You’ll have heard the oft-quoted claim that “content is king”, but for busy business owners, we know investing the time, investment and energy in starting blogging can feel like a gamble.
In our recent Expert Local Business Link Building Survey, 70% of local SEO experts told us that blogging was a valuable strategy when building local business backlinks.
But of course, not every business owner is a natural-born writer, and it can feel overwhelming to add another task to an already jam-packed workload.
We wanted to find out how crucial blogs really are to small businesses, so asked our user base of local business owners and local SEO professionals to share their thoughts and opinions.
We found that blogs remain important to the local SEO industry — and received some brilliant insights into what local businesses need to do to maximize their blog’s success. We’ve combined the data, and pulled out key quotes from the findings to provide an in-depth look at local business blogs today.
A huge thank you to the 519 people who answered our poll.
Do all local businesses need a blog?
- 68% of respondents believe all local businesses need to have a blog
- Just 12% say that they don’t
- A significant proportion are undecided about the necessity of blogging
Blogging is clearly important for local businesses, with 24% saying it’s essential for every local business to have a blog.
However, the important story here is the huge proportion of respondents who are undecided about the necessity of small business blogs. While many businesses see a multitude of benefits from sharing their insights and news, this is not a given. Not every business will see a real ROI from their blog — and it’s always worth reviewing analytics to ensure the time spent is worth the results achieved.
Before deciding to start a blog, small business owners should consider:
- Do I have the time?
- Will I have something to say?
- Do I know what my customers need?
- How will my customers find my blog?
- What do I want blog readers to do next?
There are plenty of benefits to blogging — but the key challenge is keeping customers coming back for more.
What they said
“Poorly written or irrelevant content can do more damage than not having a blog.”
“You see some businesses blogging ONLY for the sake of having one, and not because they understand what gives the blog its real value — quality content.”
“Some local businesses make the mistake of only blogging about their products. There are some industries where it is almost impossible to generate any engagement with a blog no matter what you write about. That’s why I’m undecided about their usefulness!”
How frequently should local businesses update their blogs?
- 98% think businesses should update their blogs at least once a month
- 43% think this should be weekly
Frequency is key for local business blogs.
We asked the respondents who believe in the importance of local business blogs how often these should be updated — and were surprised at how often they wanted to see new content.
Updating frequently can come with its challenges though. Not allocating enough care and attention can affect a blog’s quality — and this could discourage people from reading your content in the future, or even trusting the quality of your brand.
Regularity requires routine. Building a content calendar is an upfront investment in time, but saves significant effort in coming up with new ideas later down the line. This means you can time content around key industry and local milestones, as well as fitting an even spread of content to suit your required keywords. You’ll still need to be flexible, but this will help limit the potential stress an oncoming deadline can bring.
What they said
“The biggest mistake local businesses make when blogging is starting one and then not continuing. Having a blog with the latest post from 2016 makes the business appear inattentive. It’s better to take it down, or add a post explaining why you’re no longer blogging.”
“One common mistake is following a formula instead of letting your content and frequency be dictated by the goal of preserving the relationship with the customer.”
“I feel that people put too much emphasis on blogging a certain number of times a month. Although it’s good to post regularly, there’s no point if you don’t have anything of value to share!”
What should local businesses blog about?
Respondents were able to choose three options.
10 Topics For Local Business Blogs
- Help and ‘How To’ guides
- Local news / events
- Company news
- Product news and reviews
- Case studies
- Industry trends / predictions
- Industry news
- Results of studies or research
- Industry conference / events writeups
- National news
Creating a variety of content that keeps customers entertained, informed, and coming back for more can be hard.
Help and ‘How To’ articles are by far the most in-demand topic — so make sure you allocate enough time and thought to make these truly useful for customers. Think about the questions your clients are asking — and answer them better than your competitors do.
There are a multitude of topics people value from local businesses — and the best strategy will be a mix of these. Talking about what you know is the best approach for local businesses — focusing on what your company does, and what’s going on near your business.
