by Colan Nielsen
Should a small business have a blog? This is a question that we get asked all the time by both business owners and marketing agencies. Carrie Hill posed this question to the Twitterverse in November.
Here’s a controversial topic – Local SEOs – should local businesses that have a fixed, geographic area they serve, blog (given they write content approx. 1x a month.)
— Carrie Hill 🗺️🎙️ (@CarrieHill) November 16, 2020
What is the Value of a Blog for Local SEO (A Discussion)?
A lengthy and insightful discussion was started at the Local Search Forum in October 2020. There seems to be some agreement, as well as some disagreement about the value of a blog to a local SMB. Before we get into Sterling Sky’s thoughts on blogging for small businesses, here are some sample comments from the forum discussion.
“To be honest, I like to do 1 blog post per month minimum no matter the industry. The reason why is because it is fresh content thats posted to the site and has the opportunity to pop up for certain phrases, questions, or even the answer box.
“For a contractor such as a plumber or locksmith, I would suggest doing a blog post on questions people ask. For example, Top 3 questions to ask your local plumber in Los Angeles or What Questions to ask your local plumber, etc.”
“Anything that adds visibility to your site is helpful and blog posts are an inexpensive way of doing that. And they don’t disappear after a week like GMB posts.”
“Blog posts also provide extra opportunity to create more keyword rich inlinking throughout the site. If structured properly it will help visibility overall, which should translate into higher local rankings.”
“I’ll dissent and say I don’t think it’s worth it.”
“We would write 2 blog posts a month for our client. Did it for 2-3 years. I was skeptical of the impact. We stopped and I removed all the blog posts to see what would happen. Nothing happened. No ranking shift up or down.”
“Honestly, every time I see another marketing company writing blogs consistently for their local clients I kind of shake my head. Still waiting for someone to prove me wrong but hasn’t happened yet.”
Sterling Sky’s Approach to Content and Blogging
When it comes to deciding whether or not a small business should blog, I like to start off by thinking of this quote from Carrie Hill.
“Blog posts are timely – website pages are timeless. I do not like blog posts just to blog – it’s a waste of time. If that’s valuable content for your customers – turn it into a page.”
Lots of SEO companies offer blogging as a part of their monthly package. I would argue that the huge majority of small businesses should not have a blog as a part of their strategy and here is why:
- A blog is useful when you have a large following that is continually wanting to get updated on your content. Do the customers of a divorce attorney really want to get updated monthly or weekly on what is going on in the world of law? Probably not. What about a pest control company? I might need to hire someone to get rid of my termites but am I really going to dedicate my time to reading articles continually on bugs? Probably not. If your customers are not likely to want to educate themselves on everything related to your business, you probably don’t need a blog.
- Blog articles come with dates on them that show up in the SERPs. As time goes on, the date on your article will become older and older, and in *most* cases this means it will also become outdated and irrelevant to users.
- Blog articles don’t have the advantage of siloing, which is the strategy I recommend for all content on small business sites.
How Much Value Does a Blog Provide for a Small Business?
One of the trends we see when a business or an SEO agency blogs for the sake of blogging is typically a decent, continual increase in traffic. But that’s about it. So if traffic is the end-all-be-all metric, you’re golden. But let’s be frank, more traffic doesn’t always equal more business, especially for a smaller business website. Website actions, such as form submissions and calls equal business.
Here’s what we typically see when a website has a blogging strategy that is built around “blogging for the sake of blogging”.
Blogs driving lots of traffic but no conversions.
The blogs above drove a total of two form submissions for the entire 2020 year.
But what about assisted conversions? In the example above, the blogs assisted seven conversions for the entire year. What if the effort that was spent writing all those blogs was spent improving existing core pages and creating new core pages after identifying some content gaps? This has provided a metric ton more value in our experience.
What Type of Content Should I Be Thinking About?
Instead of asking a content writer to add 10 pieces of content about a specific topic to a website each month, it’s much better to have the strategy that has been adopted and preached about by some very smart people in the SEO industry. The concept is that it’s better to have a few great pieces that get tons of traffic than to have tons of mediocre stuff that gets less than 10 visitors a month. That type of content also generally has a really high bounce rate and don’t forget that Google has an algorithm that fights low-quality content (Panda). Here are the case studies that talk more about this strategy:
We have adopted this strategy on our own blog and it works extremely well. For example, almost 20% of our site’s traffic when we looked at a 30 day period came from this one guide that we wrote a couple of years ago. We spend time and effort keeping this guide updated instead of doing something new. The result has been more traffic, which has led to more sales.
With small businesses, the 2 types of content that continually perform well are:
- FAQs that have very detailed responses with multi-media. For example,
- Tree Service: How to prune a Japanese Maple
- Auto Insurance: Which insurance carriers offer accident forgiveness?
- Lawn Care: What Types of Weeds Does Fiesta® Kill?
- Guides. A more in-depth list or checklist of things around a given topic. For example:
- Law Firm: Pennsylvania Child Car Seat Laws
- Insurance: Billing and Claims Contact Guide
I have also seen many sites for law firms where the majority of their traffic is coming from a few blogs they wrote years ago. Their efforts would be well spent in updating them so the information is current and the date on it isn’t 5 years old.
We always suggest testing some of these strategies before implementing them site-wide. If you have a piece of content on a blog that gets a lot of traffic, you can try testing a couple of different things:
- Updating the date published so that it is current. Watch both impressions AND CTR in Search Console to see what happens as a result.
- Removing the date altogether and moving the piece over from the blog to its own page using the silo structure. Make sure, of course, you 301 all the old URLs since they might be linked to somewhere. Also, don’t forget to update the internal links.
So should a small business have a blog? The answer is it depends. If a business has interesting news to share or things that would provide value to your customers that don’t fit into the core pages then go for it. Just stop thinking of blogging in terms of “blogging for the sake of blogging”. Focus on optimizing existing core pages, and continually analyzing the content gaps that exist between you and your competitors.
Finally, just to be clear, I am not making the case that blogs can’t drive business goals. They can and they do. But spitting out blog after blog isn’t the way to accomplish that.