Content Marketing For Local Businesses: Get Creative & Pay To Play

Even with all the competition online, local businesses can still stand out using creative content to attract new customers. Columnist Will Scott explains.

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In the beginning, there was content and it was good. We needed to preserve and share knowledge, so we built systems: cave paintings, stone tablets, papyrus scrolls and then the printing press and newspapers. It was a way to communicate the stuff we all wanted to know about.

And then came the World Wide Web, and we started sharing all this great content online — across the Internet’s estimated 4.6 billion pages and with Facebook’s 1.44 billion monthly active users, for example. Marketers quickly recognized the potential and capitalized on these systems. It was the Wild West of content. But those early systems didn’t have nearly as many rules as today.

Now, search engines like Google have become even more sophisticated, rewarding content that is of real interest or value to consumers. In a world littered with information, small, local businesses must be ever more sophisticated about the content they create and where and how it gets distributed.

Helping customers find a local business online, as you probably know, has a lot to do with quality content. In fact, local search engine optimization and content marketing go hand-in-hand. This is where the fun begins.

Even small businesses face strong competition to get attention for their content on social media, for example, is getting fierce. Some 40 million small businesses have a Facebook page, according to The Wall Street Journal. In late February, Facebook released its latest active advertisers statistics, which rose to 2 million from 1.5 million in July 2014. And guess what? The lion’s share of those active advertisers are small and medium-sized businesses.

Those Facebook figures illustrate the point perfectly: In the crowded space of the Internet and social media, where everyone seems to be hawking their message, getting in front of the target consumer means a local business must first secure good content then pay for inclusion or promotion in the right outlets.

Even with all the competition, there are still ways to stand out and use good online content to attract new customers. Remember, every audience and customer needs good content — not junk or spam that screams “sales pitch.” If a business is the one to provide it, others might be nice enough to associate the with its name. The business might even get a link. And if it’s good, it’s sharable.

Crafting that kind of good content requires creativity and a willingness to pay to play. Here’s how to jumpstart content marketing for your local business in three steps:

1. Focus On What People Want To Know

This may seem obvious, but it is clearly the cardinal rule of creating engaging content. Produce content that communicates stuff people want to know — from answering real questions and providing customers product information before they buy to communicating the latest news and entertainment. This doesn’t just apply to text — it applies to everything from infographics to videos.

Allow me to use one of our clients as an example. Dr. Jeffrey Donaldson, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Columbus, Ohio, benefited from online content marketing by posting patient review videos on his plastic surgery practice’s website. Not only has he reached potential patients with these real-life video stories, but new patients have begun asking the office staff if the doctor would feature them, too.

2. Get That Knowledge To The People

Getting that knowledge to the people starts with posting it online. Some businesses begin by posting content on a corporate or business blog.

The benefits of this strategy abound: Anyone can be an author, and this kind of content builds authority by informing stakeholders and customers alike. In fact, 82 percent of marketers who blog daily gained customers using their blog, according to HubSpot.

Some well-known experts have even built their personal brand, authority and credibility through content just like this. A case-in-point is Larry Kim, founder and CTO of WordStream. Not only does he blog for his company (and his company is more than happy to “boost” that content when necessary), but other blogs such as Search Engine Land feature him as a guest contributor.

3. Pay To Play

Sorry, it’s not all available for free in a content-littered world. With so much great content flowing online — through numerous, constantly-updating information avenues — it can be a struggle to get noticed. Getting traction for good content is now a matter of paying to play.

Pay-to-play is a hard reality when sharing content on social media platforms (like Facebook, for example) in order to get near the reach a small business needs. But with a little bit of social media seeding, small businesses today can make sure this kind of good content reaches the people who are interested. So it comes as no surprise that small businesses spend an estimated $5 to $50 a day on promoted posts and ads on Facebook, according to Reuters.

One post on Facebook from another Search Influence client, The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, reached more than 177,000 people for only $35 — boosting a post that had already reached 110,528 people organically to reaching an additional 66,688 people through paid means. The post showed an engaging photo of a pink-for-breast-cancer themed Christmas home display.

Facebook Post Content Marketing Search Influence

Final Thoughts

The competition for consumer attention is tough these days, but local businesses can still compete. By developing useful, interesting content and promoting it through targeted organic and paid avenues, you can build your reputation — and your customer base.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Will Scott
Will Scott is a recognized leader in digital marketing, known for coining the phrase “barnacle SEO” in 2008. Will is frequently invited to present at marketing and other industry conferences. Will founded Search Influence in 2006 with his wife, Angie Scott. Since putting his first website online in 1994, Will has led teams responsible for creating thousands of websites for business, building hundreds of thousands of pages in online directories, and delivering millions of visits from search. At Search Influence, Will directs the teams of dedicated professionals who optimize your potential! Outside of work, Will is a father to two boys, husband to Angie, his co-founder and COO in Search Influence. He is active in local non-profit and civic causes, an Ironman athlete, and a recovering heart patient.

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