Content marketing presents a fantastic opportunity for local businesses to properly compete with their big brand competitors. With these tips from Emil Kristensen, on everything from ideation and implementation to setup and promotion, you’ll find creating content for local businesses a joy, not a struggle.
Run the site of a local business? Looking to grow SEO and bring in local customers?
You might not have considered it, but content marketing might actually be the missing piece in your promotion puzzle.
Many SEOs who working with local businesses overlook content marketing as a viable strategy, believing it’s only suitable for major brands with national or international reach, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While these “big fish in a big pond” brands can do well with content marketing, the “small pond” of local search is usually easier to master and can mean big changes for your local business.
Today, you’ll learn exactly which types of topics will resonate well with your audience. Next, we’ll cover how to set up your content for SEO success and conclude with ways you can expand your reach around the web and grow your email list.
Let’s get started!
What to Write About for Local Content
We’ll begin with the biggest question most local SEO users ask: what can I write about for a local audience?
The answer may surprise you. There are thousands of topics your audience would love to hear about—as many, if not more, than you could write for a global brand.
Any topic of general interest can be tailored for your community. In addition, there are community-specific topics you can communicate to readers as well.
Here’s how to find a winner every time.
1. Follow What’s Hot in Your Area
The first and most flexible source is to use topics that are already popular in your area. You know they’ll succeed because they’ve already succeeded!
One of the best tools to use for this is Google Trends. If you’ve never used Google Trends before, it’s essentially a tool to track the popularity of search terms and topics.
But the beauty of Google Trends is that not only can you look up terms by time, you can also search for each region. This lets you see what your or your client’s specific local audience is interested in.
Let’s use a classic local business as an example: a florist
(You’ll notice “florist” as a search term and “Florist” as a topic are separate options. The first is a direct phrase typed into Google, and the second includes multiple phrases. Both can be useful, but we’ll use the topic in this example.)
Here, you can see the history of this term for the past 12 months. This is a great way to see trends you might not have thought of before. For example, you may know that Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are busy times for florists.
But did you know those times get four times the number of searches than usual?
Now, let’s break down this data by location. In the upper-left corner, you can select a specific area. We’ll choose the US.
Now, we can find a state. Let’s use Texas for this example.
And finally, we can select a specific city or zone. We’ll use El Paso.
And now, we can see the popularity of “florist” searches just in the El Paso area. The graph is similar, but not identical, with smaller peaks throughout the year.
You can use this data to guide your content strategy. Noticing a dip in the summer, a florist might write a guide for creative Fourth of July decor in El Paso—including flowers, of course.
Another huge area for content ideas is the “related queries” box, below the graph. Here you’ll find similar searches from people in your area, which you can leverage to create some amazing pieces of content.
For example, if you offer pest control services in Colorado, a lot of the search queries are asking for reviews of local companies.
A content page reviewing the top pest control companies (including yours, of course!) would do quite well for local SEO.
2. Expand FAQs into Content Pieces
This is usually one of the simplest ways to create content, and it can be some of the best information readers are looking for. The technique is simple: expand FAQs into blogs, videos, or other content.
If you install inground pools, for example, you probably get the same questions over and over. What do they cost? What types are best? How long will they take to install?
Sure, you can answer this on an FAQ page (and might already have). But consumers are likely searching for these questions, and you could find new prospects by expanding a two-line answer to a full blog post.
Virginia-based River Pools does this perfectly, with an in-depth buying guide for inground pools.
They go all out, too—the guide includes multiple videos, a pricing calculator, an infographic, and even a downloadable PDF eBook.
3. Write up Customer Case Studies and Interviews
Another simple content type that can do very well is customer stories. If you already have testimonials on your site, flesh out the story with details and statistics proving your product’s success. (If you don’t have the data on hand, reach out to the customers again for a follow-up interview.)
As you write, remember a few pointers. First, find a unique angle that keeps it interesting. And second, make it about the customer. Yes, they used your product or service, but focus on how they achieved success.
The best case studies typically start off by introducing a likeable person or brand, present a challenge, show the solution, and wrap it up with the success he or she achieved.
As an example, here’s a case study from Facebook Ads for eCommerce retailer Netshoes.
They start by explaining Netshoes, providing the backstory, and building up the characters of the founders.
Next, they show the challenge—Netshoes wanted to increase conversions for Black Friday and beyond.
The solution was a creative campaign using Facebook Ads and memes.
Their campaign was a success—and Facebook has the data to prove it.
The best strategy to get this data is to conduct live interviews. This way, you’ll get a more natural conversation with interesting anecdotes and quotes. You can then trim the conversation down and pull out the best pieces to use in the case study.
Transcribing a lot of interviews can be tedious, though. If you just want a tool that will help you, check out oTranscribe. It won’t transcribe the audio automatically, but it makes manual transcription a much faster process with keyboard shortcuts and an intuitive interface.
4. Write About Local Events and Activities
One of the best solutions for local content is the most obvious: get involved in the community. Attend local events and activities, and write about them on your blog.
This is a strategy that requires consistency. As you get more involved in your area, you’ll become something of a local expert, and your pieces will have more weight.
5. Target Related but Non-Competitive Niches
At a certain point, you’ll hit a wall. It will feel like there’s nothing left to say about your topic!
If you’re struggling to think of something new to say, the answer might just be to expand your reach. One of the best ways to do this is with a related niche that doesn’t compete with you—also known as a shoulder niche.
A great tool for this is RelatedWords.org. It’s a simple site with lots of possibilities. You’ll get a huge selection of related concepts based on the words you type in.
For example, let’s try “beauty salon.”
