This is Part Four of a series on Starting a Hyperlocal Blog. Please visit that page for links to the full series of articles.
Marketing any blog involves getting active in the blogosphere, leaving quality comments on other blogs in your niche, and basically sticking your neck out for other bloggers and blog readers to see it. If you’re a hyperlocal blogger in Seattle, for example, that approach will probably work well because there are several local blogs covering the city. But if you’re blogging alone in your hometown (as we practically are), those tactics won’t work. In smaller geographic areas, you’ll have to get more creative to get exposure for your hyperlocal blog. This is the situation I’ll address here.
Traditional Online Marketing
Our only direct linkbuilding effort to date was somewhat successful. In the previous article, I mentioned taking my son to the minor league ballpark and seeing the #1 draft pick of the Colorado Rockies pitch. I made a short video collage of him pitching, uploaded it to YouTube, and then blogged about it on our Pasco blog.
But I didn’t stop there. As a baseball fan, I know that every team has several active bloggers. I also knew that the Colorado Rockies’ bloggers and their readers have probably never seen the top draft pick pitch. You can see where this is going: I searched Google for [colorado rockies blog] and sent emails to about 8-10 bloggers:
My name’s Matt and I live up in Tri-Cities, Washington — home of the Class A Dust Devils.
If you think your readers would be interested, I made a short video (45 seconds) from Christian Friedrich’s pro debut back on the 10th. It’s not all that exciting, just pitch after pitch. It’s on YouTube and you can embed it in your blog:
If you use it, I would appreciate the favor of a credit link back to the original blog post where the video is being used:
It worked! Within a couple days, our Pasco blog received three inbound links from quality baseball blogs. Here’s what one looked like. (My name is the link.)
If you’re into SEO, you might scoff at this. “Wait, those links are off-topic. They won’t help you much at all.” I would strongly disagree with you for a few reasons:
- The idea that inbound links must always be on-topic is overplayed in SEO circles. Does an on-topic link help? Of course it does. But should a local real estate agent turn down a link from, say, ESPN.com simply because it’s a sports site, not a real estate site? Of course not! If some big sports site wants to link to our baseball blog post and video, we’re all in favor of that. These Rockies’ blogs don’t compare to ESPN.com, of course, but they’re quality blogs/sites in their niche, and that’s a Good Thing where linkbuilding is concerned.
- In the real estate industry, link patterns are generally of pretty low quality. A lot of real estate linkbuilding involves reciprocal links, low-quality directory links, etc. An editorial, one-way link from an off-topic blog will probably count for more than those low-level link trades other agents are doing.
- This is especially true in a smaller area like ours, where so many real estate sites are poorly optimized and get few, if any, links.
Off-topic or not, I was pleased to get those links to our Pasco real estate blog. Beyond that effort, I’ve recently been focusing on some simple directory listings. Here are a couple we’ve used:
- Outside.in – This isn’t really a directory in the traditional sense; it’s a mashup of local blog and local news content; it’s not very popular in our area, but has many users in larger cities. Popular or not, we’ve listed all four of our hyperlocal blogs, so anyone local who does use the site should see our posts.
- Placeblogger – This is a more traditional directory for hyperlocal blogs.
- BlogsbyCity.com – We’re still waiting to be added to this one.
As time allows, I’m still on the hunt for more quality blog directories where our hyperlocal blogs should be listed.
But linkbuilding is just one aspect of marketing a blog. There are other opportunities out there for hyperlocal bloggers.
Tell the (Local) World About Your Local Blog
As a local blogger, you obviously want local people to know about and read your blog. Duh. You could do that by standing on a busy street corner with a big sign showing your URL. You could take a more traditional route by advertising your blog in the local paper, sponsoring local events, passing out flyers outside the nearest shopping mall, or even putting up signs on the announcements board at the local grocery store. We haven’t tried any of those ideas, but some of them might actually work!
One thing we have done with a modicum of success is connect with local people online. A great place to do this is the Freecycle.org mailing list system. Freecycle is a collection of local mailing lists where people give away their unwanted items for free. The “Freecycle Tri-Cities” list currently has almost 2,200 subscribers. And like many Freecycle lists, it has two related mailing lists — “Trading Tri-Cities”, where people buy and sell items locally, and “Get Connected Tri-Cities,” where local people share ideas, recommendations, and other information with one another.
Earlier this summer, someone on the local Get Connected list asked a question: Does anyone know the schedule of free movies that are playing at the Kennewick movie theater? It just so happens that we had written a blog post detailing the free movie schedule at the Kennewick theater. So I replied to that person’s email, saying, “I wrote a blog post with the full schedule. Here’s a link to what you’re looking for: (URL).” That simple email brought a few dozen new visitors to our blog, and we added a couple RSS subscribers shortly thereafter. Small victories count.
Looking for places to connect online with local residents can be a great way to spread the word about your blog.
- Start with the Freecycle.org site, and then look to see if your local Freecycle list has “sister lists” similar to the ones I described above.
- You might also check to see if your local newspaper has a forum or blogs where you can comment and discuss things with other local people (and be sure to include your blog URL in a non-spammy way for exposure).
- Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter might also offer ways to find people near you; TwitterLocal is a good place to start.
- Flickr has tens of thousands of groups, many of which are location-based. I’m active in the Tri-Cities, WA, group and have posted links to our blog posts in the group discussions when appropriate.
I have several more ideas for promoting our hyperlocal blogs, but haven’t had time to follow-through and put those plans into place. I consider that one of our failures with these four blogs, which is what we’ll discuss in Part Five: successes and failures so far.