No doubt about it, Hyperlocal Blogging is not only the next big thing, but it’s also one of the most organic approaches small businesses can take to meet goals of increasing local visibility.
How does one do it? That’s what I’m hoping this blog post and others I’ll be writing in future will answer for you. I’m going to illustrate the basic mindset and method of writing for your neighbors, and for these tutorials, I’ll be using places in California that I know something about. After all, your teacher’s advice to write about what you know best is holding very true when it comes to this new facet of SEO copywriting. As a hyperlocal blogger, your knowledge of your hometown and your personal voice are about to make you a local expert.
Hyperlocal Bloggings Tips for Marin County, CA Bloggers
Situated just north of San Francisco, Marin County has the highest per capita income in the U.S. It has extreme wealth, extreme natural beauty and a reputation for a funny mix of political extremes. West Marin is predominantly peopled by earth-loving liberals, but drive down HWY 101 through Marin cities like Novato and San Rafael and you’ll find yourself bumper to bumper with more BMW-driving tycoons than you’ve ever seen anyplace else in the country.
Try finding a pair of pants for less than rent money at Corte Madera’s exclusive Village shopping mall, or try finding a shoreline more intensly beautiful than the Point Reyes National Seashore – whatever Marin County does, it seems to do to the nth degree. But, this really isn’t any more information than you could find at a glance in Wikipedia. As a hyperlocal blogger, you’re going to go much deeper than this, reaching for the heart of your community in hopes of creating buzz, conversation and business. Here are five excellent approaches you can take:
1. Tap Into The Hometown Pride
Feel-good blog posts that praise your town’s best efforts build community feeling and positive energy. Marin County is currently feeling proud of a local boy who just won an international award for model airplane design. The Sun Valley Community Festival is just around the corner – neighbors whose names begin A-M are asked to bring a salad, N-Zs to bring a BBQ item for the potluck. Got photos from last year’s festival? Be sure to include them in your post about this. Mill Valley is currently making headlines by being one of the first towns in Caliornia to replace traditional street lighting with LEDs. Ask your neighbors if they’ve noticed the lights. You could even contact city officials to get stats on the amount of energy that may be saved by this change.
Remember to be generous in your linking out. Link to the church that’s holding the rummage sale, the political candidate who wants better sidewalks, the elementary school that planted trees on arbor day. Endeavors like these are something to be proud of, and by covering them on your hyperlocal blog, you’ll be showing local spirit and giving praise where it’s due.
2. Recognize Community Concerns
No matter how nice your hometown is, chances are, your neighbors have some legitimate fears and concerns about various elements of daily life. The real estate market is experiencing unprecedented challenges in Marin County right now. Write about it and ask your neighbors to share their worries. Are they facing foreclosure? Having to move out of the county to someplace more affordable? Marin is also feeling some fear right now about gang violence following a bizarre attack by three youths on a total stranger who happened to be driving his car in the wrong place at the wrong time. Law officers are pointing out that graffiti is increasingly appearing on walls around the county and that the time to take this seriously is now.
Let the comments field of your ‘local worry’ posts be the place for your readers to express their concerns and offer solutions to local problems. Who knows, your blog could be the place where your community suddenly mobilizes around a helpful action that is suggested by either your readers or you. By affirming the fears of your neighbors, you will be telling them that their voices count and getting one step closer to solutions.
3. Be An Ambassador
Do you know the scenic backroads of Marin County like the back of your hand? Can you give tips for finding the best Chinese dinner, coziest bookstore or prettiest picnic spot in town? Maybe you have a special hobby like stargazing, birdwatching or bikeriding and can create some customized Google Maps to guide both locals and tourists to hot spots for these activities. Make lists of your town’s greatest assets – things that both neighbors and visitors would love to know about – and craft some simple blog posts detailing these good things. You’re basically acting in the capacity of a tour guide here. Try to end posts like this with some questions for your readers.
Do they know of a better way to get to Mount Tamalpais? Have they eaten at the new Italian restaurant in Fairfax yet? Does anyone know who that statue down on Dillon Beach is supposed to represent? Conversation starts when people feel they have something to contribute. While proudly showing off the things you love about living in Marin County, give your neighbors a chance to show off, too!
4. Get Into The Controversy – Carefully!
You need to be cautious when shining a light on the arguments going on within your community, particularly if your hyperlocal blog is acting as a spokesperson for your business. Political battles can win you a slew of comments, but they can also lose you customers, so think carefully about which topics are appropriate fodder for hyperlocal discussion. Let’s investigate this thoroughly by looking at a cool, warm and red hot example of current local controversies in Marin County.
San Rafael officials have decided to dig up the lovely liquidamber trees in West End Village because their roots are buckling the sidewalks. The city does intend to replant with less vigorous trees like redbuds, but neighbors are having very mixed feelings about the loss of the trees they’ve enjoyed for years. While it’s possible that blogging about this subject could instigate a shouting match, chances are, by writing your piece well, you can start a conversation where each commenter’s feelings on the matter are honored. It’s not a life and death issue, but it is an important one and could make a good, cool-temperature blog post.
