You may have heard marketing experts extolling the virtues of having a blog on your website to attract visitors.
And it’s true, a good blog strategy for your local business is an important and effective component of your overall marketing strategy.
But if you’ve ever tried setting up a blog for your local business following the recommendations of these experts, chances are you’ve been… well, disappointed.
If you’re like many small businesses attempting to attract website traffic with a blog, you’ve likely found that:
(a) it’s a LOT of work, and
(b) very few people ever visit your blog, despite your best efforts.
If this has been your experience, it’s time to throw out all that well-intentioned — yet utterly useless — advice you’ve gotten about how to use a blog to boost your business.
Why your blog is failing
Most marketing experts who rave about how much traffic your blog will attract to your website are talking about writing blog articles that are well-researched, targeted to specific keywords, and appeal to a broad nationwide (or worldwide) audience.
That should immediately raise some red flags for you as a local business. Consider this…
(1) As of November 2020, more than 7.2 MILLION blog articles are being posted worldwide EVERY SINGLE DAY. (source: worldometer.info) That’s a LOT of competition!
(2) The old addage of “if you build it, they will come” is most definitely NOT true for blogs. Successful blog articles (i.e. the ones that show up on the first page of Google search results) are typically heavily promoted to achieve that ranking — at great expense in terms of time and money.
(3) If you are a local business and your blog does take off, most of your visitors will likely be people from OUTSIDE YOUR SERVICE AREA. That means you will get a lot of traffic, but most of it won’t translate to increased sales for your business.
Therefore, the most common outcome for a local business attempting to generate interest through a blog on their website is a lot of wasted time and money that leads to very little return on that investment.
This may be disheartening… but there is good news.
A blog CAN be very useful and productive for boosting your local business.
Your blog strategy for local business
As a local business, this strategy is your best bet for both attracting new customers and providing added value to current customers (thus strengthening goodwill and repeat business).
The strategy is to create content for your blog that appeals to your target prospects and customers, and then promote it locally (via email, social media, word of mouth, etc.).
The goal is to impress your readers sufficiently with your blog posts to get them feeling good about your business and wanting to share your posts with others, thus contributing to word-of-mouth promotion.
This type of blog content pays no attention to being optimized for search engines. With this strategy, it’s best to forget everything you’ve ever heard about how to “optimize” your content for search engines.
The sole goal of this content is to appeal to people. It can include video, graphics, etc. — anything that will make it as appealing as possible to the people who are good prospects for your business.
Two main objectives
Your two main objectives (in order of priority) are:
Objective #1: Impress your target prospects and customers by sharing practical and useful expertise that demonstrates the know-how and competence of your business. And do so in a way that is entertaining and easy to read and absorb, while providing real value to your reader.
This will help stoke your prospects’ interest in connecting up with your business to tap into this value. And it will also help reinforce your relationships with your current customers.
Objective #2: Create impactful content that your target prospects and customers will want to share with others. The content that typically achieves this best is content that:
a) Evokes emotion (awe, anxiety, sadness, pride, excitement, humor, etc.)
b) Presents a meaningful positive message
c) Provides something practical and useful
d) Ties into an interesting story in some way (news story, personal story, fictional story, case study, etc.)
e) Makes the reader who shares it with others look good (makes them look smart, informed, in-the-know, trendy, etc.)
So go ahead, forget the search engines and try your hand at creating high quality content designed for people that meets the above criteria — and see what this does for your business.
After you post each blog article, don’t forget to heavily promote it to your current customers, prospects and the general local area through emails, social media, and any other channel you can reach people through.
Have you ever come across an article online and immediately found it too dull and dry to hold your attention long enough to bother reading it?
Sadly, a lot of great information goes unread because it’s presented in a way that doesn’t sufficiently grip the reader’s attention and hold their interest.
One of the best ways to avoid this pitfall in your blog strategy for local business is to engage your reader by weaving your information into a relatable story.
Storytelling is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries to pass on information by entertaining people while engaging their attention and imagination — a perfect recipe for getting your point across and getting it to stick in your reader’s mind.
Every good song you hear on the radio, every must-see show you watch on TV, every inspiring TED talk you watch on YouTube, etc. has a compelling story at its core.
People love a great story — especially one they can relate to — and they want to be part of that story.
Stories are time-proven vehicles for conveying information in an impactful and memorable manner — and for getting people to pay attention to you, follow you and support you.
So, what exactly is storytelling?
Well, it’s just what it sounds like — working stories into your writing.
In other words, rather than just pushing out a string of facts and ideas about your topic, you weave some form of a narrative into it to help your reader connect with the information.
If you feel you don’t have the skills or talent to utilize storytelling in your writing, don’t worry. You don’t need to be a professional fiction author to tell a good story.
In fact, most people tell good stories naturally throughout their lives without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.
That time you told your spouse about something that happened at work that day… or that “war story” you shared with your friends over a beer… or even that time you recounted to somebody a favorite movie scene or something that happened in a sporting event — these are all examples of times you’ve engaged in storytelling.
If you don’t overthink it, storytelling comes easily and naturally to most of us.
How to incorporate storytelling into blog articles
There are two main simple ways to integrate storytelling into your articles as part of your blog strategy for local business:
Technique #1: Start the article with a brief story. Use either a story from your own experience, or do a Google search to find a story of some sort that relates to your topic.
Remember, stories can include case studies, current news events, and common everyday occurrences and struggles.
