Can Blogging Be Your Secret Weapon For Local SEO?

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 SEOBlogging 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.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is President of Argent Media, and serves on advisory boards for Universal Business Listing and FindLaw. Follow him @si1very on Twitter.

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  • Jason Kamara

    Great advice, Chris. Despite the myriad of benefits of blogging for local SMBs, it continues to be a hard-sell in many cases. Like using Twitter, a lot of business owners are wary about the time and/or cost involved in creating unique content on a consistent basis.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisgreen87 Chris Green

    Great post (and name) Chris! The resource issue of creating and updating a blog for local businesses (especially small ones) means that the perceived ROI needs to be very compelling. One of the most common scenes on local business websites is a blog which was started 6 months – 1 year ago and now is a ghost town with little sign of updates.

    As much as singing the virtues of blogging for an seo campaign is vital, showing the client how they can sustain blogging long enough to see the benefit, that’s the tricky part!

  • http://www.shortcutblogging.com/ Dave Young

    Exactly what I’ve been telling my local clients for years, only you summarized it and outlined it better!

    We were having a hard time getting our local clients to write. They couldn’t find the time, and some of them didn’t have the writing chops to do it in a way that didn’t totally frustrate them. We decided to start interviewing them and transforming (extensively editing) the transcripts of the interviews into written posts. It worked great. And, we could also use those same interviews as podcasts. That’s 2 pieces of content in one! (3 if you count the original transcript and post it along with the podcast).

    It worked so well, we created a new business out of the service and now we’re blogging for quite a few local businesses. The thing they really like is that they are getting consistent weekly posts and their only effort is to sit down with one of our interviewers once a month to record 4 or 5 weekly posts. It takes less than an hour per month for a busy local business owner….and involves ZERO writing on their part.

  • Rocco Giove

    Great post, thank you Chris.

  • http://trucklicense.net/get-cdl Freedom Jackson

    Yeah good list I only have one disagreement.

    Blogging for local results shouldn’t be a secret weapon it should be your bread and butter. This is the best way to build momentum for your brand as you expand out new markets will meet you with an existing network.

    kinda like how tyler perry went from the small screen to the big screen

  • http://twitter.com/si1very Chris Silver Smith

    Altamash, whether to use a subdomain or a subdirectory for a blog has some pros and cons, either way. A few years ago in the past, I would’ve recommended using a subdomain as having an edge over a subdirectory, because it seemed to convey a better link weight advantage.

    Currently, my advice is to use a subdirectory, because I think that having the various associated social media mentions about content on the same domain may be more beneficial overall.

    Regardless of which you use, I don’t think you can go wrong — as long as you’re blogging consistently and well, either option conveys some ranking advantages to the business site.

  • Pano Kondoyiannis

    Blogging like mine http://problogger.gr, helps with fresh new and unique content so the search engines love it so that you make a blog and write meaningful things in it will not be wrong.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh

    I’ve seen this happen first hand in the past few weeks. More specifically, WP seems to do a very well job.

  • http://www.tvsinternetmarketing.com/ Travis Van Slooten

    I have yet to meet a business owner that has the time or desire to maintain a blog. The easiest way around that is to hire a ghost writer. You can find high quality writers at very affordable rates. I use ghost writers for all the blogs I maintain for my clients and they love it.

    Travis Van Slooten

  • Lauren P.

    Do you think the benefits you speak of can be achieved with a blog that isn’t on the same domain as the site being listed in the local results? Let’s say I own 10 local businesses but I blog on a different domain than all of them, but regularly link out to each. Will that help improve my local listing rank?

    It sounds like you basically saying “regular fresh content” is what’s pushing people to the top of local search. That sounds a lot like regular search and that this isn’t so much of a secret weapon as just a best practice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CloudBoomers Julie Larson

    Absolutely!!! Blogging is definitely the best SEO “secret weapon”! Every time you write a blog post, you have an opportunity to target 1-2 keywords. Want to target more keywords, write more content rich blog posts. :)

  • Scott Hendison

    I would caution that just blogging for the sake of blogging, just to add content, to get the edge over your competitors is *not* what it once was. It needs to have value, too.

    We used to have “good content” written for clients either 8x or 4x monthly, but since the Farmer / Panda updates, content that’s just “on topic” that’s rehashing the same things that have been said elsewhere dozens of times, (even if it’s totally “unique”), can do you more harm than good.

    Some people have a gift for writing, but for most small businesses, I’d rather see them come up with something truly interesting and valuable even once a month rather than try to pump out weekly gibberish. Too many small business blogs these days LOOK like they’re “just trying to write” because someone (their marketer) is forcing them to….

    and yes, authorship. It’s all about authorship …

  • sergiuliano

    excellent article, Local Blogs are already the winners in Local SEO

  • David Hitt

    This is somewhat beyond the scope of this article (which was great, btw…) but I wanted to raise an issue related to Google Blog Search. I’ve found that self-hosted WordPress resident blog feeds that are part of an entire site built off of WordPress have difficulty making their way into Google’s blog search. In most of our standard site builds, the blog archive page is not the home page for the site. Whenever I’ve tried listing the feed for these sites in Blog Search, they invariably don’t get very good exposure. The site and blog index just fine in standard Google search results but it seems as though Google blog search is expecting, and may require that a WordPress “blog” be the more traditional ‘home page as blog’ type rather than a feed burned off something other than the canonical domain name of the site…

  • http://EnlacesyMarketing.com/ Fernando Rivas

    Thank you very much for this, I launched my local bussines site like 3 months ago and already realized is not that easy! thanks for sharing this post and let me see I was doing it right with blogging ;)

  • Randi Thornton

    Blogging for local SEO is a must. However, the content must be original; offer value to the audience and make readers want to share it. Thanks for the great helpful checklist.

  • http://profiles.google.com/eric.southward Eric Southward

    I agree continuously writing blogs can get tiring. It generally takes me about a hour to produce a quality post. However, one thing that makes it easier for me (and possibly better for SEO) is to write about something very topical. As a bankruptcy attorney, I wrote a post right after Hurricane Sandy about how Hurricane Ike (Houston) affected our bankruptcy practice and the courts.

 

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