Photo by: Jayjay402
I’ve been in the shadows for a while now, building the monster I call a hyper-local news blog. I had promised a series of articles chronicling the trials and tribulations of getting it going and making it a success. What I have found is that success is hard to define, but it has something to do with traffic statistics.
I was inspired to go local purely for the challenge. I defined my target geographic area, decided on a platform (WordPress), and launched the site. What I didn’t count on was how hard it would be to populate that thing with meaningful content. It’s a big job.
Like all big jobs, I took it one step at a time… which means one post at a time. My first post was the formal site announcement. I felt I needed to define what the site was all about… and I did. But that post was pretty meaningless since it did nothing but lie to my audience. I promised them relevant local news and information… and sadly weeks passed and I hadn’t published diddly squat.
Make a Source List
So I decided to mix my first ‘local blog energy drink’: A set of hand-picked bookmarks I compiled under one handy drop-down menu that contained almost every local website with any updated local news and information. It took a few hours to compile my first concoction. I had about 25 sites in my brew, and all easily accessible with one click from my browser toolbar. Why not an RSS reader? Because fortunately for me most of the local sites are not taking advantage of the wonderful world of RSS. Here are some source ideas:
- Local Newspapers – this is a no-brainer, but there are quite a few more than I originally knew about. We have the city-wide paper which has a local section just for my area of the city, and even a blog to go along with it.
- Local EDC – The economic development council always has a nice juicy set of press releases published in it’s own news section
- Local Chambers and Clubs – I was surprised to find that we have 2 chamber of commerce sites covering my area, a Rotary Club, and Exchange Club, Toastmasters, Charity organizations, and a handful of other ‘networking’ groups with websites that contain events calendars and local news releases. These are great sources.
- Local ‘free’ publications – We have a couple of local magazines and free weeklies that circulate in print, but also have an online presence.
- School District PR Department – The press and communications section of the local school district sites has a ton of press-releases circulating every week. When I say a ton, I mean 3-5 per week.
- Local Real Estate Blogs – Of all of the businesses out there, It was safe to say that real estate agents are the ones that are really blogging their hearts out. Although the numbers are still low, it was rare to find a local blogger in my area that was actively publishing that wasn’t a real estate agent. In my area, there are quite a few that are caught up in the Localism fever. Hey, whatever works… but I would prefer to host my own blog.
- Other Local Blogs – There are a few local businesses that maintain blogs not related to real estate. A majority of small business and personal blogs were ‘mommy blogs’ having to do with perenting and kids activities. Beleive it or not, these are some of my favorite news sources. They tend to focus on fun stuff, events, and ways to save money in the area.
- HOA Sites – Compile a list of neighborhood HOA sites for a grab bag of sometimes petty but still useful news and information. This is the stuff that great news is made of if you can compile the calendars for the month and re-post this information.
- Church Websites – Some church sites contain event calendars, and some church event turn-outs are not too shabby.
After I referred to my list, finding subject matter for local content was easy. I just bit the bullet and started to write. One post turned into two, and now we are publishing up to 4 articles per day with no problem.
Be a Link Journalist
I refer to my site list almost daily, and I am never at a loss for things to post. Press releases are extremely helpful, because you can legally post them in their entirety and add your own unique flavoring in the form of a paragraph at the beginning or end… or re-word them like a bonafide journalist.
Compiling this list is not unlike what a real journalist does for story research. Many times I will find tht multiple sources will cover the same story or announcement. This presents a great opportunity for combining the best information form multiple sources, quoting, and practicing good link journalism.
Events and Longevity
You may be saying to yourself… an event post will not be relevant when the event is over… It would be a waste of time. You are right and wrong. Articles announcing events are not-relevant after the event has passed, but some of my largest traffic spikes are due to event posts. Events posts take less time to write, since a press release usually covers every detail and they are straight forward. Another benefit to publishing upcoming events is that they make great link-bait. I have acquired quite a few inbound links because of event articles.
What to Cover
A local blog can cover a lot. New developments, business openings, community events, school awards and recognition, sports coverage, job market changes, freeway and road developments, city meetings, chamber events, accomplishments by local people, top 10 lists, restaurant reviews, neighborhood profiles, and all kinds of other things.
Some experts suggest that a real estate blog should stick to real estate. All I can say is, the local blog covering anything and everything that has to do with my little corner of the earth in Katy, Texas is averaging over 250 unique (and local) visitors per day in a little over 4 months. Although every visitor is not looking to buy or sell a home, there are many stages in the customer life cycle. Sean Purcell at Bloodhound Blog offers another perspective:
The goal of almost all real estate marketing has been, and continues to be, relating your expertise in the community. The question you want to put in their head is: who better to help them sell their home than you? You know the neighborhood inside and out. More important still is the conversation they will have with a family member, friend or co-worker. It begins with the future client saying: “I have been thinking about moving to your neighborhood. I hear the schools are great, the homes are beautiful and everyone turns out for the 4th of July parade.”
There is more to the story… but I am happy with the results so far.