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Blogging for Local Search Results

Your blog is one of the key elements of your local search strategy. Here’s how to create and optimize blog posts to stand out to stand out in search results.

It’s important for websites to create unique pages for different topics, but sometimes the content you’re creating doesn’t quite fit in with the other stuff you’ve published on your website. That’s why a blog can be such an essential tool in your search engine optimization (SEO) playbook. You’re the expert, and a blog gives you a single location where you can share helpful information with your existing—and potential—customers.

For example, car dealers have websites packed with details about the cars they sell and the services they provide. All of their core web content is meant to encourage potential customers to buy a car or come and get their vehicle serviced.

On their blog, however, they might share tips about changing a flat tire, hooking up jumper cables, or do-it-yourself oil changes. These are all topics that wouldn’t have a home on the main website, but they’re still important pieces of content to share. Not only is it useful information for the local community, but it also helps establish that the folks at the dealership are experts about automotive-related subjects.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is a search engine marketing strategy used for local small businesses., allowing your local business to increase its online visibility by appearing in local search results in search engines like Google.

Local SEO is different from SEO because the Google local search algorithm considers proximity to help users find what they're looking for nearby. When someone searches for a local query, Google will display local business listings. For example, if you need your car detailed and search for "car detailing," Google will show a list of car detail companies nearby.

Local SEO employs the use of a Google business profile, also called Google My Business, which can help you rank in local search results. Your Google business profile displays information such as business name, address, phone number, website, photos, reviews and star ratings, and questions & answers.

To understand local SEO, you should understand Google's Local Pack, which is the list of local businesses at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Your listing will appear alongside other top local business listings when a user types in a relevant query, as long as you've completely filled out your Google My Business profile, which allows you to appear in the Local Pack.

Of course, the goal of local SEO is to bring in more customers to physical locations. However, you can also use it to attract website visitors. There are many factors to consider when engaging in a local SEO strategy, including your Google profile, a website optimized with keyword research and implementation, local link building, and reputation management.

How do blogs help local SEO?

Blogging is crucial for any local SEO strategy. It can help you attract new customers, bring in more foot traffic or calls, and ultimately grow your small business. Here are a few ways blogs can help local search engine optimization:

Improves rankings

Blogging can enhance local SEO by helping you rank for more long-tail keywords related to your area. For example, let's say you're a local plumber. Writing about common plumbing problems in your area can help you rank higher for relevant keywords in your area.

Someone might use the query "plumbing Chicago" to find your blog, which may offer tips while suggesting potential customers call you for common plumbing problems.

Timely topics

Google prefers blogs that are about timely topics. By blogging about local events in your community, you can get more attention from individuals in your area. Anyone who comes across your blog is a potential customer.

Therefore, even though you might be blogging about a local fair, a potential customer will learn about your business from its blog, boosting your brand awareness in your community.

Encourages thought leadership

Your customers need to trust you. Whether you sell products in a brick-and-mortar store or services around the city, you'll need to make prospects trust you enough to either visit you in person or give you a call.

This can be a difficult thing to do with so many other options out there. For example, if you're a plumber, you have tons of competition in the area. One way you can stand out is by becoming a thought leader and showing off your exercise without sounding self-promotional.

Again, writing a blog about common plumbing problems can help customers trust you enough to pick up the phone and schedule a house call.

Local SEO best practices to follow

When blogging for local SEO, you'll need to remember your target audience, location, and several other factors that will enhance your online visibility.

Don’t post for the sake of posting

Remember, your blogs should be relevant to your business, industry, and location. Here are a few best practices to follow to help your small business appear on Google search results pages.

Post meaningful content your customers want to read

Your blog is meant to inform and attract prospective customers who are at the top of the funnel in the brand awareness stage. These individuals may be looking for products and services like yours but don't know about your business. Like the rest of your site, your blog is there for a purpose, and you want to appear in local searches.

Instead of posting content in the hopes it'll improve your local rankings, you should aim to offer valuable content that can help solve a problem for customers. Don't just publish a bunch of shorter posts; slow things down a bit and make sure that you're publishing high-quality content that's going to be useful to your audience.

Since you'll need to do keyword research and create an editorial calendar to help you understand what topics should be written about to help your community find you online, it's always best to plan ahead. You don't have to write a blog every day. Instead, you can write one once a week or twice a month, depending on your schedule. Adding a few exceptional posts to your blog each month is better than forcing yourself to create weekly (or daily) posts and having the quality suffer as a result.

Create a schedule and stick to it. If you know that you’re going to be posting regularly, you’ll be more likely to hold yourself accountable. A quality post takes time to research, write, edit, publish, and optimize; if you don’t have a schedule, you’re more likely to throw something together at the last minute—or worse, skip the post entirely.

