Published on March 7th, 2013
Ever since Panda and Penguin, local SEO has become more and more of a challenge for businesses. Not only do they need to target what is in some cases many location-based keywords, but they need to do it without sounding like they’re schlepping Google with an abundance of out-of-place local search phrases. Truth be told, the information that I’ve seen around the web on this subject of how to combine SEO with Content Marketing (Search Content Marketing) on the local level is seriously lacking.
But that’s going to change today, because the Lion has some pretty dang cool stuff to share :-)
Like everything that has to do with great content marketing, the key to all of this comes back to thinking like a consumer and being willing to answer their questions. Although this may sound easy, many folks are scared to death of such a task once push comes to shove, as you’ll soon see.
This being said, the stuff I’m getting ready to show in today’s article is for companies that are interested in the bottom-line results, and not those that base their marketing strategies on how “business has always been done…”
Sound Good? Then let’s get to it…
1. Focusing on Local Laws, Ordinances, etc:
Although this will certainly not apply to all types of businesses, it does with many. If the process of buying your service or product requires any approval whatsoever, then you need to be the one writing about this. Let me give you an example.
For my swimming pool company, every one of our customers has to deal with zoning and setback laws with respect to where they are allowed to put their pool in their yard. Knowing that this is a major question/concern that potential pool owners have, I decided to run a series of blog posts on my site that addressed the zoning regulations of each county (in Maryland and Virginia) we do business in. Because each county has their own regulations and because pool shoppers generally type in something like “Chesterfield County Swimming Pool Laws” or “Frederick County Swimming Pool Setbacks” I went ahead and wrote a separate article on each county. In order to make sure I was as successful as possible from a search engine standpoint, I included in each title the major phrases that someone might type in. For example, the following post was entitled: Powhatan Va Swimming Pool Zoning, Permitting, and Setback Laws
As you can see, the post addresses multiple keyword phrases that someone (from Powhatan) researching a swimming pool might type in, and it’s also written in a very clear, educational manner. Considering so very many businesses deal with county/state laws and regulations when selling their product or service, this technique can be a major Local SEO success, just as the article above ranked on the first page of Google for every major keyword phrase we were initially targeting, shown here:
2. Write “Who is the Best______________?” Articles
Think about it for a second: How often, when searching for a local business, do you go to Google and type in, “Who is the best ______________ company in [my town]?”
Chances are, if you’re like most of the digital world, you’ve done this many, many times. So have your customers. In order to address this critical customer question, you may want to consider taking every major town you work in and write an article addressing this critical question. I’ve done multiple “Best of [location]” articles and every single one of them ranks on the first page of Google and have generated critical traffic, leads, and sales that have benefitted my business. Here is an example for Virginia Beach:
Now you may be asking the best way to write this type of article (Actually, I’m sure you’re asking that question by now :-) ) Well, my answer to this is to literally pick a group of your competitors that that have a solid history of business in your area and list them, without listing yourself, as I’ll now explain in #3.
3. Write “Best of” Posts that also Review Your Local Competitors
OK, now comes the part that makes people scratch their head, but if you look at it from an intelligent business standpoint and get rid of all your “old school/secret sauce” mentality, I think you’ll get what I’m saying here.
Fact is, your potential clients are vetting you and your competitors all the time. They are going to Google and typing in phrases like “Reviews of [your competitor]” and 99.9% of the time, some awful 3rd party review site is the one controlling this conversation. I noticed this trend a couple of years ago and decided to start optimizing for my competitors keyword phrases when a prospect was vetting them online. To do this, my approach was something no one had ever done before online(I don’t say this to brag, it’s just the truth)—I made a “best of” list that included 5 competitors I respected, briefly described their company, and did NOT include myself in these “best of” lists.
Why did I not include myself in these lists?
Because if I had, I would have lost all credibility, and at that point there is no trust with the reader.
Instead, I chose honesty and transparency, and because of this, I now rank for a slew of my competitors phrases, as you can see here:
When I’ve presented this principle at conferences around the world, occasionally audience members want to know if I’m worried about losing a sale because I’ve now introduced my competitors to my readers.
My answer to this question is simple: NO
I say that because in this age of easy information, it’s NAÏVE to think for one second that our potential customers haven’t already vetted our competition, or that they won’t at some point.
The fact is, when it comes to great content marketing (especially search content marketing), I don’t care about my competition. They aren’t the ones I’m trying to have a conversation with. And ultimately, that’s what this is about—controlling where the conversation takes place.
This one single article made over $150,000 in sales last year for my swimming pool company, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons the New York Times ran their article on our transparent approach to answering customer questions.
Again, stop fearing the competition and start fearing what will happen if you ignore the customer.
4. Write “Best of” (or worst of) Posts about Related Industries to Yours
This is a tremendous technique that very, very few people do, but it works quite well. Let’s pretend you’re a real-estate agent in Austin Texas for a minute. What are some typical “best of” questions potential clients (people that are moving to Austin from another area) would ask? Here is a small list:
- What are the best school systems in Austin?
- What are the best restaurants in Austin?
- What are the best neighborhoods to live in in Austin Texas?
- What are the worst school systems in Austin?
Do you see how this works? If someone is moving to the town, they very likely want to know these things, and there is also a very good chance each person asking these questions could be a potential client for that agent.
Let’s do one more example just so as to make sure everyone completely understands this. Let’s say you have a pet-sitting business in Washington DC. An example of some indirect “best of” articles would be:
- Who are the top veterinarian clinics in Washington DC?
- Where are the best dog kennels located in Washington DC?
- What are the top dog grooming/spa companies in Washington DC?
Writing these types of articles not only do great from an SEO standpoint, but they also help you become a brand/thought-leader in your local area, as many of these businesses will be thrilled with your positive discussion of them on your site and possibly send you more referrals because of it. (This is also known as “Networking ;-) )
Some of you may be questioning the efficacy of these techniques, but let me stress this: They work in all types of industries, in all parts of the world. Whether you're B2B, B2C--it doesn't matter. I say this because I've not just done this stuff with my companies, but certainly with my clients, and I've got an incredibly diverse group of clients right now.
When all is said and done, our challenge is a simple one my friends: Think outside the box. Reward those in your town and city. Talk about them. Think like a consumer. Good things will happen.
A couple of questions folks that I feel could really add to this post: What other location-based SEO techniques have you used with success? From what I’ve mentioned above, what do you agree and disagree with? Why?
Jump in, your voice matters.