In addition to synonyms like “beauty parlor,” you can find shoulder niches like personal stylists, lingerie shops, and art galleries.
You might not have thought of these before, but you can easily combine them into your content strategy—and attract a whole new audience.
For example, interview a local personal stylist for the best outfits to go with a retro hairstyle, or feature an “on the town” list of spas, cafes, or art galleries to explore after the perfect cut.
6. Explain What’s Unique About Your Area and Services
Chances are, you know more about your local area than the average resident—and certainly more than visitors or those who have just relocated. Use that expertise!
Explain what’s special about your area, and tie it into your services. For example, Kansas City HVAC company A.B. May published an article about the coldest cities in the U.S., a list that includes Kansas City.
It’s interesting, relevant to the HVAC industry, and puts Kansas City front and center.
How to Set Up Your Content for SEO Success
Now that you know what to write about, let’s take a look at how to maximize your site for SEO results.
After all, your goal isn’t just great content—it’s to get results. Here’s how to improve your site and rankings for maximum sales and revenue.
7. Use Schema Markup
As a local site owner, you need to use all the techniques at your disposal to draw attention to what makes you different.
A great example of this is using schema markup. This is a special code you’ll include in your site for search engines.
This event listing uses schema markup for breadcrumbs (organization of the site) as well as events.
It’s a good idea to similarly denote your pieces that involve local topics or subjects of interest.
8. Include Local Phrases in Content
This is a simple concept, but without it, your content will struggle to succeed. If you’re writing topics for a local audience, be sure to mention those topics in the content.
The early days of “keyword stuffing,” where you’d cram an article full of stilted phrases, are over. But mentioning your local city or landmarks a handful of times is an important strategy to keep your content relevant for a local audience.
9. Find and Use Local Keywords
For this, we’ll use the most basic tool in the SEO book: Google Keyword Planner.
To make this work, you’ll need a Google Ads account (formally AdWords) in addition to a regular Google account.
Once you’ve logged in, select “Find new keywords.”
Enter all the keyword variations you use to describe your business. For a pet business, this might be “pet grooming,” “pet spa,” “pet daycare,” and “kennel.”
Click “Get Started.”
Now, we can narrow down the location. Click on the locations tab in the upper left-hand corner of the ‘Keyword ideas’ page.
From here, select your local area. Let’s use Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota as our example. Click “Save” and it will update your results.
You can immediately see which terms are most popular in your local area. In addition to the terms we typed in earlier, phrases like “dog boarding” and “dog kennels” are probably popular in this area.
Be sure to include those types of phrases in your content to attract similar local searches.
Promoting Your Content Around the Web
Finally, it’s time to start sharing your brand online. You can publish all the great content you want, but if you’re not promoting it well you’ll never see results.
As a local content creator, though, you have a few advantages over the giant brands in promoting your story. Here’s how you can leverage them.
10. Find Media Opportunities
Multinational corporations may spend millions of dollars a year to get a handful of PR spots in major news outlets. As a smaller business, you likely don’t have that kind of budget or reach.
But you have a special advantage: local news outlets. A piece in The New York Times might not be worth anything to you if it doesn’t bring in new customers. But if you’re located in Aberdeen, North Carolina, a spot in the Aberdeen Times could help a lot.
The best part is that these small papers regularly publish stories that wouldn’t make national news, such as spotlights on residents or local businesses.
Even if you don’t think your story is newsworthy, pitch it to a few of these outlets. A few links to your site from theirs can add lots of local authority and boost your SEO.
11. Guest Post on Other Local Sites
Another option is to write guest posts for other related sites. Often, you can work with these site owners for shared posts and cross-promote each other’s content.
A great tool for this is Google Related Search, an easy (but little-known) feature on Google. All you need to do is type in a URL with “related:” in front of it.
Let’s say you want to find other sites related to IT in Cincinnati. If you already know one of your competitors is Intrust IT, just use a Google search to find related sites.
Some of these might be competitors, but for those who aren’t, you can pitch a guest post.
And if you combine this strategy with the shoulder niche technique we discussed above, you can find a huge number of potential guest posting spots.
12. Cross-Promote with Other Companies
Finally, you can create formal relationships with companies in similar businesses. Sure, you can promote each other in real life, but you can also link to each other, promote content, and contribute online.
Now, the obvious answers are the shoulder niches we discussed above. If you have an ice cream cart, you can partner with a hot dog stand and vice versa.
For really creative partnerships, though, turn to Google Correlate. It’s an amazing tool that will give you surprising suggestions.
It started with a Google project to predict flu outbreaks, but today you can use the tool to find any related search terms. And it’s an amazing way to find similar—but unexpected—businesses.
Let’s say you’re a personal trainer. What topics should you write about? The answers might surprise you.
Search terms like “cheap weddings,” “wedding checklist,” and “beach wedding” have a high correlation with “personal trainer.”
Why that correlation exists is anyone’s guess. Perhaps people want to get in shape before their wedding?
Either way, a personal trainer partnering with a wedding planner might seem like an odd pair but could be the perfect match.
By coordinating their content strategy, these two seemingly unrelated local professionals can build a strong partnership.
Now you’ve got a great idea of how to go about creating a content marketing strategy to improve local SEO.
To start, arm yourself with topics you know will be surefire hits with your local audience. Some of these include local events and activities, more detail on your product or service, and local-specific content.
There are a few extra tricks for local sites to grow SEO. Using these strategies, like local keywords and schema markup, can help your brand get more exposure.
Finally, you can achieve huge results by partnering with other local companies to expand your reach. With guest posting and media opportunities, you can talk to people you never thought possible.
If you’re looking to grow your local site’s traffic and sales, content marketing might be your ticket to success.
Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.