Make your content unique, anyone can write a blog

Writing for SEO may seem intimidating, but what's most important is creating unique content. Many business owners aren't writers, and that's OK. You don't have to be a trained writer to create useful, informative content. Blog posts tend to be more conversational than the content found on standard web pages anyway, so don't worry about your writing style.

And if you’re worried that your business is “too boring” to write about, don’t be! You’re an expert in what you do, and anyone else who’s interested in your profession or business will be intrigued by the stuff you share on your blog.

Accountants, for example, could post helpful do-it-yourself budgeting tips or stories about interesting clients. Carpenters or contractors, on the other hand, might publish before-and-after photos to show off their handiwork or stories about the projects they’ve taken on in the past. Take what you do, put an interesting spin on it, and write about it!

Since you're an expert in your field, it should be easy for you to write unique content. However, if you choose to do research for your blog, you should never plagiarize. Instead, try to only write about topics with your expertise to help attract customers and boost your rankings on search engines.

Create a content plan and stick to it

When you’re starting a blog, there are 4 essential steps to follow in order to establish a strong foundation. They can help you plan the initial concept of your blog and set a direction for a successful future.

  1. Discover and define your audience. You should never write content just for Google. If you want to be successful, you should be sharing helpful information for actual people. Your audience doesn’t solely consist of local customers who are ready to buy right this minute, either. If you’ve got a longer sales cycle (like a car dealer), you could share content that people will find useful no matter where they are in their customer journey. If you’re a business that offers very a specific service (like a plumber or electrician, for instance), your audience might consist of customers who have a more immediate need—and your content should reflect that. When you determine who your audience is, it’ll be easier to come up with blog posts that will resonate with them.

  2. Decide who’s responsible for writing your posts. No matter who you determine will write your blog posts—owners, managers, employees, or someone else entirely—it’s important to establish responsibility and hold the authors accountable. And if time and staffing constraints result in the outsourcing of some copywriting work, be sure that you’re using a reputable company that will provide unique, well-written posts.

  3. Determine what type of content you want to publish. Once you know who your audience is and who will be doing most of the writing, you’re ready to think about the content itself. Will you primarily be focusing on how-to posts, or do you want to share stories, checklists, case studies, and industry news as well? Will you only be sharing written posts, or would you like to create videos—and maybe even podcasts—from time to time, too? Do you plan on using your own photos in your posts or will you choose stock images instead? As you’re making your decisions, keep your personal bandwidth in mind, and remember to play to your strengths.

  4. Set a schedule (and stick to it). If you want to be successful, you’ll need to post on a regular basis. If you know that you’ll be publishing a post every other Wednesday, for example, it’s easier to create a schedule and set aside the time for the research, writing, editing, and anything else you’ll need to do for each post. If you know your deadlines, you’ll stay on track and be much less likely to fall behind and skip posts.

Creating a plan can ensure you have enough time for your blog posts while helping you understand who you're writing for. Luckily, most small business owners know their customer base well, so unlike large corporations, you won't have to do too much market research. However, if you're not writing your own blogs and choose to hire someone or ask someone else in your company to do it, you should ensure they have enough time to accomplish all the work, allowing them to write engaging, high-quality blog posts.

Know when to–and when to not–post

The ideal posting frequency will vary for every business, but experts agree that you should generally try to produce at least 2 posts per month. Consistency is key, and the quality of your posts is much more important than the quantity. Figure out what you’re able to handle based on the time your authors have available and the subjects you’ll be covering. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your writers.

In addition, while search engines want your posts to be timely, they want them to be high-quality and relevant. Therefore, if you don't have anything to blog about or your content calendar has run dry, don't try to force a blog. In addition, you should consider the other events going on in your community to get the most visibility for your blog. For example, if you run a seasonal business, posting a blog during the off-season may affect your results during the busy season when people are much more likely to be searching for your business online.

Create a must-click destination for the locals

Your blog doesn’t always have to be about your business or the products and services that you provide. You’re blogging as a part of your local SEO strategy, so you should also use your posts to help build local relevance, too. Read our What is Local SEO? article to learn more about how local search works as you prepare your strategy.

If you exclusively write posts about your business or the stuff you sell, your content will only be relevant for a narrow portion of the local audience. If your blog has content that’s useful and written (at least in part) for a wider audience, there’s a good chance you’ll get more visitors to your site and more eyes on your content. That person who’s not ready to make a purchase today will be more likely to buy from you later if they’re already familiar with your business and have been coming to your site on a regular basis.

The goal of local SEO is to be informative and help customers find your local business online, but you don't have to constantly sell to them. Instead, you can educate them about the industry and different problems they may be facing before pitching your business and its products or services as a solution.

Need some content ideas?

