You have a professionally-designed website with the contact information for your local business prominently displayed on your home page. So, why is your main competitor’s page getting all the hits while your website struggles to make it to the top of page three on Google? Are they just lucky?
Not at all. Search engine results have little to do with luck. Chances are, your competitor is using a variety of search engine optimization (SEO) tools, including content marketing, to drive web traffic to their page. If you’re interested in getting those page one Google results for yourself, you need to do the same. And you need to do it more effectively than your competitors.
What is Content Marketing?
Wait, content? But I’m a (plumber, personal trainer, attorney, real estate agent, etc.), not a writer or marketing professional. True, but as a pro in your field, you have lots of information and expertise to share with would-be customers. And this, says Greg Gifford, vice president of SearchLab, an SEO agency that specializes in helping small- and medium-sized businesses reach local customers, is the key to getting your page to pop up when someone Googles ‘plumber near me’ (for example).
“(Businesses) have to have better content on their site to answer the questions potential customers might be asking about products or services, to outshine competitors and look better to Google,” Gifford explains.
This doesn’t mean making your home page wordier, says Gifford—it means adding content, in the form of a blog, to your website. The blog should contain “purely informational content” rather promotional/sales-oriented content so you can establish yourself as the local expert on the product or service you provide (the fact that you are a local business that wants to draw in local customers, as opposed to one with a wider geographical reach, doesn’t change anything about the content marketing you engage in other than the fact that you’ll need to use the same keywords local customers are using in searches). Even though the content isn’t written with the intent to make an immediate sale, it is likely to increase sales in the long run because readers will a) remember that they read something useful on your blog and b) return in the future with money in their pockets.
What Type of Content Will Drive Traffic to My Website?
Naturally, the type of content you post will depend directly on the type of business you are running. A plumber, for example, might post articles about how to unclog a toilet or deal with frozen pipes. An interior designer’s potential customers might like to read about how to select paint colors or how to remove wallpaper. For a coffee shop owner, articles that answer questions like “what is a macchiato?” or “can I make a latte with oat milk?” are bound to get hits. Just think about some of your industry’s most sought-after information, and go from there, says Gifford.
The clincher: The content must be well-written, with plenty of strong/relevant keywords.
“Writing poorly-constructed content or content with grammatical and spelling errors is going to hurt you more than it will help you,” Gifford says.
Should I Hire a Professional to do My Content Marketing?
And if you are a good writer who also happens to have some basic SEO knowledge? Creating a content marketing plan and writing the content yourself is always a possibility (especially if your budget doesn’t allow you to outsource). If you decide to go this route, Gifford suggests taking some training courses rather than just winging it.
“There are a lot of free resources out there,” he says.
On the flip side, bringing a professional onboard to help create a content marketing strategy is never a bad idea. For one thing, it frees you up to focus on other things (like actually being the best at what you do in town, rather than writing about it). Plus, professional content marketing strategists already have all the necessary knowledge and tools at their disposal, so they can get a program implemented in a reasonable timeframe without all the roadblocks you might encounter trying to figure it out yourself for the first time.
Who do you hire to help? Options include full-service SEO agencies (like Gifford’s), smaller agencies that specialize specifically in content marketing or independent/freelance content marketing experts. All are great options, as long as the folks you are working with understand SEO and analytics along with content marketing strategy.
Using Social Media to Market Your Local Business
Regardless of whether you decide to outsource your content marketing or DIY, posting content on a blog is really just the beginning of an effective content marketing strategy. You’ll miss many opportunities to market your business locally if you fail to incorporate the use of social media into the plan (because social media is one of the most effective ways to let people know your content exists, says Gifford).
Here are few ways to use social media as a content marketing tool:
Post/share links to your content on your social media channels.
Engage with your audience on social media. If someone leaves a comment or asks a question, answer them.
Focus on the social media tools your target audience uses. TikTok sounds like fun, but is your target audience actually spending time on TikTok? If they aren’t, that isn’t a productive use of your time (at least not when it comes to advertising your local business).
Likewise, stick to channels that are well-suited to the type of business you run. A visually-oriented business, like a hair salon or a remodeling company, is a good candidate for Instagram. A plumbing service? Not so much.
Don’t shy away from paid advertising, Gifford says, because “organic social reach is very, very low.” This means paying Facebook or Instagram, for example, to promote a post that links to your latest piece of content so that it gets in front of the audience you are trying to reach (otherwise, the link to the post you spent so much time on could fade away into Facebook oblivion).
Do I Have to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy?
The downside to incorporating content marketing into your long-term marketing plan? Time and money, of course. And no, you don’t have to do it. But it really is one of the best ways to make sure your business stands out in the crowd, says Gifford. Plus, content marketing is an advertising strategy that is growing exponentially (one recent report indicated that the industry is expected to grow, as a whole, by more than $250 billion between now and 2024). Just be sure that your content marketing strategy is, well, strategic. Know your goals, know your audience, know your keywords and search terms—all before you start creating content. Armed with that information, you’ll be well on your way to creating a plan that will draw more traffic to your website and, ultimately, more customers through your front door.