Updated: Nov 4, 2020
It’s clear that content is one of the most effective and valued methods for ranking websites on search engines. ‘Content is king’, is a saying you will hear on a regular basis amongst SEO’s, and in the large majority of cases, this is true. However, when it comes to local SEO I have come across numerous websites at the top of the search rankings, with minimal content and no blog page.
As Google ranks websites differently, within different sectors, I thought it would be worth seeing if local SEO in general, really requires blog pages. If local businesses can rank without the need to blog on a regular basis, and instead can focus on a well-crafted backlinking process, then there could be an argument that time spent on backlinking would be a better allocation of both time and resources.
Why is blogging so important for SEO
Before I get into the process we undertook and our findings, I think it may be important to explain why blogging is deemed so important within the SEO world and also why there’s an argument for not needing a blog for local SEO.
1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and indexed regularly
Google has something called a caffeine update, which means that websites that post regularly and show activity within their content will get indexed more often. As Google loves user experience, by indexing fresher and more relevant content they will be more likely to rank the latest, most active, and relevant sites for the user’s search. Thus, the more regularly you produce more content, the more likely you are to improve your rankings in the SERP’s.
2. Blogging allows you to enrich your targeted long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are more specific key phrases that typically use four or more words, rather than ‘head’ keywords. ‘Head’ keywords (also referred to as ‘head terms’) are very popular keywords (often a lot shorter), such as “dog food”. Whereas long-tail keywords may be “what dog food is best for old dogs”.
The benefit of long tail keywords is that it allows you to target less competitive search terms, which you will be able to rank much faster whilst also increasing your conversion rate. To help explain what I mean, this graph from SEMRUSH should give you an idea.
The conversion rates for long tail keywords are often far higher, due to the user looking for a very specific term. Although, it may seem counterproductive targeting search terms with such low traffic, if that search term converts incredibly well, and works at an average of 36% conversion rate then it begins to make a lot of sense to target them when considering that the top 10% of landing pages only convert at 11.45%.
Now there is an argument that for local and hyper local businesses, long tail keywords are not required as often, due to the competition of search being far lower. However, by including head terms within your long tail keywords, you are still supporting those head terms e.g. “winter running shoes for women” would be a long tail keyword, but “shoes for women” would be ahead term which would be supported in that phrase.
3. Blogging allows you to increase your backlink count
Demand Centric found that blogging increases the rate of indexed links by 97%. By providing fresh, new, and interesting content, it gives you the opportunity to gather backlinks at a far greater rate than if you were attempting to collect links with no real value on your site.
Simply put, if you have a great post about blogging for local SEO 😏, that gives other sites on the topic of local SEO a reason to link back to you. It also gives you a more reasonable request for a backlink if they can see the value of linking to your blog to support their content.
4. Blogging gives you an internal linking opportunity
Internal linking carries two real benefits. Firstly, it is a way of helping search engines decide what the most valuable pages on your site are, and secondly, it acts as an opportunity to tell Google exactly what each page is about. This is due to the fact that by leaving an anchor text for the linked page such as 'local SEO', it helps Google’s search crawlers to understand that the linking webpage is about ‘local SEO’.
Ultimately, you can start to influence where you want Google to prioritize your webpages on their rankings, and also how you want them to perceive your webpages for relevancy.
The impact of blogging on local SEO rankings
Hopefully, that has given you a good idea of some of the more technical reasons why blogging is so valued for SEO. It may now seem like a bit of a no brainer that blogging should be carried out for local SEO. However, when it comes to allocating time as a small business owner, finding topics to write about, having the skills to produce regular and quality content, and an understanding of how it should be optimized for local SEO, you can begin to see some of the limitations and reservations local businesses have.
On top of this, as previously mentioned, I have seen numerous sites without blogs or particularly good and sufficient content, still ranking in the top spots. So ultimately that’s why we felt this may be an interesting experiment to run, not only to blog about blogging but also for my own curiosity.
Let me start by saying how this had to be one of the more boring tasks one could undertake on a Friday afternoon. But hopefully, if anyone is actually reading this, it may provide you with a few interesting nuggets, which you can take away for your own use.
We decided that the best way to test this would be to manually look into 40 different websites in 2 different sectors and locations. We tried to make the services and locations as different as possible, to act as a comparison, and to give a more balanced view of Local SEO.
The locations we went for were: London (population 8.98 million) and Newcastle (population 268k). The services were dentistry and plumbing.
