blog.mainsite.com” or “mainsiteblog.com”). This way, as you acquire inbound links to your blog, you gain links to your business’s main site. Since links are one of the strongest correlating ranking factors for websites in search engines, preserving and strategically distributing the value of your inbound links is essential. And as your blog’s search engine rankings increase, so do the rankings of your website.
5. Regularly provide interesting and useful information. Perhaps one of the most common questions I get asked by local business owners is this: “What do I blog about?” They’re under the impression that they need to be writing posts about their business and products every day; and understandably, they fear that just won’t be very interesting (they’re right!). Online marketing strategist David Meerman Scott says it perfectly: “Stop talking about your products and services. People don’t care about products and services; they care about themselves.” Instead of writing about your business, aim to become a trusted source of industry information for your audience. This is how you gain valuable inbound links, search engine traffic, and traction on social media.
6. Participate in conversations happening on other local business blogs. In order to build up your readership, it’s important to engage and participate on other local business blogs. Find the blogs of complimentary businesses in your community, and participate by leaving thoughtful comment or mentioning their posts on your blog. This is a great way to get on the radar of more established sites and to potentially attract links back to your blog.
7. Ensure your NAP is consistent. NAP is short for name, address, phone number. Wherever you list your business contact info, make sure it follows the identical format for optimal SEO impact. This includes your social media profiles, local directory listings, and of course your blog. Common areas you’ll list your NAP on your blog include your footer, contact page and about page; ensure the format is consistent for each.
8. Use the appropriate schema markup for local business. This will ensure that Google knows you’re a local business and not a big brand; this can definitely help boost your local rankings. However, for even greater benefits, use the markup to specify exactly what category of business you’re in (e.g. dentist, plumber, restaurant). Phil Rozak and David Deering put together a fantastic guide on choosing the best schema.org markup for your local business.
9. Understand/create a local persona. If you don’t have a good handle on who you’re writing for, you’re going to have a hard time getting your content to hit its mark. While you likely have a good understanding of your target market, how well do you know the demographics of your target neighborhoods? Nielsen has created an excellent tool called Zip Code Look-up to help you do just that. After plugging in your zip code, you‘ll receive invaluable demographic information like median age, income and consumer spend. The tool also provides the most common segments for the area in question; for instance, “Upscale mid older with kids”. Understanding who your target market is is one thing; knowing exactly who you’re serving/catering to in your neighbor is another.
When in doubt, just start writing
The #1 strategy for using blogging to rank in local search is to start adding valuable content to your business blog. Come up with a content plan, then stick to it. A blog with little content — or ‘thin’, poorly written content — is unlikely to come up in the search results, even if you’ve implemented all the other steps above.
Is your business blog ranking in local search? Which steps above are you going to implement on your own blog?