Local Bloggers Have Stiff Competition

 The internet is very crowded. It seems like millions of people are contributing information to the internet.

A lot of it is on social media, where you are unlikely to ever find it unless you follow the creators themselves.

But a large portion is also being posted to blogs and self-hosted, non-platform, non-social media type websites.

And that is the type of content that is going to get picked up by Google and shown to people searching for answers using the search engine. That is the type of content people will actually find and read.

And that blogging space / content creation market is super competitive. It might be nearing total saturation, or it might already be fully saturated. We have probably already passed peak content.

For any given broad topic, there is more content written competing for rankings in that area on Google than any person could reasonably read in their lifetime. The competition is so steep and fierce.

And it isn't like a bunch of individual writers and bloggers competing with other individuals.

Lots of the best ranked articles are owned by huge media companies that employ dozens of full time writers or more.

If you are a solopreneur trying to build a blog in your spare time around a full-time job and family responsibilities, how are you ever supposed to compete with sites with bottomless pockets and loads of people being paid to write articles for the site every day?

It really seems like the battle for rankings and website success is too one-sided. It almost seems futile to try.

But that is really only the case when you are thinking about really generic and broad topics and short, common keywords.

If you are trying to compete for topics like "Health" and "Finance", you are probably not going to do too well up against the existing powers that be. If you are trying to rank for keywords like "How to Lose Weight" or "How to Make a Budget", it will again be a very long time and a lot of work into your blogging project before you get close to competing with the mega corporations in the publishing space, if you ever really compete at all.

But the beautiful thing about blogging and ranking in search engines and attracting readers is that there is a near infinity of keywords and micro-topics. I would say a true infinity, but because the number of keywords keeps growing over time, it can't actually be infinite, but it is constantly approaching infinity. 

The number of keywords grows because of the way the world changes and events unfold. People will write about and search for new movies that didn't exist before, so they would never have been written about before. As things come into existence, people will have interest in them and content will be written about them.

You can find things that are being searched for, even if they aren't being searched for in much volume, that have VERY low competition if any. You could realistically find things to write blog posts on that nobody has ever written a post on.

Many of these ultra low competition, longtail keywords involve diving into extreme detail on something.

While there are examples to be found in absolutely any overarching topic, I find it easy to understand when thinking about TV shows and movies. 

If you watch something and try to write a generic review or explanation post about it, you will be competing with major companies that have thousands of TV and film reviews on their domains and who have millions of backlinks pointing to them. These are almost unbeatable opponents in this way. 

When Google has to decide who to rank on the first page for that review, are they likely to choose the massive, trusted resource who has insider connections to the makers of the show or film and whose site is known by name by most people, or will they prioritize the tiny blog of some unknown person with no particular expertise.

Pretty obviously they would choose the entrenched experts, the incumbents, the juggernauts.


The Opportunity is in the Long Tail Keywords

But you absolutely can compete with them on keywords relating to that same film or TV show. You just have to get specific. You have to get so specific that they might not have even considered writing on the same points as you. And even if it had occurred to them, they might have deemed the opportunity too small to warrant their effort.

This is where the little guy can find success in online publishing. In the extreme details. In answering people's uncommon questions.

When I watch shows or movies, I often find myself asking myself questions while watching. Because there are so many billions of people in the world, it is very likely at least a few have the exact same questions as you. And some of them might search the internet for those questions. If you can take note of those questions and create content about them, you are almost guaranteed to be the best content available in the world for that question.

If you are the only piece of content in the entire world that specifically addresses some very detailed question, then Google would have no option but to put your content front and center.

If someone searched "What was the name of the restaurant in *Movie Title*?", and you asked and answered that question in an article you posted on your blog, then you stand a very good chance at ranking that article in Google.

And you can do this sort of stuff all day, every day. There are these sorts of really specific, long tail keywords in every possible niche and subject.

This source of easily ranked keywords is inexhaustible. They would probably never get all used up even if nothing new ever happened again, but they are especially unending because of the number of new subjects being introduced each year. New movies. New actors. New bands. News. New politicians. New events. New festivals. It never ends. And that is great for bloggers.


Local SEO

One place that seemed like mostly the domain of individual bloggers was local subjects and places. It may have been simply because the amount of traffic that could be generated from each written piece of content was not worth it for the big guys. The Return on their Investment (ROI) was just too low. They had to pay professional writers to produce this content, and if the piece written on a local mom and pop restaurant was only going to attract 25-50 visitors a month, it just simply was not worth the money spent to produce the piece.

So it was left totally to local bloggers to be the authorities in the local space. They didn't have to spend anything to produce the content. They just wrote it themselves. So any traffic generated at all was a positive result. And there is a LOT of local stuff to be written about in any town, no matter how small. If it exists, SOMEBODY is searching for it.

This niche blogging opportunity was even highlighted by Glen Allsopp over at Gaps.com. He explained that there are a ton of things that need content written about them in local spaces. The articles would matter to the people who lived in that area and to people traveling through the area. This would cover things like bars, restaurants, local recommendations, theaters, parks, hiking trails, live music, events, news, politics, retail stores, ice cream parlors, date night ideas, volunteer organizations, libraries, and anything else a town might have. 

*In his blog post on this awesome business opportunity, he even talked about a local company of only around 10 people that was able to build up a local-focused blog and sold it for $25 million.*

Each of those things could potentially be searched by somebody, and they would want to find something to satisfy their search. A local blogger focusing on covering their own backyard would be a great source for that area. It would benefit everyone. Locals would have something to find in search engines that would tell them about stuff in their town, and bloggers would get traffic to their sites by writing about low competition keywords.

