Guest post by Jeff Machado
When people ask me the No. 1 change they should make to their website, I always the same thing: add a blog and update it often.
But, the reality is starting a blog for your local business comes with unique challenges that can prevent you from gaining the momentum you need for your blog take off.
When done right, though, your blog can help you build an audience in your community and generate qualified leads for your business.
Here are the traits you want to focus on in your local blog to help you get there.
1. Educational and Informative
Too much emphasis on your own products and services will prevent your local business blog from ever taking off. The goal of a local blog isn’t to tell everyone how great you are – it is to build an audience in your community.
You can still sell from your blog, weaving your products and services into the content strategically. But you have to publish posts that solve problems, reveal interesting facts or serve as a resource before selling anything would be effective.
Local Business Blog in Action:
Here in Tallahassee, Manausa Real Estate has built a local blog that has attracted a dedicated following and thousands of subscribers, a major achievement for a local business blog.
How did they do it?
1. The owner, Joe Manausa, MBA, addresses specific questions related to Tallahassee real estate.
2. He provides statistics and charts on home values in different neighborhoods around town.
3. He publishes tutorial posts that walk potential buyers and sellers through the process of choosing and working with an agent.
4. Joe publishes the posts in his own name which is standard in real estate, but important for all industries. By not hiding behind a company name, he becomes a credible and recognizable source. Local business thrives on the know, like and trust factor.
2. People and Community Focused
Every person in your local area represents a story waiting to be told. And we all love a great story.
Use your blog to feature someone in your community through case studies and interviews.
Focusing on members of your community does more than just add content to your blog. It gives you an opportunity to reach out to people you may not have contacted before. The relationships you build with these individuals will expand your network and connect you with influencers in your community.
Put it on your schedule to feature one person per month on your blog that your audience would want to hear from. You can come up with standard interview questions to send to each person you’re going to profile to help you save time.
3. Locally Focused Calls to Action
Every blog post should end with a call to action. If you don’t tell your blog readers the next step, they will leave your post and may never return to read your blog again.
Have a call to action in mind for each post, whether it is to subscribe to your blog, attend a workshop at your business, or to get a quote. Lead your readers to where you want them to go.
Want More Local Leads?
If you want more local leads, place a call to action at the end of your blog posts to download a free report that is customized to your area. While your readers may be able to find general information online about topics related to your business, local information is more difficult to come by.
Ask your readers to provide their email address before downloading the report. That way, each person who downloads it is now a lead that you can follow up with by sending more helpful information and offers to work with you.
4. Social Integration
Every post you add to your blog adds a new thread of conversation with your audience. Easy-to-use social sharing buttons on your blog will help multiply the reach of that conversation.
When your readers like, +1 or retweet your posts, you are getting exposed to a new audience. While the numbers may not be as high as a general/non-local blog, the social sharing that does happen is much more likely to reach people who live in your area.
Numbers are good, yes. But targeted local leads are even better.
Social Sharing Made Easy
My favorite WordPress plugin for social sharing is Digg Digg. With an attractive floating bar and ease of use, it’s one of those plugins that I think every blog should have.
Enable the option to have your Twitter username automatically included in the tweets (via @rtmixmktg for example) when users press the Twitter or Buffer buttons to help you grow your following and be alerted when your content is shared.
5. Consistently Updated
This is advice that most bloggers dread – but only because they know the importance of it, yet how difficult it is to put into action.
No one is going to go back to a website with a blog that was updated two times three years ago. Simply having a blog on your site isn’t enough to reap the benefits of increased reach in your community and a loyal following.
Blogging is a long-term strategy, not a short term cure-it-all to marketing your local business.
Blogging Consistency Tip
Creating a calendar of post topics and formats will help you stay on track.
Most bloggers agree that coming up with ideas is the greatest challenge they face. But if you have a specific post topic you talk about on Mondays and then you post an interview on Thursdays, it will be much easier for you to be consistent.
I love seeing local businesses get these traits right on their blog. And I know they love the results of more leads and customers.
Now that you know the traits of a successful local business blog, what action steps are you going to take next? Let me know in the comments.
Jeff Machado is a content marketing strategist for Fiore Communications, a Tallahassee marketing firm that helps businesses attract new customers, engage their audiences and build relationships. Download their latest report, “What’s the Big Idea? An Essential Guide for Attracting Customers Online,” to find out how to grow your business with the power of a Big Idea and online marketing techniques.