Local SEO Community: Davis Baer

image

Community Name: Local SEO Community

Community Leader: Davis Baer

What is Local SEO Community? A community website for discussing local SEO and Google My Business tips and strategies.

How did you first decide to start Local SEO Community?

I noticed there were a lot of Facebook groups and forums that talked about SEO as a whole. However, there wasn't really any community focused specifically on local SEO and Google My Business, so I created Local SEO Community, a community website for discussing local SEO and Google My Business tips and strategies.
image

What is local SEO, and how is it different from normal SEO?

That’s a good question. Let’s take a restaurant for example. A restaurant doesn't need to worry about ranking globally for the search term "food".
Rather, that restaurant just wants to show up at the top of the Map Pack (see image below) when people search "food" or “food near me” in their area.
That is local SEO.
image

What was the "product" that you launched with? How has it evolved since then?

Local SEO Community is built on Circle, a community management software platform.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a community is choosing the wrong platform.
Yes, it's quick and free to start a Facebook group or subreddit, but those are Rented platforms, meaning you don't actually have any of your community members' contact info, like an email address.
I like to think about it this way: Can I reach 100% of my community members if I need to?
With Facebook groups and subreddits, the answer is definitely no. Posts might only reach a fraction of members.
If you instead use an Owned platform like Circle, Tribe, Discourse, or custom build one like Courtland Allen did with Indie Hackers, you can reach all your community members via email.
Maybe not 100% of the people on your email list will open your email, but at least you know you're making it into the inbox.

Any other risks that come with using a “Rented” platform for your community?

Another huge risk with Rented platforms: Having your group deleted or banned.
Facebook or Reddit can basically decide at any time to delete your group or subreddit.
Example: https://www.reddit.com/r/SteampunkIdleSpinner/comments/i6ov6u/our_facebook_group_was_deleted_by_facebook_for_no/
With Owned community platforms, you control your own destiny and can't be Zuck'd.

What’s something else people don’t consider when choosing a platform for their community?

SEO is something that very few people consider when creating a community:
Do you want people to be able to find posts in your community via Google searches?
SEO can be a HUGE growth channel for your community.
However, if you choose a Facebook, Slack, Telegram, or Discord group, none of the posts in the community are indexed by Google, meaning none of them can be found via Google search.
On the other hand, posts on subreddits and Indie Hackers are indexed and can be found via Google search.
I would assume that Reddit and Indie Hackers now get the majority of the traffic from the SEO of the user-generated content (UGC) on their sites.
Additionally with platforms like Circle, you can choose to have your community private or public.
For Local SEO Community I chose Circle because it is an "Owned" platform, and chose for it to be a public community, specifically to take advantage of the SEO from UGC.
Here is the traffic from just Google searches in the 3 months since launch:
image
It's not breathtaking. But it's trending in the right direction, and it's only going to improve as Local SEO Community grows bigger and has more posts and comments are indexed by search engines like Google.

You've mentioned that the community is a mix of people who own small businesses and agencies/freelancers who work in the local SEO industry. How do you think about providing value to two distinct segments? How do you keep it from getting too "sales-y"?

Yeah, the community basically consists of two types of people:
1. SEO professionals (agencies, freelancers)
2. Small business owners
In the "Ask for feedback" section of Local SEO Community, business owners can provide a link to their website or Google My Business listing and get free feedback from other community members on how it can be improved.
The SEO professionals like answering these requests because it gives them a platform to show they know their stuff in a place full of potential leads (the small business owners).I haven’t had to deal with anyone being overly sales-y yet, but that might be something I need to keep an eye out for as the community grows.

You've mentioned that the most important thing you did in the early days of the community was "making sure every post gets replied to." How did you transition the community out of that stage so that you wouldn't have to be involved in every discussion?

For any community in the early stages, I think it’s super important to make sure every post receives engagement. That way, when others visit your community, they will see an active and engaging community - rather than an empty ghost town.
When someone posts something on Local SEO Community, I try NOT to respond for a little while, giving time for other members to see the question and respond. If it goes unreplied to for a day or so, I will then jump in.
Circle (the community management platform I use) allows users to choose to receive email notifications about new posts, so this has been helpful with getting replies on posts from other community members.

You've grown the community very quickly (it's over 800 people!) [editor's note: it's now over 1,300]. What growth tactics have you used to get to that stage?

One thing that helped a lot was in the "About" section, it states that it will be a paid membership community in the future, but the first 1,000 members who join will receive a free-for-life membership.
I think this helped kick off a lot of word of mouth growth, because who wants to miss out on free?
So people started sharing with friends and co-workers telling them to join while the free-for-life spots were still open.
I've had some success sharing in Facebook Groups and subreddits related to SEO, but you have to tread carefully. It's normally best to try to contact the group admin first and ask if it's okay. Try to sweeten the deal by offering the admin something of value for free.
I also created a Twitter account for Local SEO Community, then started following people with "local SEO" or "Google My Business" in their Twitter bios. Hard for me to gauge how much this has helped though.
There were a few people who wrote about and linked to Local SEO Community in blog posts (I did not ask them, it just happened organically), so that was also probably a small source of traffic.
I also reached out to the founders of SaaS tools in the local SEO space, asking if they would be interested in offering any exclusive discount to members of Local SEO Community.
Here is the exact cold email I sent them:
Hey ______, I run Local SEO Community (link to site), a community for discussing local SEO and GMB tips and strategies.
We launched 2 months ago and already have 500 members.
I would like to offer members of Local SEO Community discounts on a few different local SEO tools.
Would ________ be interested in offering any discount to members of the community?
Hoping for a win-win scenario: Members have additional incentive to join the community, _________ gets more branding and clicks from members of the community :)
This worked pretty well, and there are now a number of SaaS tools participating (you can see them in the "Members-only Discounts" section.
Additionally, I noticed that it normally led to those founders joining as a member, and also telling their teams to join as well.
In addition, I launched Local SEO Community on Product Hunt where it finished with over 440 upvotes, which led to a decent number of new members.

What are your ultimate goals with the community?

From a growth perspective, my goal is ultimately to get Local SEO Community to the point where most of the traffic comes from Google searches:People searching on Google for something related to local SEO or Google My Business, finding a post in Local SEO Community as one of the top results, then clicking and joining as a member.
From a “why” perspective, I was just trying to fill a void I thought I noticed, and based on the growth of the community, it seems to be validated.Longer term, I just want to keep growing Local SEO Community and make sure it is a place where people learn valuable things, help each other out, and make connections.

What can people help you with/what are you looking for right now?

If you are (or know) a business owner that wants to learn more about local SEO or Google My Business, I would be thrilled to have you join! www.localseocommunity.com