If you’re struggling with writer’s block and need a few ideas for local posts, think about what’s unique about your community or upcoming events. What role does your business play in the community? What would visitors or tourists find interesting? Here are some ideas to help inspire you as you’re considering the content you’d like to share on your blog.

  1. Talk about local events. From fireworks to parades to concerts, every city holds special events for its residents to enjoy. Think about all the events happening in your area and post about the ways they impact your business or customers. Or, write an informative recap of a recent event you attended.
  2. Create lists. Share a list of your favorite local restaurants, your favorite stores, or your favorite spots to visit. It might encourage tourists to visit your town and help your neighbors find a hidden gem they hadn’t discovered yet.
  3. Discuss local news. What’s going on in the local community? What would people want to know? Share your opinion about the things going on in your area and the impact they’ll have on your audience.
  4. Sponsor local organizations or events. Sponsoring events can provide exciting blog content opportunities as well. Write about upcoming events you’re sponsoring or share photos and a recap of the event afterward.
  5. Publish event guides. If there’s a big annual event in the area, like a festival or a marathon, an event guide can be great blog content. Help all the folks coming to town by putting together a list of local restaurants to visit, hotels to stay at, or sights to see while they’re in town.
  6. Share a local resource directory. Share a list of locally owned businesses and service providers that your audience can refer back to at any time.
  7. Answer FAQs. No matter what type of business you operate, there’s a good chance that your local customers have asked you many of the same questions over the years. Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) post and provide answers to those common questions all in one convenient place. As voice-assisted search increases in popularity, search queries are now more often phrased as questions. Therefore, question-and-answer blog posts are much more likely to be served as a search result.
  8. Business-specific horror stories. Local businesses tend to hear and see horror stories from their customers, especially service-based businesses. For example, plumbers can come across severe plumbing problems that have flooded homes or funny stories that have caused the toilet to back up, such as a child flushing their favorite toy down the toilet. These stories can entertain, shock, and delight prospects, helping them form a relationship with your business even though they may not yet need its services. If you can, post before-and-after photos of the problems you encounter to prove the benefits of your services while entertaining prospects.
  9. Feature products or services. Your blog shouldn't constantly sell your products. However, there's no harm in writing a blog about your products, especially if you have something interesting to share. For example, a restaurant might write a blog about a specific ingredient they use that's unique to them, or a local brick-and-mortar store might discuss how they make their own products.
  10. Discuss the importance of your services in the area. Again, your blog is not the place to sell your services. However, you can highlight the importance of your services in a community. For example, a non-profit pet shelter might blog about different aspects of the pet shelter in the area, including all the different things they do, from finding abandoned animals to helping them find homes, highlighting their process and stories with happy endings.

Don’t forget to optimize

You might be writing for a local audience, but you still need to make sure that you optimize your posts for Google. Concentrate on your title tags and H1 headings, but make sure you’re optimizing the other elements on the page, too. Beyond your blog and keyword research, you should SEO optimize your entire website to help you rank on local search results pages. Here are a few SEO best practices:

Claim your Google business profile

Your Google profile will help you appear in the Local Pack at the top of search engine results pages. It's one of the most important local SEO tools for small businesses trying to attract in-person customers. Your Google My Business profile will allow you to appear with other reputable companies in the area to help you stay competitive.

Optimize for mobile

When most people search for local businesses, they may be on their mobile devices, which makes it easy to call businesses or find directions, especially when they're on the go. Your local SEO strategy should consist of mobile SEO to ensure your content can be found on Google, no matter which device is being used to search.

Consider link building

Inbound linking can help you rank higher in search engines for specific queries because they show Google and other search engines that your business is a reputable thought leader. Of course, you should target websites with authority that are relevant to your business and its location.

Stay true to your company's values

Local SEO can help you stand out in your geographic area to get more customers. With the right blogging strategy, you can improve your website, in-person visits, and phone calls to your business.

Whether you're a service or product-based business that operates in a specific geographic area, you can use local SEO to boost your sales.

Of course, you must claim your free Google My Business listing, which can help you appear above organic search results on search engines like Google. From there, you'll need to continue blogging and optimizing your website to ensure you can earn more traffic and boost brand awareness to attract customers.

Above all, the most important thing is to make your blog your own. Write in your own voice and share content that’s interesting and useful for your local clients. Don’t merely copy what other people are doing; be unique, and you’ll stand out to customers and search engines.

Ready to start blogging? Use Mailchimp's content creation tools to help you write and distribute blogs for local SEO.

With Mailchimp, you can create a blog, use it to publish content, and distribute that content on social media and in emails. In addition, Mailchimp offers SEO features to help you optimize each and every blog post to boost your online visibility and promote business growth.

Written by Greg Gifford for Mailchimp. Greg is an expert in local SEO.

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