Right up front, I’m going to tell you that yes, guest blogging is valuable for local businesses, both for bringing in new customers and for increasing the overall SEO value of your website. However, there are a few considerations that make local guest blogging a different beast than general guest blogging. You have a few unique challenges – and unique opportunities – so generalist advice doesn’t always apply.
The Benefits of Guest Blogging for Local Businesses
If you’re a local business, you can gain a lot from guest blogging, both on the publication and on the submission sides. What are those benefits?
You position your brand as more of an authority. Guest blogging in a local area means you can be more of an important figure with less of an audience to impress. A knowledgeable business owner in a small town can have more influence on local business decisions, and can have more of a personal reputation to leverage to sell products.
Becoming a “small town authority” can be useful to strike a mid-range balance between large company and small business. That authority won’t help if you’re competing against global companies on a global stage. What it WILL help is competing against global companies on a local stage. People are more apt to go with a local business than a national company when making a local purchase decision, and by building your authority locally, you become a more recognized and trusted name, encouraging future conversions for the same reason.
You can widen your sphere of influence. Guest posting on other sites can allow you to flex some content muscles you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use. You might not be able to cover certain topics on your own blog, due to how focused it needs to be to cut through the noise and competition. Guest posting, particularly on other local publications, lets you showcase a breadth of knowledge that can pave the way towards partnerships, intellectual influence, and even the foundation of a future expansion of business.
Meanwhile, accepting guest posts on your site allows you to bring in outside knowledge and authority in a crossover between your business and theirs. You can bring insight and knowledge to the field in a way that proves you aren’t just full of hot air, and that when you have a gap in your knowledge, you know how to find the right people to fill it.
You can network with other local business owners. With a larger sphere of influence, both online and off, you are increasingly able to leverage your authority into partnerships with other companies that might not normally give you the time of day. Even some national companies look for exceptional local businesses to partner with. By guest posting, you build a larger-scale awareness of your company and can become that exceptional, stand-out business.
Partnering with other local businesses allows you to forge useful relationships. Not only can you help each other through web marketing, you’re able to organize local events, work together to cross-sell products, and even become a coalition that can help sway local politics in a way that is helpful to your community.
You can gain more search power for a more visible website. Of course, guest posting is always useful to Google. Google doesn’t care if you’re a small business serving some tiny town in Nevada, or a global company serving 100+ countries. As long as the information on your website is good, and it matches the query intent of a web search, the site will rank nice and high.
Guest posting on highly ranked sites helps to bring traffic, link juice, and all the other benefits of guest posting to your site. The traffic might not be useful, but it might. You’re not likely to get many new customers as a small business, since a lot of the traffic tends to come from all over the country or world. However, you will often find the traffic coming your way consists of other business owners, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and bloggers.
Good guest posts can pave the way to further good guest post opportunities. You might be able to partner up with a large agency to be part of a hugely popular case study compilation. You can be cited multiple times for your participation. There are all sorts of fringe benefits that can come with guest posting on large national publications.
You can reach an audience that might not otherwise see you. When you focus on other local publications and blogs, you can reach an audience that might not normally know about your brand.
This audience can be anything. You might find people looking to fund the next big thing, allowing you to expand your local presence. You might find people looking for local sponsorships, which can be a great advertising opportunity for you. You can find local brands that will partner up for any number of different beneficial actions. With the right guest posting targets, the sky is the limit.
The Challenges of Local Guest Blogging
Meanwhile, even though the benefits are great, the challenges you face as a small business can be difficult to overcome. What are some of those challenges?
You have to find valuable local businesses accessible for guest posting. A small mom and pop grocery store might have a decently active blog, but if you’re trying to guest post on a local plumber’s Wix site, you might not get much out of it.
