To Blog, or Not to Blog?

Just for a second, forget everything you know about the word “blog.” Seriously, wipe your mind clean and pretend that until this very moment, the word “blog” is foreign to you and, for all you know, could be defined as “a weapon used by extra-terrestrials to conquer planet Earth.” (Don’t worry, blogs aren’t that scary.)

Blogs have changed a lot since the first major blogging tool, Blogger, was launched back in 1999 (purchased by Google in 2003). Blogs used to be a place for writers to share opinions and experiences with their audience, plain and simple. While the core of this concept hasn’t changed, the advent of Twitter, WordPress, and countless other platforms have morphed what the blogosphere’s purpose is and how it impacts readers and businesses. I just came across an interesting article about where the world of blogging is today in The Atlantic, http://theatln.tc/1DHZ7Nc, and it’s a long, interesting read if you’re a technology geek like yours truly.

If, however, you aren’t a techno-nerd and you want to cut to the chase to know exactly if and how your company can benefit from running a blog, then this article is a must-read: http://selnd.com/1B5Bu2N. Whether your business currently has a blog being managed internally, has a blog being managed by a third party, or sees no benefit whatsoever from having a blog, this article is concisely written with concrete advice and examples of how to make a blog generate real traffic for a local business. I’ve copied the article below my signature and highlighted the important parts in yellow.

Kevin’s Key Insights:

  1. As Google’s algorithm stands today, your website’s content is the most important factor in gaining visibility online.
  2. Content planning is the key to not letting this project slip through the cracks. Taking a little time now to make next month’s content plan makes it far easier to keep up consistent posting.
  3. Your blog is not just a marketing channel for you to advertise your company; use it to be useful and interesting to your local audience and watch the traffic roll in!

Here is the article.

Make Your Blog A Local Destination & Win At Local Search

Wondering what to do on your blog to help your Local SEO efforts? Columnist Greg Gifford lays out a game plan for local blogging success.

Greg Gifford on March 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

Now that 2015 is in full swing, many business owners are trying to dive into the trenches and do whatever they can to boost their local visibility. So far, the leading question of the year has centered on site content.

Since the Pigeon Update‘s shift toward more “traditional web ranking factors” in determining local search rankings, website content has become more important than ever for local businesses trying to gain visibility in search. In fact, according to Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors, it’s currently the most important piece of the Local SEO puzzle.

Business owners know that content is important, but they keep asking for specifics. So, I figured this month would be a perfect opportunity to share the same strategy we share with our own clients.

You Can’t Just Post For Posting’s Sake

You’ve got a blog, you know you need to post content, you know you need to be unique, and you know you have to be relevant in your local area. That seems to be about as far as most business owners get. Blogging seems to be some insurmountable, time-sucking colossal task — so business owners often shy away.

Blogging isn’t hard! Does it take some time? Yes. But you don’t have to be an expert writer to have an awesome blog. Blogs lend themselves to conversational writing, anyway.

You’ve got to put a plan in place and stick to it. If you’re just randomly posting because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. Even if you’re posting several times a week, if you’re only doing it because you know you need content, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re writing a generic post and just shoving your city name in there a few times, you’re doing it wrong.

If you take the time to make a plan, your posts will make sense and have a purpose. Your potential customers and local users will start reading your content because it’s actually useful content. Your traffic will increase, and you’ll get more leads.

Before we talk about post ideas, here’s the blogging plan we share with our clients:

  1. Define Your Audience.It’s important to remember that your audience doesn’t have to be in-market buyers. For auto dealers, the sales cycle is very long, since people typically only buy a car every 4 or 5 years. You have to tailor your posts to your audience if you want to get traction. Think about potential customers, previous customers, local residents, out-of-town visitors – then break up your potential audience into personas that you can target with different posts.
  2. Decide Who’s Writing.Sometimes it’s the business owners, sometimes it’s a manager, and sometimes its employees. Figure out what works with your company’s staff structure, then choose your writers. If you pick specific people, you can hold them accountable, which helps you stick to your schedule. You’re the expert, and you know your company’s voice – so whenever possible, you should write your own posts. In some cases, time constraints might make that impossible (if you’re a one-person show, for example). If you have to outsource your blog posts, make sure you’re using a reputable copywriting company that’s providing original, well-written content.
  3. Decide What You’re Going To Share.Remember that “content” doesn’t have to be text. Now that you know who your audience is and who’ll be creating the content, decide what types of content you want to share. Besides standard written posts, you can share photos, videos, infographics, slide presentations, or surveys. Play to your strengths and the interests of your audience.
  4. Set A Calendar & Stick To It.This is the step that most people stumble on. You’ve got to post on a regular basis if you want to be successful. You don’t have to know exact subjects to plan your posting calendar out far in advance – as long as you know a post is due on a certain date, it helps keep everyone accountable and on schedule. At a minimum, you should plan your posts a month ahead of time, but going 6 months or even a year ahead will make your life easier and increase your chances of success.

