I get called frequently by local companies wanting a quick fix for local rankings. In many cases, they discover that local SEO doesn’t equate with a cheap shortcut to high rankings. Increasingly, local SEO is about ongoing, consistent online promotion activities. That’s where blogging comes in.
Good blogging doesn’t have to be a back-breaking enterprise. It will require some effort and/or some cost, depending upon if you outsource it or if you do it completely yourself.
Why Blogging Is Your Secret Weapon
The cool thing is, a great many local businesses still are not blogging, so use of it as a search engine optimization tactic is still something of a secret weapon. Here’s how.
Many local businesses in highly competitive categories have already done the straightforward things for optimizing their businesses to rank for local. They may have optimized their sites, obtained local citations and links, optimized their business profiles, finessed their Google+ Local (a.k.a. Google Places) listings, encouraged customer reviews, and more.
Since all these businesses are doing essentially the same activities, they end up barely trumping the listings just below them in Google Local search results, and they may be frequently jostling, month after month, for the same slots.
But, if one of them begins blogging consistently, that business may rapidly become top dog, accruing advantages that the non-blogging businesses lose out on. It gives some distinct advantages, and can become a secret weapon that may allow the first company using it to develop a lead that the others might not quickly imitate.
Advantages Of Blogging For Local SEO
- Lends your site some ongoing, timely stuff to seduce parts of Google’s algorithms that feature content based on freshness.
- Attracts an audience that may interact with you. User interaction signals can give your site a higher prominence score in Google local algorithms. Blogs can develop subscribers and frequent readers, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open to humans.
- Provides your site with an often unique link profile!
- Enables you to rank in Blog Search as well as in regular keyword search results and Local (Maps) search result which equal more exposure and greater distribution of your promotional efforts.
- Enables you to engage with other bloggers by posting commentary pieces and opinions on your blog.
- Enables you to have a forum for jumping on media feeding frenzies when there’s something related to your industry in the news.
- Provides you with a voice that is your own if anyone ever attacks your company online. Blogging is a linchpin of proactive online reputation management.
- Provides a solid bedrock for developing your social media presence! A blog is a perfect tool for feeding content out onto Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well as other social media sites. As a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want. (Although, there are things that work more effectively on some social media platforms better than others, so it’s good to still customize these things for different places/audiences. And, you’ll still need to respond to people who engage with each of your social media accounts, too.)
There are a great many details to configuring a blog to be optimal for you, but here are a few suggestions.
How To Set Up An Optimal Blog For Local SEO & Social Media
- Use WordPress. It already has a lot of search engine optimization basics baked-in. Although, it’s still helpful to get a pro to help you make decisions about the various installation options.
- Avoid themes that you can’t customize to remove or nofollow links to the the designer’s site.
- Integrate your blog as part of your existing site. It could be in a dedicated subdirectory or it could be set as a subdomain.
- Avoid menu navigation systems that do not use SEO-friendly links.
- Incorporate author pages. I’ve written previously about benefits to incorporating employee pages on your business site. You could use our staff pages to double as author pages, or set them up especially for the blog. Having author pages can work hand-in-hand with authorship markup.
- Incorporate authorship markup. Setting up real, human authors to acknowledge with by-lines on the blog posts will make them reassuring and more trustworthy for readers, and this is one reason why Google treats such blog posts a bit more preferentially. Using the author tag markup can help your pages’ listings have greater visibility in the search results — and more eye-catching listings typically equate with higher clickthrough rates.
- Perform your SEO research and target future blog posts to your ideal keyword combinations over time. Engineer your page titles and matching keyworded URLs to help highlight these terms.
- Include tag pages and related post links. These help enhance the topical keyword associations with your pages and also can provide readers with navigation features which help them find more similar content on your blog.
- Post frequently. Once a day is fantastic, if you can keep it up! However, once a week might be best, depending on your industry and comfort/familiarity with blogging.
- Mix it up! If you’re a plumbing site, it’s going to grow terribly dull to write (and for your readers to read) article after article on types of pipe fittings you do, or how fast you drive to their place. Instead, mix it up by mentioning interesting and outrageous things that happen in the news which are related to your business type — when some giant water main has blasted open in a city somewhere, or an amazing story of a wedding ring found in a drain ten years after being lost and then reunited with its owner. Get the idea?
- Start a conversation with the blogosphere. Write a blog piece giving your thoughts on another person’s blog from your industry. Link to their piece if you do this, of course — often they’ll link back to you to respond so their readers can follow the thread, or their blog may automatically post trackback links. Engaging with other blogs can help you enter into the overall conversation, get your blog/business more interest, and further reassure search engine algorithms that your company is on-the-level as more humans interact with you online.
- Make it part of the local community. Even when trying to mix it up and engaging with other blogs, if you only post on topics about your industry, it may still be pretty dry for the average reader. Consider also posting on things of particular interest to the people in your community — local happenings, local economic news, recommendations for other partner businesses in the area, etc. By doing this you can make yours a hyper-local blog, and the additional buzz around local topics will help improve your site for locational relevancy with the local search engines.
- Plan a content calendar. Consider posting seasonal items related to your business and area: seasonal tips, special offers, how the changing season or holidays affect your business or products, and more.
- Keep posts brief! It’s not necessary to write a lengthy essay with each post, and Internet users typically prefer succinct content that’s easily-digestible. Also, if you write too long, you’ll burn yourself out and be unable to blog consistently enough to sustain ongoing publishing.
Installing a blog and writing on it consistently are not going to be shortcuts to achieving higher rankings fast — these things take some work. However, this investment in engaging with online consumers will give you an advantage that won’t disappear overnight. And, if you do it right, it could help you get ahead of your competitors in terms of SEO and social media.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.