One of the best ways to improve the visibility of your business in local search results is to create localized content on your website. Local blog content is information that’s relevant to your city, local community or service area in particular — and it’s fundamental to local SEO.
Yes, writing a blog takes work. In this post, I’ll explain how to create localized blog content, and why it’s worth the effort.
Why Content Matters for Local SEO
A blog covering local events and news, reviews, and so on can help you outrank your competition in local search results. In addition, you’ll build a local audience, driving traffic more regularly to your website and business when potential customers search “near me” or “open now” in your area.
Local businesses and search marketers tend to focus, understandably, on ranking in the so-called “local pack” or “map pack” — the most prominent set of organic (unpaid) results on the search results page, right below the paid ads. According to one annual industry survey, your Google Business Profile is the single most important factor in local pack rankings (36%), and your website accounts for another 16% — combined, more than half your ranking score.
If not the local pack, you may still appear in the organic “blue links” section below it. But there the situation is reversed: Your website counts for 36% of your rank score and Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) a mere 7%. That’s largely because your GBP doesn’t contain any keyword-rich content for Google to rank. (There are good places to add keywords to Google Business Profile, but that should supplement local content, not replace it.)
Lastly, equally important to rankings is converting local search queries into actual store visits and sales. Someone may click from your Google Business Profile to your website, but the website must convince them to do business with you. Blogging about your area can help with that.
Two Ways to Think about Blog Content
When it comes to local SEO, there are two ways to think about creating content:
- Topical relevance. In traditional search, people are looking for information about your subject matter expertise, so you write about what you know and your related services.
- Local relevance. In local search, making that information relevant to your service area is an additional consideration that can boost your rankings and conversions. Local relevance doesn’t matter in traditional SEO.
For instance, if your business is real estate, you may become a thought leader blogging about mortgage rates, home equity loans, and first-time homebuyer programs. But to reach prospects shopping for a home in your area, you’ll want to write about the local schools, review local businesses, interview local figures, or whatever makes your area sound appealing.
How Does Local Blog Content Make a Difference?
The difference lies in the way that Google and other search engines handle searches that have what’s called “local intent” — people looking for products or services nearby.
In traditional search, the Google algorithm evaluates content based on four broad, overarching criteria: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness — the so-called E-E-A-T factors.
But when it detects local intent, E-E-A-T doesn’t matter. Instead, Google employs a different search algorithm with three different priorities:
- Distance. How far away is a business from the searcher? This is irrelevant in traditional search but all-important in local search.
- Relevance. How well do your products, services, or information meet the searcher’s immediate needs as stated in the query?
- Prominence. How well is your business known and respected in the community you serve?
You still need the E-E-A-T factors, of course. They’re still important. Just not the priority of local search.
How Does Local Content Help with This?
Localized content is important because it boosts all three of these.
Verify location and authenticity.
Your website contains both static content — About page, Contact page, product and service pages — and content you update, most commonly a blog.
Both are places to employ keywords and other on-page SEO to help search engines and human searchers understand your content.
Using localized keywords — the name of your city or locality, as the most obvious example — and writing about local topics confirms to Google that your business is what and where you say it is. Google looks for results close to the searcher’s location and prioritizes those it can verify.
That’s why it’s important also to place your business name, address, and phone number (aka NAP) abundantly on your site (the footer is a good place to get it on every page). NAP is not content in the sense we’re discussing, but it’s another important way your website helps verify your business location.
Writing about your community demonstrates your local knowledge, giving search engines confidence that you’re truly speaking to and for your local audience, that you understand what people in your area need.
This gives your content an edge over content that may be on-topic but written for a general audience. You may be equal subject matter experts, but in local SEO, the one with localized content is seen as more relevant.
Google loves fresh content, and regular blog posting demonstrates that your business is of ongoing relevance and thus of potentially high value.
Here’s where we talk about backlinks — links from other websites to your own.
Backlinks are consistently one of the most important ranking factors in both traditional and local SEO. They’re external validation of your content’s value.
But the similarity ends there. In traditional search, you want backlinks from reputable, authoritative sites no matter where they are.