At the best of times, it’s a lot of work to find good sites to use as guest posting targets. When you’re adding tough geographic restrictions, you’re going to find that it’s a lot harder. A lot of local businesses won’t have blogs and might not even have websites. Those that do might be more of a personal blog than a business blog. The good blogs out there might not be active, or if they are active, might not know enough about guest posting to accept a post. Many small business owners don’t want to accept guest posts, either because they read somewhere once that it was a bad thing, or they were burned in the past by a shady spammer, or they just don’t want to give their “website real estate” away for free.
Heck, if you’re running a small business, you have no doubt encountered many of the more eccentric types of people in a community; a lot of the people you find when looking for guest post opportunities can be just as bad.
You have to constrain your topics to those relevant to your customers. Building a blog for a business is difficult enough as it is. When you have a smaller local audience, you can’t just go off on a tangent about something related to your industry at large. You can’t necessarily write about marketing on your plumbing blog, or whatever.
Every guest post you write, as well as every post you write on your own site, needs to be constrained under the question “What do my customers want to read about?” If you’re writing about something that’s interesting to you, but only likely interesting to other business owners in your niche, you’re not going to get much value out of it. Oh, you still get the usual guest posting value in terms of SEO, but it doesn’t do much to build your community or your authority.
Guest posting is even harder than posting on your own site, because you need to constrain yourself to topics of interest both to the target audience and the audience you want to bring to your site. Your posts need to match the kind of topics the guest post host writes about, right? Yet you can’t cover something irrelevant to your site, or it loses the value it would normally have.
You have to keep your expectations realistic. No guest post is going to skyrocket your business. No guest post is going to bring in 10,000 new customers. You can’t rely on a guest post to bring in a partnership, a book deal, or anything else. The fact is, many guest posts fall flat and do nothing, either for your business or the business publishing the post.
You always need to keep your expectations reasonable. Guest posting, like any other SEO technique, is about incremental, compounding growth. One guest post won’t do much; 100 guest posts throughout the course of a year can make a decent amount of difference. You need to not just initiate a guest posting plan, but you need to keep it up, maintain it even when it looks like it’s doing very little, and measure results along a sufficient length of time.
You have to keep your community in mind at all times. Small businesses are more susceptible to the whims of a small community. You’re often going to be in a precarious position where your community can determine whether or not your business fails. Ideally you can be resilient to small changes, but larger shifts can be devastating.
This is of primary importance in cases where you start guest posting too far outside your area of expertise and, more importantly, start taking positions and writing content about topics detrimental to your community.
For example, it’s very tempting to bring politics into writing for a blog. If you know your customers and your community have one particular outlook, matching that outlook can be useful to build rapport with the community. However, if you try this with guest posting, and use a perspective on an issue that goes counter to what you’ve said elsewhere or what your community expects, it might look like you’re selling out.
There are just a lot of pitfalls that can become larger issues when your business is small. You always need to keep the community in mind to avoid these kinds of issues.
You have to avoid cannibalizing your own website. Normally, you try to start guest posting on sites similar in value to your own. With a small local business, however, it’s often difficult to get much value from those kinds of sites. You aim for something bigger and better, to trickle the value down to your site.
The problem comes when you then try to cover a topic you’ve covered on your site. You’ve now written two pieces of content about the same topic. One of them is published on your site, and one is published on a bigger and better site. Since they both cover the same topic, they both rank for the same queries, except the bigger site will out-rank your site.
This isn’t always a bad thing; if you can leverage that larger site into sending traffic or other value to you, the more visible link is better. However, it means you tend to come in second place – or fifth place, or 20th place – a lot more often. It can be frustrating to always come in behind the people you’re writing for and not see tangible benefit to your own site in the process.
Regardless, if you can successfully navigate the challenges of guest posting, both in general and for a small business, you can get a lot of value out of it. Guest posting alone isn’t going to rocket you into a national name, barring some exceptional circumstance. What it will do, however, is build you a more solid position for future growth and expansion, position you as a greater authority personally, and let you leverage that position for future gains.