How a Small Business can Dominate Local Search

Small Business, Local Search
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Does it make sense for your business to dominate local search results? Small businesses are not only being hammered by the big box stores, but the large multinational corporations also employ online marketing strategies to gobble up your local customers from web searches. In past articles, I introduced you to several geomarketing strategies that, if used properly, may have customers choosing your small business before the big guys.

Today, we will discuss using a blog with Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Content Marketing.  Many small businesses spend a lot of money for small 3-5 page websites that claim to be “SEO Optimized,” but they are getting little to no traffic. This is because you cannot truly rank high without a marketing strategy that includes a blog. 

Search engines are always going to give higher rank to websites that have frequently-updated content and link authority. Active blogging also provides the opportunity for continuous involvement in social media, which has become crucial for building site authority.

Your Local Search Strategy

The idea here is not just to rank when a person searches “hardware stores in hometown, usa.” You want to rank almost anytime someone searches almost anything local. You need to expect that the big guys are going to spend a lot of time and resources to dominate the local search for whatever you are selling. So, you need to dominate the local search for community centered content.

Within your blog, we want to use the 80/20 Rule. This means that your blog posts should be 80% useful local information, and 20% about your business’ area. Then within the 20% about your business, 80% should be useful information, and 20% shameless advertizing.

  • 80% useful local information
    • Local community news and events
    • School district news and events
    • Local business association updates
    • Information on other local businesses
  • 20% about your business
    • 80% useful information
      • “How to” articles
      • Answering customer questions
      • What is new in your industry
    • 20% shameless advertizing
      • Sales and Promotions
      • Why you are better than the competition
      • New products this month

Why are we doing this? There are several reasons. (1) We want a community to build around your website and social media pages. (2) We want to create content with local keywords that will get you seen when potential customers are not looking for what you are selling. (3) We must assume you will not be able to rank high for your business’ popular keywords, even locally. (4) You want your website to become a valuable community centered resource to create loyalty.

Cornerstone  Pages for Local Search

One thing you must understand is, if you grasp nothing else from this article, only individual pages rank for keywords, not websites. This is a flaw of many websites created by or for small local businesses. These local websites will many times be only 3-5 pages, have very low word counts, and no content a search engine would consider “authoritative.”

If you are a “hardware store in hometown, usa,” we may want to use your blog to have your website target the keywords “hardware” and “hometown, usa.” However, because search engines rank individual pages, not websites, we want to use a cornerstone page for each, the one page specifically designed to rank.

Your local cornerstone page could be something like “The 10 Reasons to Live in Hometown, USA.” The blog post needs to be a very thoughtful article because, as you write other posts about “hometown, usa”, you will be linking back to it. It needs to be a post that is informative, keyword focused, and something you can promote and others can share.

Your cornerstone should include:

  • Title — The focus keyword for the page needs to be in the title. Because we are focusing on local search, this will be the town your business is located.
  • NAP — Your business’ Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) needs to be very visible. This should really be part of the overall design, and on every page.
  • Schema — Markup code that makes your business information easily understood by search engines.
  • Maps — An old-school, but still very effective, technique to add weight to your page.
  • Photos — Photographs of the local area will help increase engagement and reduce the bounce rate.
  • Authority — Search engines use article length and readability to determine authority. A well written article should target 700 words, both to be long enough for the search engines and short enough not to lose reader interest.
  • URL — An optimized url adds focus to those looking for local information and the search engines. This should be something along the lines of www.website.com/hometown-usa-zip

Content Marketing for Local Search

Now that you have your cornerstone page for local search, you can focus on original and curated local content. There is no limit on the information you can share: municipal announcements, school district events, local charity fundraisers.

In these articles, your local search focused keyword is still important, but it will not be primary. It may not even be necessary to have “hometown, usa” in your title or the url. However, it is important that on every page about “hometown, usa” that you are linking back to your cornerstone page.

Here are effective tips on content marketing for local search:

  • Keep a Schedule — You don’t have to blog every day, or even every week, but you do have to be consistent so that you make it worth visitors subscribing, bookmarking, and returning.
  • Create a Calendar — You want to know what you want to blog and when you want to blog it. A regular post could be a list of family-friendly local events, posted on the 1st of each month.
  • Categories — Use appropriate categories to make it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for.
  • Be Positive — Don’t use your local business blog to complain. You can be a problem solver, but do it in a way that is positive rather than negative.
  • Use Analytics — You want to know what is driving traffic to your site and what is not in order to focus on topics people are interested in reading.
  • Embrace Photos and Videos — It is great to post that there will be a Halloween Parade on October 24th. It is ever better to post pictures or videos of the parade after.
  • Promote on Social Media — Social Media is going to be the best way to distribute and promote your content. Make it your friend.

The most important thing in all of this is you have to be patient. Becoming dominant in local search is a generally inexpensive form of marketing. You will have to invest some time before seeing returns. However, those returns are long-lasting.

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