I recently met with Arron Sweeney, a Realtor associate with King Realty Group in the San Francisco Bay Area. In March, Arron launched YourBerkeley.com, a hyperlocal site that offers restaurant reviews, upcoming event calendars and real estate listings for Berkeley, California. As a Berkeley resident who has also seen dozens of terrible real estate sites masquerading as local content hubs, I was struck by how engaging his website was. I met with Arron to ask him about his strategy and ongoing plans for YourBerkeley.com. Here are some tips he provided:
1. Answer the question, “Is being a local content expert something I want to spend my time on?”
YourBerkeley.com screen shot
When Arron was working to get his license, he knew he was never going to be the agent out knocking doors and calling long-forgotten acquaintances for business. He also had over 20 years in the restaurant business, where he had come to understand the importance of local word of mouth and long-term service. Last, his natural interest in inbound marketing and love for his newfound home base of Berkeley (he moved from San Francisco after getting married to join his wife in the East Bay) made the local content route all the more appealing.
“Some people are cut out for the aggressive door-to-door sales approach, but I’m not. My business philosophy is to be a guide to all things Berkeley, and that includes the transaction side of real estate.”
2. Cast a wide net
The reality of local content is that you’re first going to attract visitors by geography, and only a fraction of those visitors will ever become “leads.” In order to ensure he was casting the widest net possible when drawing hyperlocal inbound links, Arron created both neighborhood landing pages, as well as other niche (but still local) categories like “outdoors,” “restaurant reviews” and more. The call to action on his home page is — GASP! — not a real estate search bar, but a widget that collects email addresses for his weekly email newsletter. After less than three months, Arron has already generated the contact info for 350 local residents.
3. Get serious about stats
The easiest way to determine if your local content strategy is successful is NOT to count your incoming leads, says Arron. “My eventual goal is to draw in three to four quality leads per day. Right now, that’s unrealistic so I’m focusing on the quality of the content, and the experience of my visitors. Today, the average visitor to YourBerkeley visits seven to eight pages before leaving the site, which is huge.”
Huge may be an understatement, in this case. As content marketers, we tend to remember those “time on site” and “page views per session” stats as huge Google coups, but minimize the fact that Google’s algorithm is meant to reward good content. So the next time you have a great victory in Google Analytics, remember to celebrate it in real life, too. Your readers are developing habits and coming to know you as an authority they can rely on — and you can’t quantify that.
To create more “stickiness” and opportunities for multiple page views in one session, never lead a visitor to a dead-end page. Include cross-links to similar content when available, and have one (yes, just ONE) elevated call to action.
4. Determine an incubation strategy
Once you get those local leads, what are you going to do with them? It’s important to continue your local-centric approach, so don’t just put these contacts on a copy-and-pasted template available through your CRM. If you have great (and constantly refreshed) content, you can send a weekly email with links to your new posts, alongside links to new listings and open houses. If you’re looking for seller leads, remember to elevate calls to action surrounding home market analysis or breakouts of local home sales and prices.
5. Know your strengths, outsource the rest
“I’m not a writer at heart,” Arron admits. “I tackled some of the beginning pages, and add content here and there, but I wanted this content to be long-lasting and optimized. So I brought in two part-time freelance writers to assist with content.”
It’s so critical to recognize your limits, and not push past them. In many cases, the limit is time rather than capability. Arron wanted five to six new posts per week, and recognized this was beyond his personal bandwidth.
6. You’re the local expert! Use it to start new conversations!
One of the best parts of being a local expert is getting to promote great service and shops. “I love that if I find something awesome, I can share it with other locals. I’ve also found that it’s a great way to start a conversation with shop owners — I ask if they’re OK being featured on my site, and I end up getting to plug my business without seeming forceful.”
There are many ways to become a local expert, and I’ve outlined only one strategy here. How are you going local? Share your successes and missteps below. I’ll include the best tips in a follow-up article at the end of July.
As marketing coordinator for Inman News, Gina Thelemann co-manages the InmanNext blog and works on email marketing and social media strategy. Contact Gina at firstname.lastname@example.org.