Need evidence that this approach works? Check out the results below, from my own company’s blog.

I put my money where my mouth is back in 2011 and committed to posting at least one blog post a week about automotive digital marketing.

Within a year, traffic to our blog doubled — and today, we’re consistently in the 7,000 to 8,000 visitor range. That’s more than ten times our original traffic!

Okay, So What The Heck Do We Actually Post?

Here’s where most business owners get hung up. They know they need to plan, and they know they need to post regularly, but they struggle with ideas for potential posts. The “my business is boring” excuse usually comes into play at this point.

Luckily, we’re blogging to build local relevance, so that means there are tons of options for post ideas regardless of business vertical. At the recent LocalUp conference in Seattle, Mike Ramsey said it best: “Local content is not about being unique, it’s about being local and useful.”

You don’t have to fill your blog with unique posts about plumbing… or being a locksmith… or handling bankruptcy cases. If your blog is all about yourself, it’s boring, and you’ll run out of things to say. Make your blog a local destination, and you’ll have an endless supply of content ideas that also help build local relevancy.

Instead of thinking of your blog as another marketing channel that needs to be all about your business, try to create a really awesome locally-oriented blog that people in your area will keep reading because it’s useful and truly interesting.

Here’s the list of 10 local blog post ideas we share with our clients:

  1. Community News/Local News. Every city has news. Share the news, or share your opinions on local news. Did your high school put in a $60 million football stadium? Write about it — I promise people will read….
  2. Local Events.Every city has events. Whether it’s a local parade, or a celebration downtown, or a concert at the city park, there’s an endless supply of local events you can write about.
  3. Sponsorships Or Charities.Most businesses sponsor events (would golf tournaments exist otherwise?). Share information about the events you’re sponsoring. If you support a charity, especially a local one, let your readers know about it.
  4. Event Guides.Share useful information about big local events. For example, is there a 5k race, or even a yearly marathon? Put together a list of restaurants to head to after the race, places to stand on the race route, hotels to stay in over the weekend and so on. Create a PDF and share it.
  5. Local Resource Directory. Supporting local businesses is a huge movement, and you can gain a lot of traction by sharing your own list of locally owned businesses that you support. You’re not creating a link exchange, you’re simply sharing a list of the other businesses that you recommend to local residents.
  6. Review Local Businesses.Along those same lines, write up reviews about the local businesses you support, or even the ones you frequent. Local residents will appreciate your insights, and as a bonus, it’s likely that the business will return the favor and write a review about your business.
  7. Interview Local Figures.Do you know the mayor? Someone on city council? The high school football coach? Take advantage of your friendships and professional connections and interview figures of local interest. Not only is it useful, interesting local content, it’s “ego bait” – the person you interview will very likely share your post with all of your connections, helping to broaden your reach.
  8. Top 5 Lists.Talk about your favorite burger joints, your favorite steak restaurants, your favorite stores. People love to read top 5 and top 10 lists, and you can use any of the above suggestions to help come up with ideas for your lists. They’re incredibly easy to write and the built-in popularity of list posts helps broaden your reach.
  9. If local customers are asking questions, you have a built in guide for local blog content. If it’s a lengthy answer, you can turn it into an entire post. If you have multiple locations or serve multiple areas, you can even compare questions from different locations. If you’re writing about what your customers are asking about, you already know it’s something they’ll want to read.
  10. Aggregated Content.Many times, aggregating and sharing local content can be incredibly successful. Share the content that local news sites or other businesses are creating, and you’ll be sharing information that your users will find useful too.

Piggyback off of this list and come up with your own ideas that work for your audience. Follow a set plan and share useful local content on a regular basis, and you’ll build your site’s local relevancy and boost your site’s visibility.