Think about things you normally like to tell other people about: interesting things that happened to you or that you observed, funny situations you’ve encountered, things you’ve experienced that made you realize something or taught you a good lesson.
You’re surrounded by stories — you just need to spot one that’s relevant and go with it.
Then open your article by hooking the reader in with your story. Once you get them interested and invested into your story, transition to talking about the actual topic of your article.
Don’t over-complicate it.
For example, if you’re writing a blog article on the topic of how businesses can create positive shopping experiences for their customers, you can start your article with something as simple as this:
Driving down Main Street on my way home from work last night, I saw people starting their nightly gathering outside Scotty’s Brewery, a local hotspot and eating establishment.
It’s one of those places where as the night stretches out so does the wait for a table.
And it got me thinking about how businesses manage crowds to optimize customer satisfaction and provide positive shopping experiences.
[Then go into the main information you want to provide in your blog article.]
Technique #2: Weave in bits of a story throughout your article to demonstrate and provide relatable examples. For example, if you’re writing an article about how to do outreach activities for your business and one section of your article discusses the proper way to introduce yourself at a business networking event, you can include in that section a humorous story of how you once embarrassed yourself by doing the opposite of what you’re now recommending.
The key thing to remember is that stories stimulate your reader’s senses, emotions, memory, and imagination — and this pulls them into the story and helps them understand, empathize with, and remember the information you are communicating.
If you pick a story that you believe your reader will be interested in (i.e. stimulated by) and will be able to relate to, you won’t go wrong.
Avoid common storytelling pitfalls
Pitfall #1: Don’t wander and lose focus. Keep your story relevant to the information you are presenting. Don’t go off on unrelated tangents or tell stories that don’t specifically support the information you are presenting.
Pitfall #2: Keep your story concise and to the point. It’s easy to get caught up in the story you’re telling and drag it out too long. Stay focused on your main point and take your story only as far as you need to reinforce that point. Don’t let the story take over the show — use it to complement the actual information you are communicating.
Pitfall #3: Not being specific in your story is a common rookie mistake. Good stories pull the reader in with specifics. If you say “I went home yesterday after work,” that’s technically a story but it’s not very interesting because it doesn’t engage the senses, emotions, memories, or imagination of the reader.
Adding some specifics makes it more interesting and pulls the reader into the story along with you:
Right on the nose at 5:00 PM, I grabbed my crumpled overcoat off the seat next to me and ran out the back door to the parking lot. The stench of the dumpster next to the exit smacked me as I stepped outside into the summer heat.
As I scurried to my car, I noticed the concrete under my feet was still radiating heat from baking in the sun all afternoon. My immediate impulse after turning the ignition to bring my red Ford Taurus to life was to flip on the air conditioning.
Then I took off and weaved my way through traffic on I-55 in a rush to get home.
See how reading that triggers your senses and possibly some emotions and memories from your own experiences? You start to imagine yourself in that situation and what might happen next. It has pulled you in to the narrative simply by including some specifics.
Now, in your blog article you probably wouldn’t go into as much detail about everything as the example above, unless it is relevant to the topic you’re discussing. The point of the sample above is to demonstrate how including particular details can make your story more immersive and engaging.
Pitfall #4: Including specifics is good, but be careful not to get long-winded or use distracting flowery language — and don’t use any unnecessary literary techniques just because you think a career writer would do it that way in a novel. You’re not writing a novel; you’re writing a blog article.
Keep your story conversational — think about how you would tell it if you were casually talking to a friend. When describing something that happened to you earlier in the day, you don’t usually use excessive adjectives and multiple metaphors, foreshadowing, etc. — right? You just directly tell the story in a straightforward manner.
The story itself should be interesting, not the manner in which you tell it.
Pitfall #5: Stick to just one story. It may be tempting to tell a different unrelated story for each section of your article. But you’re likely to confuse and disperse your reader if you’re telling too many stories all at once.
Imagine going to a movie and watching eight separate plot lines woven into a single movie. It would be difficult to follow along and enjoy the experience (and you probably wouldn’t remember a lot of it afterwards — it would be too much to keep straight in your mind).
The same is true in your blog articles. Try to pick one story and relate everything in your article back to that one story. You can talk about different aspects of that one story, but keep it just one overarching story.
Pitfall #6: Make sure your stories are aligned with your brand. For example, if your brand is wholesome and family-oriented, make sure your stories are too. Or if your brand is contemporary and cutting-edge, make sure your stories come across that way. If your brand is edgy or daring, use stories that are edgy and daring. You get the idea.
People will remember your stories, and your stories will help establish your brand in your readers’ minds. So be sure every story you tell is aligned with the brand image you want to portray and reinforce.
Advanced blog strategy (local business SEO)
After you’ve mastered the above blog strategy for local business and are getting good results with it, you can attempt this next strategy to take it to a whole other level.
But if you’re a local business and want to avoid wasting time and money, don’t attempt this strategy until you’ve got the basic strategy above well in hand.
This advanced strategy is to create content that will rank well in search engines (such as Google) for local searches. Don’t waste time and money attracting traffic from outside your service area. Focus on local traffic.
Accomplishing this requires repeating two main steps over and over:
1) Research what keywords related to your business your target prospects and customers are searching for locally.
2) Then create content that meets all the criteria of the first strategy above, but is also optimized for search engines so that your blog posts show up on the first page of search results when people search for the keywords you researched in step #1.
The details of how this is done are a bit involved and are covered elsewhere on this website.
Give these blog strategies for local business a try and see what you can achieve! Share your results in the comments below, along with any challenges you run into.