This is a guest post by Katie Weedman, Content Strategist at THAT Agency. As Content Strategist for THAT Agency, Katie specializes in creating digital content that's both compelling and optimized for search.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing professionals often advise businesses to create local content. But why? And what exactly does that entail?
Why Your Business Needs a Local Content Marketing Strategy
Many people believe when they search Google, they’re searching the internet. It technically doesn’t work that way. When you search Google, what you’re really searching is Google’s index of the internet. The same goes for when you search Bing, Yahoo, etc. However, since Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches daily worldwide, most businesses turn their focus there.
The philosophy is that, by creating website content for Google to use as answers to those 3.5 billion search queries, you can reach potential customers via Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
Sounds simple, right? Not necessarily.
Not only does Google apply to its SERPs a complex ranking algorithm (one that is seemingly always changing), but your content is also competing against more than 5.98 billion indexed pages of the web. Thus, to get your content seen in the SERPs by potential customers takes strategy.
One strategy you can apply is based on location. By creating content related to a geographic area, you can target potential customers searching Google in that area while at the same time limiting your competition in the SERPs.
For example, a Google search for “coffee shop” typically returns a SERP featuring a Google Map with listings of local coffee shops.
This happens because searchers can provide Google with different types of location information, depending on the products they use and the settings they select. This information can come from real-time signals, like IP addresses or device locations, as well as from past activities with Google websites and services.
But how does Google know the locations of the coffee shops?
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool for business owners. By creating a Google My Business profile, your business can show up on local searches. Following are five tips for making the most of your profile:
- Keep your name consistent across all searches. This means every character you enter should be the same every time. Don’t abbreviate your name once and write out the full name in another field.
- Make sure to complete the entire profile as thoroughly as you can. A complete listing gets 7x more clicks than an empty one will. Keep your information as updated as possible.
- Provide exceptional customer service. Businesses that have positive Google reviews get boosted to the first page of results.
- Feature high quality photos. Google favors listings that feature photos of the business. Customers respond well to this, too – they can trust what your business will look like and envision what it will feel like to be there.
- List your business on other online directories. Think Yelp, Foursquare, and the Yellow Pages. The more high-quality directories your business is listed on, the more exposure you will receive. Plus, these directories provide important backlinks.
Beyond the Google Map Pack
Even with a search for “coffee shop,” there is plenty of real estate beyond the Google Map pack on the first page of the results. Not to mention the fact that the Google Map pack doesn’t appear on every SERP. In these instances, consider applying local content ideas such as:
1. Location Page
People need to know how to find your business. Designate a page of your website to accomplish this. Add detailed directions to your location from all major thoroughfares and mention your proximity to local landmarks and attractions.
You can even discuss relevant events in your neighborhood. For example, if your coffee shop is near a local yoga studio, you might consider adding information about their classes to your location page to encourage participants to stop by your establishment before and/or after their yoga sessions. At the same time, you could offer discounts or incentives for doing so.
If your business has more than one location, dedicate a page of your website to each. Make sure the content on each location page is unique, useful, and optimized for local keywords (e.g., coffee shop in North Palm Beach). Include the name, address, and phone number of each location as well as any location-specific products, services, and specials.
2. Comparisons Tied to Locations
In keeping with the coffee shop theme, think about common questions coffee drinkers might ask that relate to your business and its location. For example, someone new to the neighborhood might wonder “how to find the best coffee in North Palm Beach.” This query is not only tied to a location, but also signals that the user is looking for comparative data.
To address the user’s desire to find the “best coffee in North Palm Beach,” you could create a blog article discussing how your coffee shop’s bean selection, roasting techniques, and baristas are better than those of your North Palm Beach competitors. You could also highlight the fact that your coffee shop is one of the only shops within a certain mile radius of a major North Palm Beach landmark or attraction.
3. Location-Based Listicles
In lists, information is broken up into smaller parts to allow for ease of consumption. Lists also frequently appear in the coveted featured snippet position in Google SERPs. Therefore, by formatting a blog article as a list (also called a listicle), you can make your content easier to read and potentially claim a top organic SERP ranking.
A good example of a location-based listicle could answer a query such as “where to get good Cuban coffee in Palm Beach County” by providing the “3 best places to get Cuban coffee in Palm Beach County” and including your coffee shop as an option (ideally the best option).
Nervous about taking your competitors on directly? Don’t be. You don’t necessarily need to mention them by name. Instead, you could approach the competition by business model and provide a list of the different types of establishments (e.g., national chain franchises, mom-and-pop coffee shops, diners and restaurants, etc.) who serve Cuban coffee in Palm Beach County. Just be sure to showcase the benefits of your own business model, so you can entice readers to visit you.
4. How-to Articles Related to Location-Specific Challenges
Another popular format in which to present helpful information online is the how-to article. This makes sense, as most searchers use Google as an answer engine by asking who, what, where, why, when, and how questions. Again, using the coffee shop as an example, let’s consider what coffee drinkers in the Palm Beach area might want to know how to do.
Lots of people start their mornings with a cup of coffee, and lots of people commute to work. Busy commuters likely are looking for ways to save time in the morning, so you could write an article on “how to save time on your commute to Ft. Lauderdale.” In your how-to article, you could offer helpful tips on using apps like Google Maps or Waze to monitor traffic conditions. You also could explain how using your coffee shop’s order-ahead app and drive-through service can save precious minutes.
5. Online Newsroom for Your Locale
An online newsroom, also known as a pressroom, mediaroom, press center, or media center, is a place on your website where you can present the media with all the necessary information about your business. You can include press releases, images, logos, and guidelines for their usage in one easy-to-find location. By making this online newsroom specific to your business’ locale, you can target media coverage in your local area.
Beyond providing everything a journalist may want in one place, an online newsroom establishes credibility. This is not only important to search engines like Google for E-A-T (aka Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness), but it is also important to consumers. In fact, in a recent survey, 81% of consumers ranked brand trust as one of the top factors they consider when making a purchase.
By creating content related to a geographic area, you can target potential customers searching Google in that area while at the same time limiting your competition in the SERPs. Set up a free Google My Business profile, but don’t stop your local content efforts there. Remember: there is plenty of SERP real estate beyond the Google Map pack. Take advantage of that real estate by creating local content in the form of location pages, comparisons, listicles, how-to articles, and an online newsroom.
Don’t forget that your content can (and should) go beyond the written word. YouTube is a top search engine in and of itself. Plus, it’s owned by Google, so YouTube videos often get top billing in the Google SERPs. Even Podcasts can appear in the Google SERPs.
Ultimately, your goal should be to create content to meet the needs and suit the preferences of your potential customers. By employing the ideas presented in this article, you can target those customers geographically with a local content marketing strategy.
THAT Agency is a full-service web design and digital marketing firm, serving U.S. businesses of all sizes – from startups to Fortune 500 companies, THAT Agency plans and executes advanced strategies for search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, inbound marketing and more.