In local SEO it’s the opposite: You want links from local websites, authoritative or not. Local backlinks demonstrate how prominent your business is in the area it serves. Prominence beats authority.
Local business owners are often active in their communities, and likely live, work, and play in their local area. They get involved in local causes, organizations, and associations based on their personal and professional interests. They get known.
Getting involved in your community makes it easier to get a yes when you ask other locally owned businesses to link to a blog post. And they’ll always like to something you’ve written about their business or its own community activities.
Building local relevance means creating high-quality localized content that others in your area want to link to.
Now, about that…
Ideas for Creating Local Blog Content
What kind of local content should you create?
First, here’s what you don’t want to do: Keep stuffing your city name into every other sentence. Gratuitously throwing in as many keywords as possible—that worked in 2010 because Google had no other way to tell what a piece of content was about. But everything’s changed since then. Mainly, Google has learned to read. It understands what you’re saying or trying to say. Today, obvious keyword stuffing is one of the surest ways to rank lower in search results.
Instead, remember this: It’s not all about you. Your business isn’t, and your blog shouldn’t be either. Writing about your community is an outstanding way to create goodwill and build trust and confidence in your business. What goes around comes around.
Here are some things you can (and should) blog about:
Promote local events.
Is there a weekly farmers market in your area? An annual street fair? You can write about it afterward, but even better is getting the word out before it happens and encouraging people to attend. Believe me, there are few things that score you points quite like helping someone else’s event be successful.
Cover local news.
You don’t have to scoop your local newspaper, but providing information and local perspective into what’s going on in your area only enhances your credibility. Local residents and shoppers will learn you’re a source of current and reliable information.
Interview local figures.
People love to read about themselves and people they know. Interviewing local business owners, community activists, and other movers and shakers shows you’ve got the “inside scoop.” And many “ordinary” residents in your community have led interesting if not remarkable lives. Ask your readers to nominate their neighbors to be featured. (Outside my SEO work I edit a community magazine, and I can testify that our local resident cover stories are far and away the most popular feature. I’m swamped with nominations.)
Write about school sports.
People also love reading about their kids’ sports teams, and many schools have excellent competitive teams. Who knows, you may write about a future Hall of Famer.
“Best of the Neighborhood” Guide
Again, people love these things. A guide to the best shops, attractions, and other local services and amenities is the kind of content that people clip and save, or tape to the refrigerator, where they’ll be reminded of your business practically every time they eat.
“Listicles” and “How to” Posts
Blog posts that explain how to do something in a few simple steps are always popular. Or a short list or checklist. Look for a local angle, and put a number in the title, near the beginning: “5 Steps to a Better…” or “The 7 Best Neighborhood Places for…” Numbers get clicks.
Local resource directory.
Like a “best of” guide, a local resource directory listing emergency numbers, public services, local offices of your elected representatives, etc. is a surefire win that people will keep — and remember you for.
Local destinations and attractions.
Does your area have attractions or destinations that only the locals know about? Or better, that they don’t know about? Highlighting local destinations shows how much you know and love your community.
To paraphrase a popular maxim, local SEO is not just about what you know, but where you know.
Locally oriented content in your blog and the other pages of your website satisfies to some degree all three criteria that Google’s local search algorithm is looking for; it:
- verifies your business location,
- shows that your business is relevant to people searching in your area,
- increases your prominence because local business want to link to your website from their own.
Your website is where all the keywords and on-page SEO elements go that convince both human and machine searchers that your business is what they’re looking for — namely, the answer to the search query that someone typed in, needing something “near me” or “open now.”
Read the whole series introducing local SEO to small business owners:
- 7 Reasons Why Local SEO is Important for Your Small Business
- How to Do Local SEO: The 4 Building Blocks of Success
- How to Optimize Google Business Profile to Engage More Customers
- How to Boost Local SEO with Local Blog Content (this post)
- It’s Your Reputation: How to Manage Reviews (coming soon)
- Citations: Should You Get Listed in Online Directories? (coming soon)