Why Breaking Through Locally Can Be Hard To Do

Last November I addressed the issue of how lackluster most of our blogs are when it comes to getting local people to view them. I put up some stats, and I linked to some other articles in that post that I’m not going to link to again; check that one out because it’s different than this one, even though it touches upon the same theme.

Theodore Scott via Compfight

Last time I pretty much lamented the situation of breaking through locally. This time I’m going to talk about why it’s harder to do than we think it is. I’m going to do it as kind of a list post, which means my explanations will probably be sort of long. But I’ll try not to make them too long; maybe if I get to 5 I’ll stop. πŸ™‚

1. Too little local competition. This one seems strange, but go with me for a moment. If you live in a small community people already probably know who you are. If you’re putting up information on a blog but you’re the only game in town, most people are either going to just drop in or call you on the phone. It’s only when there might be more options when someone actually goes online to find information or businesses.

2. Too much outside competition. Once again, this one might seem strange until you think about what it is you do and if there are lots of other people doing it.

On my SEOX Blog I talked about one of my clients, an accountant, whose site is the highest ranked accounting site locally. While that sounds great, if you look for the major search terms that I’ve worked on for her the site only cracks the top 100 on Google for one of those terms. She beats every other business in town, but all the other businesses that show up aren’t local. They’re national, which means they have the dollars to dominate the local markets in most communities throughout the country, potentially the world. That hardly seems fair but what to do about it?

3. No one really needs what you do locally. That one’s hard to deal with so let’s explore it. Let’s talk about my SEO/social media site and business. I battle national companies for a lot of services and lose pretty badly. But I’m ranked in the top 5 for some things, even at #1. Those things are:

central new york article writing services – Google, Bing & Yahoo #1
central new york blog writing services – Google #2; Bing & Yahoo #1
syracuse article writing services – Google, Bing #4
syracuse blog writing services – Google, Bing #1
syracuse search engine optimization consulting – Bing #5
syracuse search engine optimization consultant – Bing #2
using your website as a marketing tool – Google #2, Bing #1

I’m not even sure where Yahoo’s mind is if Google & Bing have me ranked but it doesn’t really matter. I worked hard on making sure my site was ranked well locally, and for those terms above, out of the 36 I track, I’ve succeeded. Yet, I don’t get any calls or email from anyone. I think there’s only 2 local people who have ever visited it, even after I gave a big presentation locally that garnered a lot of interest… at least on that day.

What this says is that no one locally needs or wants these types of services. The site and the blog get very little traffic in total, even with the blog (averaging 3 1/2 visitors a day) and in the last month there were 10 visits from all of New York state, 6 local visits; that’s kind of pathetic isn’t it? So, sometimes if you can’t break through in the big picture, you can’t break through locally either; that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

I’m going to stop at those 3 because I need to ask this question openly; should we care? That one depends on what you do and what your hopes are. I talked to my accounting client to determine if she still wanted me to write content for her this coming year. She said yes because she actually got a couple of clients this year because of both the website (which I created for her last February) and the blog, which, as I said, makes her the highest ranking accounting firm online in this area. People are always looking for accountants, and if they want someone local, they’ll dig deeper to find that person. I’m happy for her because it’ll cost me nothing to do my taxes. πŸ™‚

For me, it’s a more difficult question. I’m not going to advertise SEO or social media services anymore because there’s no market for it, and I can use my time otherwise. I’m cutting back on what I write on that blog so the wealth of articles that are there will have to carry the day more than new stuff. I’m also not going to advertise writing services anymore, at least not through that site or blog, since that doesn’t seem to be how people are finding me anyway. And, if I’m not getting national or international business from that site, and it’s getting few visits anyway, why bother with trying to do local business, or at least advertising for it?

This article makes it seem like it’s all about me but it’s not supposed to be. I ask you to put yourself in my place when evaluating what you’ve been doing online and try to make the determination as to whether it’s working for you if you’re local. Having a presence is one thing; that’s always important. But at some point if the benefit isn’t equating to the business, you might have to make some evaluations of it all.

If you’re not trying to get local business then this entire post might not mean much to you unless you extrapolate it into just who you’re hoping to do business with, and how you’re doing with that. It’s not always about business for everyone, but if it is what do you see when you look at what’s happening for you?

21 thoughts on “Why Breaking Through Locally Can Be Hard To Do”

  1. That’s absolutely right, Mitch. Lack of competition is very bad sign. On the other hand, going too deep in one particular micro niche, usually leads to pretty bad results, even for laser sharp traffic. However, it always depends on the niche, I have manage many local projects for customers, that have perform very well, also have few small projects on my own, that are going well, even without much work done, but for sure I have push the right keys for this. I can’t say that there is a universal recipe and it depends on the area. I can refer to my previous work as SEO in UK, there small local projects were performing very well, until economy crashed around the beginning of 2006.