But, unfortunately, things seem to be changing on this front. Mega corporations that have billions of dollars in annual revenues are always pushing for growth. They always want more. They cannot be satisfied with what they have. And they have expanded into that local space.

If you live anywhere but the rural boondocks, you are likely to find a few common sites in the search results when you search for something local.

If you search for a small business or restaurant in your town right now, you are almost certainly going to find results from Patch, Nextdoor, and Parkbench.

These sites are each slightly unique, but have major overlaps in what they end up doing.


Patch

Patch is an offshoot of Yahoo. Yahoo is huge. But they decided they could achieve growth by getting local.

Patch's gimmick seems to be that they are trying to be an online newspaper in most towns.

The site has little mini-sites for each town or area they cover. For each town, there are articles written about current events and places in the area.

Most towns or regions have staff writers that produce content for the area. Most of the articles written are very short. Many barely cross 300 words. They are not, for the most part, trying to create super useful content. They are just trying to write something about everything so that they can pick up that barely worthwhile mini-keyword traffic.

And it's working. I think the site as a whole gets like 25 million visits a month.

In addition to the content produced by staff writers, they also encourage community contributions, or user generated content.

They want people to write about the stuff in their own area that they care about.

This can be seen in two ways, and both are equally true at the same time. This can be seen as a great opportunity for towns and for average people. 

People want at least SOME content about the stuff in their towns. If they search for a local restaurant, they don't want to have 0 results. Allowing anyone to publish content helps ensure that something is written to be found.

And it gives regular people a chance to share and be heard. Most people do not know how to create a blog. As strange as it might sound, a lot of people struggle to even sign up for social media. If there is some knowledge barrier which prevents people from sharing their insights, then a site like Patch which allows them to easily share something with their neighbors and community is a very helpful tool.

On the other hand, it is pretty greedy and exploitative of a major company. Yahoo (doing business as this brand Patch) owns the content on its site. And they make money by selling ad space. The more content there is, the more people will end up on the site, and the more money Yahoo will make. And they encourage regular people to volunteer their time and information in the form of content. They happily accept full ownership of the content people volunteer. And they keep all of the ad revenue it generates. They are essentially tricking people into giving their value to a ginormous company which already has too much.

While this is a bit despicable when considered in that way, it is not an uncommon practice. It is the way all social media works. You post content, the platform gets to sell ads against that content, and the platform keeps all the money. You are duped into working for mega companies for free.

And the most frustrating part is that people could just as easily post that content to blogs of their own and make money for themselves for their creative output. It would be a pretty great opportunity for individual bloggers to share information they already wanted to share for free and to have that content earn money for them.

Anyways, Patch is one of the sites that are trying to dominate local SEO.


Parkbench

Another site is Parkbench. Parkbench seems to be very similar to Patch, but each region is signed up for by a local real estate agent.

Some real estate agent sponsors an area and encourages content to be created for that area by interviewing and reviewing local businesses. They hope that in writing local content, it will bring interested local residents to their real estate business.

It also seems like local businesses can post their own content on Parkbench to inform potential customers and offer deals.

Parkbench seems far less popular than Patch in terms of traffic, but it does seem to be focused on local SEO domination.


Nextdoor

The last site I wanted to talk about is called Nextdoor.

Nextdoor is kind of like Facebook for communities. You don't need to know people or "friend" them, but by living in a particular neighborhood you get access to the community forum for that area.

It is eerily similar to Facebook.

There are tips and warnings for neighbors about scams and dangers in the community.

People talk about car break ins or thefts.

Neighbors share positive stories about great interactions they've had with businesses in the community.

People complain about politics.

People discuss local news.

People share things they have for sale or to give away for free in a community marketplace.

All of the content is produced for free by the users.

Because this site is more like social media than a newspaper, it has more value. It does help facilitate conversations between people who should talk because of their proximity but who don't actually know each other. And, because you have to verify you live in the area, there is little to no spam or bot accounts. The people you interact with are real people.


How Does This Affect the Opportunity for Regular Bloggers?

This introduction of large sites into the local SEO scene does make things a bit harder for the little guy.

A lot of what makes you rank better in the search engines is backlinks, and a site with thousands or tens of thousands of pages is likely to have more backlinks than a site with only hundreds of pages.

Even if you write really great content which features local businesses and events and low competition keywords, it seems like you will be outranked by these guys almost every time.

If you search for a local business name, the first several results are probably pages on the business' own website, then a bunch of results from sites like the three I've talked about here (though I'm sure there are many more), and if you click through a few pages of results in Google, you will start to see the writings of small bloggers. So that hyper-local content is getting pushed out in favor of the content on the big guys' sites.

I have found this to be the case with a few articles I've written about my local area.

I wrote an article reviewing Lakeville Brewing Company, an article reviewing Angry Inch Brewing, and a comparison guide of the liquor stores in Apple Valley, MN.

Each of these articles are detailed and share my personal experiences with these places, but I am outranked by impersonal listings of little more than the address and phone numbers for these places because the pages are hosted on sites with more backlinks than I have. I have better value on my pages, but people are unlikely to click back to page 4 of the results to find my reviews, and so they will help nobody.

I think there is still great opportunity in writing about local things on your blog, just as there is in writing very detailed answers to questions about any given niche. But it does seem like it is going to be harder than it has been in the past. But consistency and volume of content are the variables you as a blogger can control that might eventually mean the difference between page 4 and page 1 rankings.

I think if your local area interests you at all, you should consider creating content about it and just trust that you will earn better rankings over time.



Were you aware of the opportunity that exists in Locally focused SEO content? Have you seen these larger competitors in your search results? Do you have any tips for writing content that ranks? Do you know about any niches that tend to have lower than average competition? Let me know in the comments!



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