Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
In a recent installment of “10 Great Local Marketing Ideas,” a monthly series we run here on WMT, Lisa Sanderson, a real estate agent in Stroudsburg, Pa., asked, “Have you ever searched online for information on your local area and couldn’t find what you were looking for exactly?”
Sanderson went on to say that the inability to find local information presents a real, viable marketing opportunity for a business person to position herself as a community expert, the “go-to” person for information about the area — its neighborhoods, history, civic and cultural events, and even other businesses.
It’s a role that Sanderson has assumed in her community but is not something restricted for use by Realtors alone. Any business, including yours, can take on the local expert mantle, using the following three methods.
1. Add Local Information to Your Website
“Adding neighborhood guides, local directories, and event calendars to your website are excellent ways to provide value and interact with local customers,” Sanderson said.
Incorporating such features isn’t difficult, technically speaking, particularly if you use WordPress or another popular content management system, which come with these functions built-in or as add-ons and plugins. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of taking the time to keep all the information updated on a continual basis.
Alternatively, you could link from your website to existing resources, such as those you might find in the local chamber of commerce, visitor bureau, or newspaper sites, but that only directs visitors away from your site when your goal is to make it the destination rather than a portal.
2. Blog About Your Community
One of the best ways to establish your local expertise is by blogging about your community. The practice forces you to conduct research, which leads to greater knowledge.
It’s worth noting that, if yours is a local business, the more you know about your community and the people that make it up, the better you can reach them with targeted marketing campaigns — certainly a nice side benefit.
Adhere to these two blogging principles, to establish your expertise:
Know your audience and write with it in mind. Determining the audience that you’re attempting to reach — which, in this case, consists of your local community — is marketing 101. It has a bearing on everything you do.
What topics should you address? Think about your current customer base. What interests them? What do they care about? What questions are they asking about the local community? Answer those in the form of blog posts and you provide the utility that will keep them coming back, time and again.
Other ideas for topics could include community news, local events, area charities, local business reviews, interviews of influential community members, and, on occasion, a “top 10” list that features local attractions, events, or businesses.
Write with search engines in mind. People rely on search engines for local information more and more, so why not position your blog to appear in search returns as often as possible? It’s good for your business and helps the searchers find answers. The result: greater loyalty to you and, quite possibly, more traffic to your business.
Follow these tips, to make your blog more search-friendly:
- Keyword-optimize posts. Include a keyword in the post title and two or three times in the body content, depending on the post’s length. If possible, place the keyword at the beginning of the post title. You can find community-related keywords by using Google’s keyword planner tool or similar service.
- Post frequently. How often you post plays a role in how well your blog appears in search returns. As Google has gotten smarter, however, quality trumps quantity, so make sure the content has substance, no matter how often you write.
- Stay topically-focused. The more your blog stays on topic, the better Google can understand its proposition and reward you with higher rankings, so be as niche-specific as possible. In this case, your “niche” is the local community. Therefore, include the name of your town or city in your posts when you can. If you live in a larger city, include the name of the local neighborhood as well. The more specific you can be in terms of location, the better.
- Find, follow, and interact with other community bloggers. If you subscribe to the RSS feeds of other local bloggers, read and comment on their posts, excerpt a portion of their content for use in your post (with proper attribution provided, of course, including a hyperlink), and share their content via your social networks, it’s likely that at least a few will take notice and return the favor. As a result, you could become the beneficiary of some of their readership and traffic, and the backlinks you receive can help with SERPs.
3. Become a Google Maps ‘Local Guide’
Google offers a unique program, called “Local Guides,” which it defines as “a global community of explorers sharing their discoveries on Google Maps. Help others find the best spots in town, make new friends, and unlock exclusive benefits along the way.”
Guides serve as sort of a concierge for their local communities. They write reviews and add photos about local places (Google’s term for specific locations), answer questions from users, and edit information about places.
To participate as a Local Guide, you must:
- Have a valid Google Plus account;
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Have signed up for the program.
Business owners who meet the criteria can participate as well, but only as individual members using their personal Google Plus profile.
Even though Google ties the program to your personal profile, not your business, so what? When people in the community think of your business, do they not also think of you, by name? They associate your person with your company as one in the same.
Google rewards guides with certain benefits, based on their participation in the program, but the real benefit is the camaraderie, influence, and loyalty you build by helping others.
Sanderson concluded her remarks by saying, “The more local your business is, the more important it is to position yourself as the local expert.”
Use the three ways listed here to become a local connector, problem solver, and “go-to” resource, and your service to the community will not go unrewarded.