For businesses with multiple locations or large brands with dozens (or more!) distribution points, it can seem daunting to create content that’s specific to each and every geographic region you serve. While it may be a lot of work, it’s well worth the effort.
Content that is locally relevant:
- Sends signals to improve your relevancy for local search queries, as users and search engines can be given richer information about what you offer
- Creates a stronger digital footprint in that geographic area, encouraging more opportunities for sharing or referencing that content (i.e. social engagement and backlinks)
- Offers a better user experience for searchers, as visitors will be treated to an experience that is more relevant and informative
It pays to invest in creating local landing pages or content sections of your site. If you’re not sure on where to begin, or how to take those pages to the next step beyond a paragraph on a page with a header of “My Business in City, State”, here’s what you can do:
Understanding Local Searcher Journeys
The first step to creating better content starts with taking a closer look at how people find, reference, and use your content, products, or services. User mapping is often used in software development and UX design, but it can apply just as much to local SEO.
When people seek out your business, they have different purposes in mind. Some may just want to know what you offer in general while others may be looking for a specific item. Some people want to contact you by phone and others by email. Some want to visit today and some are researching businesses for an upcoming vacation. Some search on phones, others search on desktops.
Knowing those journeys and purposes will help you design more effective landing pages and more engaging content because you’ll know:
- What they’re looking for
- What queries they might use to search for that information
- What their intentions are once they get the information they need
Collecting this data can be complex or simple, depending on how deep you want to go. You can use customer surveys, interviews, focus groups, your Google Analytics data, and much more to design a map that shows how a customer came to find, interact with, and became loyal to your location.
Here’s how to get started with using – and applying – customer journey maps:
- Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Service
- The Customer Journey to Online Purchase (for those of you who offer both local and ecommerce options!)
- Seeing the World as Customers Do
- Thinking Local, Acting Mobile
- Content Mapping for Your Customer Funnel
- Customer Journey Mapping for Small Business
Write Like A Local
When you find content that offers all of the information you’re looking for, that’s great. When it sounds like it came from a local, that’s even better.
Writing like a local is one way that you can make your content locally-focused while still delivering on the value you’ve promised to the searcher. Local slang and colloquialisms can make your content feel more conversational while also targeting queries that may not come up in your keyword research.
Let’s take for example the sandwich. When you have a sandwich split lengthwise filled with meats, cheeses, veggies, and condiments on your menu, what do you call it? In my hometown region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, it’s a hoagie. In other regions, it’s a sub, a submarine, a wedge, a hero, or a grinder. Get to know what people say about your products or services. What terms do they use? What questions do they have? Talk to your front-line staff, use customer surveys, or heck, just spend some time in a place and listen!
When you know how people think, feel, and talk about your products locally, it becomes easier to write about them in a way that makes the local searcher feel right at home.
Send Location Signals
Search engines love context, so there’s no need to stick to the rigid keywords you may have used in the past (i.e. “best mechanic in Smalltown, USA” three times exactly throughout the page). Verbatim keyword repetition often creates a poor reading experience and search engines aren’t going to care much if your keyword density is XYZ. Instead, focus on offering contextual references around where your business is located or about the region you’re referring to.
Expand your explanation of a place by using language around landmarks, counties, neighborhoods, etc. Stuck on where to begin? Start by looking at a map and referencing locations you see with other local content across the web. You can also ask a local for directions. Are they naming neighborhoods or landmarks? Do they mention interstates or highways? Listen to how the region is described and what locals focus on. It’ll help you create a solid footprint.
Make Finding You Easy
A pitfall of multi-location businesses with a presence in multiple areas is not giving the user a direct path to take to reach them. Sure, you have content specific to that location, but are you telling the user what to do next? Give clear calls to action that fit with the goal of your content.
For example, if you’re creating a local specific landing page that targets a service area for one of your businesses, you may want to try calls to action like:
- A prominent clickable button to call for an appointment
- An embedded Google map that shows your service area or nearest location along with a prompt to get directions
- A contact form that goes directly to the store manager
Whatever CTA you choose, make sure it’s easy for the user to make the next move while also – at first glance – recognize that you’re a real business with a real location, real phone number, and real store manager who can answer questions.
Include Structured Data Markup
The richer the content, the better chance it has to perform well. Give search engines – and users – additional information about what you offer by including Schema markup in your content.
- An Overview of Schema.org Structured Data
- Getting Started with Schema
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Schema
- The Schema.org Vocabulary Library
Depending on your business type, there may be unique schema that you can use to specify everything from your location data to what dishes you include on your restaurant menu. While Schema doesn’t boost your ranking directly, it does correlate with having improved click-through rates when appearing in search. Either way, it’s a great enhancement you can make to content to make it more relevant to what local searchers are actually looking for (i.e. put those customer journey maps to work!).
It’s not enough to show up in a new market or to open a new location. Customers who are already living and doing business in that area aren’t waiting for you with baited breath. Often, they need to be convinced that you’re a relevant, trustworthy, and worthwhile business to patronize. To earn that trust, you have to participate.
Businesses that engage online and offline with locals are often viewed as more personable and trustworthy. That means it’s more important than ever to create a digital footprint that shows you’re part of the community.
Sponsor a local event – that press coverage may mention you as a sponsor and boost brand recall. Offer a list of neighboring businesses to visit on your block as a way to encourage community collaboration. Join a chamber of commerce or business association to earn valuable referrals and resources, as well as a mention in a local directory. Suggest things to do nearby while your patrons visit. Share social media posts from other businesses in your region. Get your staff involved in sharing their stories and experiences as part of your content map as a way to generate new connections while adding a personal – and local – touch to your brand.
Participating in your community can help in generating new content ideas or can enrich your existing content choices by giving you greater clarity around what’s important, what people are talking about, and what makes the community in which you operate unique.
Get To Know The Landscape
It’s not just about knowing what’s on the map – it’s about knowing what locals like to see and do. Having a pulse on what’s happening in a community can create greater opportunities for content generation as well as link building.
Let’s say there’s a film festival happening in your town. You’re a restaurant down the street from the theater. You have a blog and you write a blog post about this film festival, including a list of the movies, the schedule, where to get tickets, etc. You also include a mention of a dinner special you’re running as a way to tie everything together, along with a great drink special your bartender thought up that makes a clever nod to Hollywood.
Now let’s say that your blog post is up and live and it gets picked up by the film festival committee who shares it (you tagged them when you shared it on your own Facebook). Then your chamber of commerce picks it up and links back to it in their latest newsletter. Maybe a local food blogger writes about you and links back to your original blog post from their review during the festival. Suddenly that simple promo post has longer legs to travel
You’re not just limited to content creation about outside events to accomplish this. You can also host a roundtable or a community open house and document the experience. You can start a podcast where you talk about businesses in your community. You can launch a “shop local” weekend.
Communities, by in large, encourage and support the successes of others. If you have a main street you’re part of, look to your surrounding neighbors for support in generating your content ideas as well as keeping your content sharing strategy moving. The benefit goes beyond content, too – research shows that participation can drive employee and customer engagement.
I know, this sounds like a dream come true, right? All of these social mentions and backlinks coming out of nowhere, an engaged community that supports businesses successfully…but the truth is that it does happen.
It won’t happen all the time, but it can happen at least once, and even that from an SEO perspective makes a difference!
* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com
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