Local SEO without community is just keywords. Keywords by themselves do not deliver results. They are simply a vehicle or tool that directs search engines to a website. In some ways keywords are like these bikes found at Venice Beach. When parked without intention, they can’t deliver great results. However, when paired with intent (and a person), those bikes, like keywords, take you where you want to go.
Keywords must be woven into a message that speaks to the reader on a local level and connects them to the desired result. Keywords and the way they are used set the tone and topic of your website to search engines, which is essential in Local SEO or search engine optimization. Remember that when I say Local SEO I am referring to more than a specific zip code. Locality can be defined by a specific place but it also can be defined by an industry segment or a specialized product.
Don’t be afraid to dream when strategizing. I often have clients come to me with comments of, “I know I’ll never rank for… you name it… but maybe we could try this.” And in some cases they may be accurate, but in most I suggest we try a holistic approach of using varied keywords and topic driven content beyond their website. I suggest they view the website as a community resource. This changes client results. In large part because it changes their perspective. They start to realize they have a community and that there is a need for them to speak.
Conversion-oriented copy only works when you understand the needs of your community. Local SEO without community risks falling flat.
So, where do you find your community?
Sometimes your community is your home base. I, for instance, am a 4th generation Los Angelean. This is my home, no matter where I live. My life memories are tied to this community. My family has roots here. I chose to have my first child born in Long Beach, rather than a the swanky hospital in Newport Beach, because I wanted to continue that heritage and the ties to community. When I blog I reach out to my community – I don’t focus on unnamed personas, I think about the individuals I hope will read the post. When we as a team blog for our clients, we try to think as them and consider the end reader of each piece. We think about how the content will be shared with their community.
Discovering My Community as a Child
When I was seven or eight years old, my stepdad Gene took me on a very special trip into the heart of Los Angeles. I think I even got to miss school. We took a bus and rode the train into Union Station, an iconic transportation hub of LA. We walked for what seemed like miles to my tiny legs. Finally we arrived – to a crowd – of what I’m sure was millions of people. They were all around us. We moved around until we found a place where we could see the stage.
Gene was involved in his community. He wanted me to be too. He wanted me to learn of it and love it and respect the people it included. All of them. That day as we waited for the speaker to come on stage, he actually bought me a souvenir. It was light blue, plastic and about 18 inches long, 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. It looked similar to a lunchbox, but was shaped like a peanut. I laughed and loved it. Then the speaker came out. We were there to listen to the then President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.
I don’t really remember anything that was said but I remember the feelings of community, inspiration and love. And I remember that people listened. As President Carter spoke, the world stood still and silent. His voice was heard and felt. You may not be President of the United States, but you, like I, have a voice. And, like I, have a community. If you feel that you don’t, look around. Meet the people at WordCamp Los Angeles. We are ALL here to support you.
If You Do Everything Like Everyone Else, You Can Expect the Same Results
This is a photo of Angels Flight, a funicular or incline railway that was built in 1901. It is operating today. In fact, you can ride up or down for $1 each way. It is said to be the most used railway in the United States, having transported more than a hundred million passengers. It was devised as a shortcut to deliver groups up the steep hill to Bunker Hill way back when and only covers 298 feet of track, yet it helped build a community because it removed a barrier. Looking at this track and the trains, it’s amazing that it only took 120 days to build. Could that even be done nowadays? I’m guessing many of you would take longer to build out a website! Sometimes an unusual approach is what builds your community.
For instance, I had a client, on her own, share a post in 14 targeted Facebook Groups last week. This was not done at my recommendation. She did it completely naturally. If she had asked me first, I would have suggested against it thinking it was spammy. However, it worked! She brought in so much traffic to the post I thought something was wrong with the analytics! That’s what I mean about being unusual. Have any of you had that type of event or created something that stood out so much it became an asset in your community building?
We’re in LA. I can’t think of LA without remembering my many summers spent at the beach in Santa Monica. My grandmother lives in Pacific Palisades so my summers were often beachside. This pier, with the ferris wheel and roller coaster is a cherished part of my childhood. It makes the location memorable for me. But it’s also a place that others cherish. I found this quote by Neil G. on Yelp, “The priceless ocean view, the crashing of the waves, the restaurants, the amusement park, the old carousel, the surfers, beach goers, tourist, artists and spectators – I believe it is and they are what makes this place feel so alive and special.”
What he said is 100% true and is what needs to be remembered.
When a Yelp review is authentic it draws an audience. When a Yelp review seems planted as a tool for Local SEO – without community, most readers see between the lines.
If someone had to write a review on your website, what would they remember?
- Would it remind them of community?
- Cause them to remember your service or product?
- Perhaps it would remind them of you?
I have my photo on my website so people remember who I am and recognize me at events because I want to be memorable. I want my business to be memorable. My team prefers my website to be memorable. We’ve created a ton of content on my website at NeedSomeoneToBlog.com. I have several posts that get a lot of traffic because they are memorable to my readers and are often shared. I use the color green on my website because it’s a color that people remember. Think about it, what makes your website memorable?
On your website, do you have contact and signup or registration forms? Do you invite readers to a targeted Facebook Group? Are you directing them to follow you elsewhere, like on videos or podcasts? Are you including internal links in all your content so that your readers can find related posts? Quality writing, consistency, social promotion, relevancy and area-sensitive keywords are essential when creating community. Everyone has somewhere to be and your traffic needs to go somewhere. Give them more places to connect with you! As your website connects with other portals such as YouTube, iTunes, Yelp, and industry-related platforms, your community shares more.
Town Hall Does Not Happen When You Buy Local SEO without Community
Think of your website as your town hall, because it is! Your website is the hub for ALL your advertising, emailing and discussion efforts and is critical to reaching your community with success. It’s your town hall as sure as this is the Pasadena City Hall. This is the place where your readers will learn to deeply value the discussion and contribute back. So create it. Let’s go through the Steps to Creating a Town Hall.
First, you need to define your meeting place. We’ve decided to meet at your website. Next, you create great content that stirs emotion. Then you “Stack the Deck” by inviting your trusted friends and family to support your efforts. As you build community, remember to “Play Nice.” Don’t trick your audience – provide relevant content on the desired topics. Finally, listen to feedback carefully. Evaluate feedback and respond with gratitude.
I have a client who has implemented this strategy and seen the results virtually with increased rankings in search engines and also in real life with increased interaction in her community. Her website or meeting place does well and gets traffic, beyond what we would expect from organic local SEO. Her content is updated regularly and promoted well. The writing is good and engages her readers. Email campaigns refer traffic to the website. She has stacked the deck by making friends, asking if she can send them a newsletter and follows up by doing it, every month. When they have questions, she pays attention and responds — consistently. She KNOWS her community has created a town hall.
And your community will love you. Emphasis on your community will connect you with other influencers. Share their messages too. Those in your community will begin to share and reshare your content and you will see measurable results affecting your Local SEO.
Remember Local SEO without community will not get you the results you want and need. It’s your job to create your own legacy and you can only do that by building those around you. You took a step towards community by being here today at WordCamp Los Angeles – so congratulations and keep on moving forward. You can do this!