I think blogging has always been seen as important for SEO, but I wasn't sure how that fits with local search and GMB ranking. Can blogging be just as helpful to a local law firm as it is to a software company?

I was curious, so I ran an experiment, and I'd like to share the results. I collected data on the rankings and blog content of 2,900 law firms, across 8 cities, and extracted 18,948 article titles. I did this experiment in two phases -- first with a generic search query like "Houston lawyers", and then with a more specific one like "Houston divorce lawyer." I did this to look at how blogging effects general domain ranking versus ranking for more specific keywords.

To start off with the generic query, I'll first show a breakdown of sites grouped by result page, and whether they have or do not have a blog.

hasblog1.png

The X axis here starts with page 1 of search results at left. Each bar group represents 8 cities worth of results for that page number. From this, at least, I see only a faint correlation between having a blog and search rank.

What happens when we look at a more specific query, i.e. "Houston divorce lawyer"?

hasblog_divorce.png

Having blog content that mentions the "divorce" keyword seems to have a noticeable effect here, with law firms that have blogs tending to show up higher in the search results. Does the amount of content on the blog have an impact on search ranking? I crawled each law firm site to extract estimated article counts, and came up with this scatter plot.

blogging_divorce.png

There is a real, albeit not incredibly strong, correlation here between post count and rank. For what it's worth, previous experiments with GMB reviews have produced correlation coefficients as high as -0.32, as opposed to the -0.08 seen here.

As per usual, be forewarned about correlation vs causation, and take conclusions with a grain of salt.

My own takeaway is that having a blog for local businesses can be worthwhile, but it doesn't seem necessary to invest in a huge amount of content. The rewards also seem to be found in ranking for specific keywords, as opposed to more generic queries. I can only guess that local business blogs don't earn many backlinks, which is why they aren't associated with the domain ranking for generic queries.

Anyway, I hope that this has been an interesting read! I can answer any questions, and welcome any poking of holes in my approach.
 

Lluc

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Excellent, thanks for sharing!
 
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Hi Zach,

Very detailed and a good read, so thanks! I actually ran a similar test in the UK a few months ago, however, I wasn't sure how I could calculate the blog to no blog success on a large scale like you have done without setting aside weeks of time to commit to the blog. Instead, I had to manually go through and see if they had a blog, and where they were ranking on the SERP. You can see my results here Blogging for local SEO - I took 40 sites from two different industries and 4 different keywords. What I found is best summed up in the infographic, but if you have time I would love for you to give it a read and let me know what you think.

Some of my more notable findings were that the DA was far higher for blogging sites and when the competition increased the likelihood of the top-ranking sites having a blog also increased. One thing I didn't mention, however, was the concept of getting a blog post ranking nationally to have an impact on your local rankings, which I guess is a counter-argument to local blogs not getting any backlinks. For example "how to unblock a drain" is a national query for plumbing companies, so if a lcoal site could get that ranked it will likely bring in a lot of relevant traffic and backlinks.

The answer I would love to find out though, is how did you gather this data on such a large scale because just 40 sites took me a long time (v boring task)?

Thanks,
Charlie
 

zach.todd

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Hey Charlie,

Great post, and I agree with a lot of the points you make. My personal take is that blogging is a high effort activity that can have returns, but it's possible (as you saw in Newcastle) to rank without it. As you point out, high competition areas like London might require that you pull out all the stops, and pursue strategies like investing in a blog.

The data gathering for my study was done using an automated Chrome browser to first get listings for a query, and then a separate crawler went over each website. The crawler isn't perfect, but it looks for links that seem like a blog, and does its best to figure out how many blog posts there are. It definitely took some time to set up, but it only needs a little hand holding once it's up and running.
 
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