The keywords we used were:
Plumbers in London - 4,400 monthly searches
Dentists in London - 4,400 Monthly searches
Plumbers in Newcastle - 880 Monthly searches
Dentists in Newcastle - 1,600
We then looked into the top 10 ranking companies for each of these search terms ( excluding directories) and analysed whether they had a blog page, how often they blogged, what their DA (Domain Authority was), and their backlink count.
In regards to defining and selecting sites which blogged and didn’t blog, we decided that a site which had not blogged for over two years would be classed as ‘not blogging’, and a site which would be classed as regularly blogging had to release a blog at least bi-monthly. This is due to sites often having a blog page, but nothing being on it, or not having a post since 2015 in some cases.
The Location Difference
Ultimately the biggest difference came in the locations rather than the services provided. Although the focus was looking at local SEO in general, it is definitely important to touch upon these differences.
Where the difference between Newcastle and London really stood out, was when we were looking at the top five ranking sites for each selected keyword and whether they had a blog or not.
In Newcastle, 10% of the top 5 rankings had a blog
In London, 70% of the top 5 rankings had a blog
Obviously, there is a huge separation here and it almost definitely comes down to the competition and ranking difficulty. With Newcastle being a far smaller city, with far fewer companies looking to rank, they may not require blogs to help improve their backlink count and quality or enrich their keywords, or even convert new customers through particular landing pages.
However, that being said, when I was crawling through plumbers in Newcastle, the rankings were dominated by directories. The Now based on my other findings and the fact that Bright Local found that 100% of local SEO experts said that creating research-based content was either a highly valuable or valuable backlinking strategy for local SEO. There seems to be a huge opportunity for Newcastle plumbing companies to carry out SEO and blogging within their site to get ranking in the top spots fairly quickly.
I don’t imagine that seeing a big difference in Domain Authority between those who did a blog and those who didn’t blog would be a big surprise for most SEO’s. But nonetheless, the difference was significant.
The domain authority for those who rarely blogged or didn’t blog was 16.83
The domain authority for those who blogged at least bi-monthly was 30.75
When considering that domain authority may just be the biggest indicator of a site being able to rank keywords much more effectively than those with low DA. It is not difficult to argue that blogging is worth it in regards to increasing your DA, which has the knock-on effect of ranking your selected keywords far more easily. Even in a local SEO sense, an increase in DA means that ranking localized keywords will become easier.
Noting the findings above regarding DA, it should not come as a surprise to see these backlink results. Coupled with this is the fact that Bright Locals research clearly showed the reliance on creating local content and research-based content was an incredibly effective way of building backlinks.
So when breaking down the sites by backlink count, we found:
83.3% of blogging sites had over 200 backlinks
41% of non blogging sites had over 200 backlinks
Now considering that part of the argument for not blogging, was that local businesses can find ways of gaining links elsewhere, such as local business citation sites, directories, guest blogs (different to on-page blogging), media submissions, etc…I would argue that this theory shows that there is a definitive and significant value to be had in link building in regards to blogging.
Although it may be argued that those sites which blog, are typically placing much more emphasis on SEO efforts than those who don’t, thus they will likely be making a proactive effort at gaining further backlinks and increasing their DA outside of their blogging activities. I am still of the opinion that blogging may be one of the most impactful and effective SEO techniques both on a local level and national level.
It could also be argued, based on the results from Newcastle, that blogging is not always necessary for local SEO. Considering Newcastle has far less competition than London, the conclusion may be that it is dependent on the local area. However, when dissecting this further, you can begin to see that almost all of the organic first page results for plumbers in Newcastle were made up of directories although dentists in Newcastle still had a reasonable turnout in regards actual dentist sites with no blogs.
From looking both at the research we have carried out and the opinions of expert SEO’s within Bright locals study, it makes a lot of sense that focusing on blogging for local SEO will have a very positive impact on DA, backlink quality and quantity, and increasing conversions due to the ability to focus on long tail and high converting phrases.
So, my advice to small business owners with local businesses, which feel they may not have the resources to produce blogs on a regular basis. Would be to look at the competition. If sites are ranking with no blog for the keywords you wish to rank for, then this may be an indicator that you can achieve high rankings without one. However, It may be more difficult than if you were to incorporate blogging into your strategy… good luck!
If you feel you would like to incorporate blogging into your SEO strategy or want some advice on the matter. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Digital Rainmaker