    1. Carl, maybe there’s a difference between the UK and the US because of numbers of businesses and accounts here. I’m not saying every business suffers of course but the overwhelming majority are hard to break through if one isn’t a major company able to dominate the market across the board.

      1. I suppose you are right and for sure there are some major differences, but I forget to mention that major part of these businesses could get only to local market. For example those were websites of plumbers, dentists, electricians and even some of them were based in small cities, I have seen that they are getting a lot of online enquiries even on daily basis.

  2. I’m not really trying to get local business so it doesn’t really bother me. With my latest site I’m quite happy to get any business no matter where it comes from. That’s the beauty of promoting Amazon products and of being an affiliate that gives me access to the worlds big name department stores.

    I was just wondering about your friends blog and website; Is there a link there pointing to all that you do for her or are you more of a ghost writer/developer?

    1. I’m more of a ghost writer for the site Sire, so people think it’s her writing it and I’m fine with that since I get paid for it and managing the site. And I think you’d like more local because your audience should be built in pretty well I’d think, being in Australia. But I wouldn’t know for sure.

  3. Very interesting Mitch – one of my sites, a medical scrub site does not do well locally but better in many other states. It’s because the hospitals here are in a union and the local scrub company offers deals so when they get their union dues part of it goes to that company. So we focus on other areas instead.
    There are so many different scenarios that can affect it. Love the topic!

    1. Thanks Lisa. I understand your issue because there are things I do where I’m the only one doing them locally and yet I can’t cross over. One would think my local blog would be popular in the area but it’s not even close. So be it; I’m not really trying anymore.

  4. Thanks for sharing these helpful thought, they are really useful for me, because I’m actually in that period with my other blog. I’ve already generated some really nice traffic to the site, but the service is about getting local, so I want to find some local followers/readers from now on. Your valuable advices could help me to reach my goals, thanks for sharing them one more time:)

  5. As far as local search and directories go, I think we have so many mega-sites catering to every major community with personalized content that it’s super tough to get ranked well.

    First we have sites like Wikipedia, and then most cities have their own websites. Next we have the local news, and then come national portal/directories. Wait, we’re not finished… If someone’s search is too generic we see map sites, travel sites and job placement, etc..

    The funny thing is most of those I mentioned aren’t even local yet they dominate local search. There’s not much room at the top for β€˜real’ local community because it’s tied up with outside websites targeting, very successfully, those markets.

    1. Brian, I had never thought about the big companies monopolizing local search, but they are. And you’re right; if you put in anything local, Wikipedia, the local media, and even social sites appear.

      1. Thanks Marcie, It looks like Mitch beat me to it, but that’s something Matt Cutts has said they’re working on, but it’s certainly not showing any improvement yet.

    2. You’re right Brian, and yet one of the things Google said they wanted to do was make search more relevant for local people to find what they need, and it’s not there. That’s one reason I started using Duck Duck Go more often, because I’ve found that it works much better for local search than any other search engine around.

      1. I like Duck Duck Go too but it will never be a Google… It’s not a verb. lol Get it? You don’t Duck Duck Go it, you Google it. I got that from the video you couldn’t watch. πŸ˜‰ Ya gotta be a verb man πŸ˜‰

  6. i can give an example with my site that it is on local server and all my visitors and clients are out of the country, meaning Europe, USA, India and others but outside country visitors means greater competition and harder to get the word out.

  7. Ive never focused on local traffic; however I did make a site for a friend who runs a car garage. This site’s experience – like your’s Mitch – is that it does not get alot of traffic, however it does get a steady 50-100 daily. This may not seem alot, but alot of customers who visit the showroom have done so by visiting the site first. They probably want to view the stock before the hard sell.

    1. If that many people are visiting the showroom after seeing what’s on the website Richard, that works great. I wonder though how many of those daily visitors are local versus living elsewhere; can you verify that through Analytics?

  8. Local search is just being rolled out here in Denmark. However, the SEO folks have been ready for it. That means that #2 is highly relevant here as well.

    That said I still think that some businesses could benefit from putting an effort in being present in local search: the local dentist, carpenter or accountant. Businesses where people care about their location either because they have to go there to get a job done or they have to pay for the transportation to their place.

    1. Soren, I think if one wishes to do business they should put up a website and obviously try to maximize their presence locally. But if they’re in a business that has a lot of competition from the outside, it could be hard to break through, which is a shame.

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