While many local businesses may choose to outsource their blogging to those with more time (or writing ability!), it’s critical that these ghostwriters have real insights into your company and the needs of your customers at every stage of the buying journey.
What they said
“What are searchers really looking for? If the blog isn’t answering the questions a customer or potential customer is looking for they won’t bother with the blog at all.”
“Information should be unique to a business’s vertical and useful to their audience in specific cases, for example, a pet food supply business could engage a local audience by blogging about recalls within the industry. But it’s not as easy for a local chimney sweep.”
“A key mistake local businesses make is not understanding their target audience — and failing to target the different phases of the buyer’s journey.”
How are blogs useful for local businesses?
Respondents were able to choose three options.
9 Benefits of Local Business Blogs
- Positions the business as an ‘expert’
- Helps website rank for more keywords
- Improves rankings in search engines
- Creates content for social sharing
- Increases engagement with existing customers
- Differentiates business from competitors
- Helps to generate more backlinks
- Helps to win new customers
- Creates content for email marketing
Undoubtedly, blogging is useful for a number of reasons.
Blogs can help build your reputation and demonstrate your expertise. They can also differentiate your offering from your competitors.
Many respondents told us that they most valued blogs for their SEO benefits: ranking for alternative keywords, improve visibility in SERPs, and, if your content is strong enough, generating backlinks.
But remember, content isn’t just for Google’s benefit. It needs to address the real needs of customers, and be written in a way that is both easy to understand, and interesting enough to compel visitors to read to the end.
Blogging also gives you content to share with customers via social media and email newsletter followings. It’s not enough to write a blog and expect your target market to see it — you need to bring them to it. Promotion is an integral part of any local business blog strategy — and is key to building brand recognition and trust with customers before they’re looking to buy.
What they said
“Local businesses shouldn’t only write blogs for SEO purposes. Essentially, thinking that no one will ever read this.”
“Blogs are often too short and don’t include specific keywords businesses need to rank for. Often this content is just written for the sake of creating content.”
“A major pitfall is thinking that blogging = ranking. A blog can be helpful, but it really depends on the type of business.”
10 mistakes made by local business blogs
We asked respondents to share some of the mistakes they commonly see in local business blogs. In the word cloud above, you can see the huge number of common complaints — and we’ve highlighted our ten favorite poll responses below.
Mistake #1: Writing irrelevant content
“Readers want to buy your product, not get recipes for chicken wraps or hear about your politics.”
Mistake #2: Forgetting the customer
“Most businesses don’t understand who their customer is enough to know what kind of blogs work for their audience — i.e. should they be video, written or another format.”
Mistake #3: Limiting keyword focus
“They blog about the same topic/ keywords in an attempt to rank. It ends up diluting their results and rankings.”
Mistake #4: Being self-centered
“Only blogging about themselves without adding to the reader’s experience. Blogs need to answer potential questions.”
Mistake #5: Not selling yourself
“The biggest mistake local businesses make is failing to recognize that visitors can be converted to followers. Followers who feel like part of the company help share and market the business.”
Mistake #6: Forgetting on-site SEO
“Too many businesses don’t have an internal linking strategy, and forget to include geo-relevant keyword phrases.”
Mistake #7: Ending the journey
“No call-to-action to take the visitor further into the site. We have a client who got 60% of his traffic from just 3 blog posts, but had a 99% bounce rate on those posts.”
Mistake #8: Failing to promote
“One big pitfall is not pushing it out via social media and other channels (being shy). Though, that may just be a Canadian thing — too polite to be pushy.”
Mistake #9: Stealing content
“Never commit the cardinal sin of blogging — aggregating content instead of writing original copy.”
Mistake #10: Not focusing locally
“They don’t localize their blog content which ends up attracting people from all over the country/world.”
What do you think?
Should a local or small business have a blog? Which businesses are doing it well? Let us know your thoughts on local business blogs in the comments.