Marin County is currently debating the installation of commuter trains – SMART trains. The tax burden, the potential for noise and pollution, the change in the landscape are all issues about which Marin County residents are expressing strong feelings. Blogging about these types of issues will lead to debate. Be sure your readers know that you are happy to host passionate discussions, but that name calling and personal attacks are totally against your blog’s rules. (Do write up a page of rules that you can point to at that key moment when Neighbor Jones loses his cool and decides to let everyone know what he REALLY thinks of Neighbor Walsh). Intelligent debate makes for great conversation so long as it’s kept intelligent, and by striving to become the place on the web your community comes to when they want to talk about local controversy, you are working towards becoming an essential resource.
Tourists visiting the Point Reyes National Seashore are likely to come away with an image of an idyllic, serene Eden. They don’t know what you – the hyperlocal blogger knows – about the impassioned struggle between the National Park Service and the people of West Marin, many of whom would like to kick the Park employees off the peninsula. Park Superintendent Don Neubacher has angered everyone from local politicians to your friend’s grandmother by refusing to accept community input regarding the park. Neubacher is regularly described as a dictator, refusing to acknowledge even the requests of national organizations like the Humane Society when it comes to very distressing issues like exterminating whole populations of cherished wildlife or attempting to force local farmers off of their historic lands.
As a hyperlocal blogger, you know that the feelings riding on topics like these are red hot, and if you really want to sling the fat into the fire, all you’ll have to do is start the discussion. But, be especially cautious here. You need to determine if you’re going to take sides on serious issues like these. Will your ‘voice’ be more authentic if you express real opinions, like a real person? Will it win you fans or lose you business you need? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.
5. Get Down To Business
Though a hyperlocal blog can certainly be a hobbyist pursuit, many small business owners are going to author them as a means of increasing their presence in the community. In such cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to mix business with pleasure. Are you a realtor? Mix in some features on exceptional homes you’re representing, complete with great photos and contact information. Are you a restraunteur? Give away a great recipe for a new dish you’re serving, take photos of events held in your dining room, tout a 2-for-1 special you’re going to start having every Friday night. The trick here is to keep self-promotional posts light and pleasant.
The last thing your blog should read like is an endless advertisement for your business. That’s not going to be interesting to anybody – not even you! By offering tips, advice and tutorials in your area of expertise, you can do much to establish your credibility as a professional. By talking about news in your industry and in your company, you’re proving that you keep abreast of trends and changes. Your challenge here will be to find the right balance between blog posts about yourself and blog posts about your community. Practice should help you to find the happy medium.
Getting Great Hyperlocal Ideas in Marin County California
Sure, you can study Google trends, analyze your traffic and do all the other nitty gritty research work that will hone the effectiveness of your blog, but here are a few other quick suggestions to help you find material to blog about.
The Marin IJ – the main local newspaper – is an obvious starting point for current news, but look a little further than the headlines. The Marin IJ has facilitated commenting on the majority of their news articles. Scroll to the bottom of almost any piece and look at the total of comments. If you see that only 3 or 4 people have bothered to comment on a piece, chances are, it’s not going to be a big conversation starter. But when that number reads 40, 50, 60, it’s time to start blogging.
The IJ tends to be a mainstream paper. Look for the alternative view (so dear to the hearts of West Mariners) in the Point Reyes Light, or the grassy green grassroots Coastal Post (hey, I used to write for them and they’ve got that special Bolinas flavor!).
Be sociable and use Placeblogger to find your fellow local bloggers. Anyone else who is writing about Marin County is now part of your ‘industry’. By getting to know these neighbors, you are not only increasing your chances of getting closer to the heart of your hometown, but you are also promoting awareness of your own blog.
I have no link for my last suggestion, because it involves putting your own two feet on the streets of your town. Talk to business owners. Go to community events. March in the 4th of July parade. In my mind, this is the sterling potential of hyperlocal blogging – the potential to build community in parts of the world that may be full of lonely and isolated people, unsung heroes and struggling small businesses.
My parents are both San Francisco natives and they talk in glowing sepia tones of the vibrant neighborhoods of their childhoods. The culture, the fabulous shops and restaurants, the customer service, the children playing safely in the streets, the sense of involvement and pride. What if hyperlocal blogging can help us move forward toward greater local self-sufficiency and a stronger awareness of the uniqueness of our communities? What if it is the tool that says ‘no’ to Wal-Mart values, and ‘yes’ to the accountability and quality of Mom & Pop?
I truly believe that America is a great country, and that our greatness lies in the lives of the
common folk. As a hyperlocal blogger, you can search for that hidden greatness and tell the story of our lives. Does this idea excite you? Do it well and it might just help you earn a living.
Feeling excited about Hyperlocal Blogging but still at a loss for how to get started? Solas
Web Design can develop your blog, consult with you, coach you and even write copy for you! We’d be happy to hear from you.