Is Content Marketing the Best Approach for Local Businesses?
Joy Hawkins

Today we have a guest post from Brandon Schmidt, Director of Digital Strategy at YDOP, an internet marketing company in Lancaster, PA that specializes in Local SEO, website design & development, digital advertising, video marketing, and conversion optimization.

Most local businesses don’t benefit from traditional content marketing approaches. Learn why that is and how you can create better content that generates leads.

For years, the steady drumbeat of content marketing has been ringing in the ears of local business owners and marketers. Marketing experts, agencies, and blogging advocates have all emphasized the importance of content marketing and how regular blogging will transform a business.

But lately we’ve been encountering more and more local businesses using traditional content marketing strategies with little success. That might surprise some who believe that businesses which produce more content find more success. In our experience, that’s not necessarily true for local businesses.

In fact, we’re seeing cases where it costs those businesses years of effort, only to discover that their efforts were in vain. After spending a lot of time and money, they’re not seeing the results they need: namely, more phone calls, form submissions, and in-person visits. Is content marketing the best approach to help businesses reach their local markets?

Our answer: “Maybe.”

Let’s take a look at three actual case studies where it wasn’t.

Example 1: Inadequate Resources Of A Small Company

Our first example is a small, family-owned plumbing & HVAC company. They had a limited marketing budget and time, but still chose to invest what they had into blogging.

From 2011 to 2017, this business published 28 blog articles, for an average of 4 posts per year. Consequently, the results should not be surprising: only 4% of traffic to the site visited a blog post, and nearly everyone leaves the site afterwards.

The time and money invested in blogging could have been better spent on making other updates to the site or on digital advertising.

This plumber spent hours publishing blog posts, with little to no traffic to show from it.

Example 2: A National Audience (For a Local Business)

Our second example is a law firm that blogs about once per month, usually about their practice areas.

About a year ago they wrote a blog post that performed very well, receiving featured snippets and hundreds of visits per month; within a year, this blog post became their most visited page on the site. Unfortunately, almost all the traffic comes from California, Texas, and other states in which they do not practice law.

Over 92% of traffic to this blog post come from outside the states this law firm serves.

Example 3: High Performing Blog (Without the Leads)

Our final example is an outdoor living contractor that has blogged weekly for years. This dedication and investment in producing content has resulted in significant traffic: 9 of their top 10 most visited pages are blog posts, with plenty of featured snippets and position 0 in the SERP.

Within Google Analytics, this client could see that the blog was driving the bulk of their site’s traffic. However, without proper conversion tracking, they did not know how well this traffic was performing at creating leads. After setting up conversion tracking, they got the answer: it wasn’t generating leads.

Their blog accounted for almost 90% of traffic to site, but less than 10% of online conversions. This data showed that their content marketing plan was great at attracting traffic, only it wasn’t the type of traffic that would hire them. It wasn’t creating qualified leads for their company.

Had this company put even 25% of that effort into local SEO, onsite conversion optimization, and some local paid traffic campaigns, they would have seen a far greater ROI for less money, effort, and time.

While blog posts brought in 90% of traffic for this site, they only contributed to less than 10% of conversions.

Content Marketing: National vs. Local Strategy

Content marketing is the strategy of creating content for the purpose of answering customer questions and building interest in a product or service. Marketing content differs from other forms of online content in that it’s not explicitly promotional.

Agencies and experts that preach content marketing are normally ones that have a business model that resonates with content marketing: SaaS, internet-only businesses, companies with a national or large regional territories, or industries with a long sales cycle.

It is easy for a local business to fall under the spell of content marketing, buying into the belief that content is king and by merely writing blog posts your business will grow. But local businesses need to use local content strategies.  

How Do You Develop A Local Content Strategy?

We’re convinced that the traditional models of content marketing not only fail for local business marketing, they cost those businesses precious marketing dollars and time. But with careful attention to the execution of that strategy, a very different outcome can be achieved. Here are three tips for making a content strategy work for your local business.

1. Use Local Distribution Channels.

Email marketing is a great option for reaching a specific locally targeted audience. Regular emails allow you to stay connected with your past, current, and potential customers. It’s a way to stay in front of your audience – especially during the off-season or during a long sales cycle. Done strategically, you can create the right balance of helpful information while promoting and upselling your services.

Businesses may also find local distribution channels through local publications. They may find opportunities to write for local organization’s newsletters or post for local websites.

2. Create Locally Relevant Content.

Local businesses have the opportunity to bring timely and relevant content to their readers, an advantage that national campaigns don’t have. Topics might integrate shared local values like support of a local cause or local sports team. Creating hyper-relevant local content and distributing it to local audiences can raise and maintain brand awareness, deepen brand affinity, and stimulate buying decisions.

3. Create Evergreen Content

While the hub of most content strategies is typically a website blog, local businesses that struggle to produce great volumes of content may consider directing their energy into content that will have a longer shelf life. Evergreen content can be harder to create, but the investment can pay off for years to come.

Examples of evergreen content includes:

  • Infographics
  • Long form content
  • Guides
  • Instructional videos
  • Case studies

Case studies are a great option for evergreen content – especially within the home improvement and remodeling industries. Big photos of a kitchen renovation, combined with plenty of details about the project as well as location-specific terms will attract more local traffic than a generic blog post.

Invest in Local Content Marketing

While typical content strategies aim to create national celebrity around a business brand or thought leader, local content strategies have different goals. They are used to stay front of mind, build brand affinity, and create conversions with a locally targeted audience.

But content strategies are hard work, can take years, and require more time than many small businesses have to devote. By creating evergreen content for the website, and locally relevant communications that are distributed through specific channels, local businesses can find success with content marketing.

Do you have any examples of great content marketing for local businesses? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Register for LocalU in New York - Just $299

Join our next FRE WEBINAR on July 8, 2024 at 1pm ET

Are Contact Forms and Email Sabotaging Your Leads?
with Aaron Weiche and Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.