The Best Types of Content for Local Businesses: Building Geo-Topical Authority
Q: What kind of content should a local business develop?
A: The kind that converts!
Okay, you could have hit on that answer yourself, but as this post aims to demonstrate:
- There are almost as many user paths to conversion as there are customers in your city, and
- Your long-term goal is to become the authority in your industry and geography that consumers and search engines turn to.
Google’s widely publicized concept of micro-moments has been questioned by some local SEOs for its possible oversimplification of consumer behavior. Nevertheless, I think it serves as a good, basic model for understanding how a variety of human needs (I want to do, know, buy something, or go somewhere) leads people onto the web. When a local business manages to become a visible solution to any of these needs, the rewards can include:
- Online traffic
- In-store traffic
- Social sharing
- Offline word-of-mouth
- Good user metrics like time-on-page, low bounce rate, etc.
Takeaway: Consumers have a variety of needs and can bestow a variety of rewards that directly or indirectly impact local business reputation, rankings and revenue when these needs are well-met.
No surprise: it will take a variety of types of content publication to enjoy the full rewards it can bring.
Proviso: There will be nuances to the best types of content for each local business based on geo-industry and average consumer. Understandably, a cupcake bakery has a more inviting topic for photographic content than does a septic services company, but the latter shouldn’t rule out the power of an image of tree roots breaking into a septic line as a scary and effective way to convert property owners into customers. Point being, you’ll be applying your own flavor to becoming a geo-topical authority as you undertake the following content development work:
Foundational local business content development
These are the basics almost every local business will need to publish.
Customer service policy
Every single staff member who interacts with your public must be given a copy of your complete customer service policy. Why? A 2016 survey by the review software company GetFiveStars demonstrated that 57% of consumer complaints revolve around customer service and employee behavior. To protect your local business’ reputation and revenue, the first content you create should be internal and should instruct all forward-facing employees in approved basic store policies, dress, cleanliness, language, company culture, and allowable behaviors. Be thorough! Yes, you may wear a t-shirt. No, you may not text your friends while waiting on tables.
Customer rights guarantee
On your website, publish a customer-focused version of your policy. The Vermont Country Store calls this a Customer Bill of Rights which clearly outlines the quality of service consumers should expect to experience, the guarantees that protect them, and the way the business expects to be treated, as well.
Don’t overlook the three most important pieces of content you need to publish on your website: your company name, address, and phone number. Make sure they are in crawlable HTML (not couched in an image or a problematic format like Flash). Put your NAP at the top of your Contact Us page and in the site-wide masthead or footer so that humans and bots can immediately and clearly identify these key features of your business. Be sure your NAP is consistent across all pages for your site (not Green Tree Consulting on one page and Green Tree Marketing on another, or wrong digits in a phone number or street address on some pages). And, ideally, mark up your NAP with Schema to further assist search engine comprehension of your data.
On your website, your reviews/testimonials page can profoundly impact consumer trust, comprising a combination of unique customer sentiment you’ve gathered via a form/software (or even from handwritten customer notes) and featured reviews from third-party review platforms (Google, Yelp). Why make this effort? As many as 92% of consumers now read online reviews and Google specifically cites testimonials as a vehicle for boosting your website’s trustworthiness and reputation.
Either on your Reviews/Testimonials page or on a second page of your website, clearly outline your terms of service for reviewers. Just like Yelp, you need to protect the quality of the sentiment-oriented content you publish and should let consumers know what you permit/forbid. Here’s a real-world example of a local business review TOS page I really like, at Barbara Oliver Jewelry.
Apart from serving up some of the most fundamental content about your business to search engines, your homepage should serve two local consumer groups: those in a rush and those in research mode.
Pro tip: Don’t think of your homepage as static. Change up your content regularly there and track how this impacts traffic/conversions.
Contact Us page
On this incredibly vital website page, your content should include:
- Complete NAP
- All supported contact methods (forms, email, fax, live chat, after-hours hotline, etc.),
- Thorough driving directions from all entry points, including pointers for what to look for on the street (big blue sign, next to red church, across the street from swim center, etc.)
- A map
- Exterior images of your business
- Attributes like parking availability and wheelchair accessibility
- Hours of operation
- Social media links
- Payment forms accepted (cash only, BitCoin, etc.)
- Mention of proximity to major nearby points of interest (national parks, monuments, etc.)
- Brief summary of services with a nod to attributes (“Stop by the Starlight tonight for late-night food that satisfies!”)
- A fresh call-to-action (like visiting the business for a Memorial Day sale)
Store locator pages
For a multi-location businesses (like a restaurant chain), you’ll be creating content for a set of landing pages to represent each of your physical locations, accessed via a top-level menu if you have a few locations, or via a store locator widget if you have many. These should feature the same types of content a Contact Us page would for a single-location business, and can also include:
- Reviews/testimonials for that location
- Location-specific special offers
- Social media links specific to that location
- Proofs of that location’s local community involvement
- Highlights of staff at that location
- Education about availability of in-store beacons or apps for that location
- Interior photos specific to that location
- A key call-to-action
For help formatting all of this great content sensibly, please read Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages.
City landing pages
Similar to the multi-location business, the service area business (like a plumber) can also develop a set of customer-centric landing pages. These pages will represent each of the major towns or cities the business serves, and while they won’t contain a street address if the company lacks a physical location in a given area, they can contain almost everything else a Contact Us page or Store Locator page would, plus:
- Documentation of projects completed in that city (text, photos, video)
- Expert advice specific to consumers in that city, based on characteristics like local laws, weather, terrain, events, or customs
- Showcasing of services provided to recognized brands in that city (“we wash windows at the Marriott Hotel,” etc.)
- Reviews/testimonials from customers in that city
- Proofs of community involvement in that city (events, sponsorships, etc.)
- A key call-to-action
Regardless of business model, all local businesses should devote a unique page of content to each major product or service they offer. These pages can include:
- A thorough text description
- Answers to documented FAQs
- Price/time quotes
- Technical specs
- Reviews of the service or product
- Differentiation from competitors (awards won, lowest price, environmental standards, lifetime support, etc.)
For inspiration, I recommend looking at SolarCity’s page on solar roofing. Beautiful and informative.
For many industries, image content truly sells. Are you “wowed” looking at the first image you see of this B&B in Albuquerque, the view from this restaurant in San Diego, or the scope of this international architectural firm’s projects? But even if your industry doesn’t automatically lend itself to wow-factor visuals, cleaning dirty carpets can be presented with high class and even so-called “boring” industries can take a visual approach to data that yields interesting and share-worthy/link-worthy graphics.
While you’re snapping photos, don’t neglect uploading them to your Google My Business listings and other major citations. Google data suggests that listing images influence click-through rates!
The content of your FAQ page serves multiple purposes. Obviously, it should answer the questions your local business has documented as being asked by your real customers, but it can also be a keyword-rich page if you have taken the time to reflect the documented natural language of your consumers. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what types of questions your customers will ask, try AnswerThePublic and Q&A crowdsourcing sites to brainstorm common queries.
Be sure your FAQ page contains a vehicle for consumers to ask a question so that you can continuously document their inquiries, determine new topics to cover on the FAQ page, and even find inspiration for additional content development on your website or blog for highly popular questions.
For the local customer in research mode, your About page can seal the deal if you have a story to tell that proves you are in the best possible alignment with their specific needs and desires. Yes, the About Us page can tell the story of your business or your team, but it can also tell the story of why your consumers choose you.