The Power of Blogging and the Search Engines

Social Media Examiner ContributorEditors note: This article originally appeared on Social Media Examiner

How many times have you heard someone say, “I just want that top search result on Google?” For a business website, the top spot in the organic search engine returns can be a lead generating machine. One of the best ways to gain that top spot is by blogging. Incorporating a blog into a website can have a huge impact on the overall website’s search engine rankings.

A blog does two important things in terms of the search engines:

1) Adds naturally occurring, keyword rich pages.

2) Increases the potential for incoming links from high quality
websites.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of the above affects a website’s position in the search engine rankings.

Playing the Numbers–Static vs. Dynamic Websites

The average small business website includes anywhere from 10-20 static web pages. These are the basic pages you see on most sites such as the home page, an “about us” page, product descriptions and even pages with contact information. Once created, these pages rarely change. In some cases, even small changes on these pages can be an expensive proposition that involves bringing in a web designer.

If the site is well-built with all the appropriate code and metadata, the search engines will index these 10-20 pages of content.  If the site is highly optimized and focused on a limited number of keywords, the search engines may connect those 10-20 pages with the right keywords (the search engine terms used to find information). However, due to the inherent needs of a website, some pages aren’t indexed for the desired keywords (i.e., contact forms).

Best-case scenario, 10-20 pages are recognized by the search engines as possible returns for the targeted keywords.

The Impact of Blog Posts

Now let’s take our static website and add a blog. For the sake of this example, let’s say that there are five representatives in the company who have each agreed to write one blog post per week.

Here’s where our blog really starts to pay off. Each time a new blog post is added, a new page is indexed by the search engines. By the end of the first month, the website has doubled the number of pages originally indexed by the search engines.

Within a month, our website–which originally had 10-20 pages in the search engine pool–now has 30-40 pages that can possibly be returned in the top spot on Google. Stretch that out over the course of a year and our 10-20 page website now has around 250 pages indexed in the search engines.

And while a blog post a day is a lot of work, scale it back to one blog post per week and we’ve still more than doubled the number of indexed pages during the first year.

Each indexed page adds another ticket to the great Google lottery. The more tickets you hold, the better chance of winning the top spot in the search engine rankings.

The Power of Incoming Links

Now let’s say that our faithful bloggers have been adding their daily posts on topics of interest to their industry. Word gets around that they put up some valuable information and at the very least offer a voice for the company.  A couple of blog posts have been emailed to fellow colleagues and even better, fellow industry bloggers are starting to link to the blog. The site starts to appear on fellow bloggers’ blog rolls and specific posts are linked as references and points of discussion in other online publications.

Google likes these incoming links. Google likes them even more when the links come from sites that are relevant to the content in the blog.

Then one day, a mild-mannered New York Times reporter is conducting research for a story related to our company’s industry. Because the blog has added a number of indexed pages to the website and others have started to link to the blog, it pops up in the reporter’s Google search. Our reporter includes a link to the blog in his article.

Google really likes incoming links from big, high-traffic sites like the New York Times. Along with the initial traffic sent to the blog from the New York Times article, Google sees that the New York Times linked to our site in an article related to keywords indexed in our blog. Google recognizes that the New York Times is an important Internet site and makes the connection that because the New York Times has linked to our little blog, our blog must be important. Thus Google moves it up the search engine rankings.

Congratulations. Thanks to the addition of a blog, our little website of 10-20 static pages now holds one of the top spots in Google search results.

Indexed Pages + Relevant and Reputable Links = Search Engine Success

At the 2009 WordCamp San Francisco (a gathering of WordPress users), Google’s Matt Cutts pointed out the importance of being both relevant and reputable. Incoming links from reputable sites such as the New York Times in which the content is relevant to the content in the post are highly valued by Google.

A blog is one of the best ways to continually add pages to a website that generate relevant and reputable links.

In the scenario above, our business blog has managed to provide both relevant content and generate reputable links–two big keys to success on Google.

Real-World Example

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a real-world Google search to see the impact of a blog in action.

Let’s say that we’ve just moved to Baltimore and need a Realtor to help us find a new home. We go to Google and search “Realtor Baltimore .” Once we get past the map-based search results (important to note), the national sites such as Realtor.com and the national brokerages, one of the first local real estate agents to show up in the organic search results is Wayne Curtis at www.charmcityrealestate.com .

CharmCityRealEstate.com includes a blog with posts dating back to November 2006. As you can see in the image below, Google has indexed 145 pages of CharmCityRealEstate.com. Many of these pages are blog posts filled with naturally occurring keywords related to the real estate market in Baltimore.

Now let’s take a look at another realtor in the Baltimore area. This realtor’s website did not rank in the Google search results and does not include a blog. As you can see from the image below, the site shows only 14 pages indexed with Google.

Measuring incoming links is a little more difficult as different tools return different numbers. You can get a basic overview by using the search term “link:yourdomain.com” in both Google and Yahoo. Using Alexa.com’s “Site Info” tool we can see www.charmcityrealestate.com’s top incoming links.  The very first link returned on Alexa is a link from HDTV.com’s television series House Hunters , a highly relevant and reputable real estate site.

Quality of Pages Indexed and Incoming Links

When conducting this experiment, you can find sites that don’t rank as well on Google yet have more pages indexed. This is often because the pages indexed do not rank for the keywords searched.  A topical blog naturally lends itself to keyword-rich posts just by the nature of the content.

The same holds true with incoming links. Too many incoming links from websites that are not relevant to the content on the site can actually hurt a website’s search engine ranking.

Consider Keywords When Creating Posts

Now that you can see the importance of keyword-indexed blog posts, you can begin to optimize your posts to include relevant keywords.

Going back to our example above, we can use the Google Keyword Tool to see that during the month of March, the phrase “Realtor Baltimore” was searched on Google 2,900 times in the U.S.; however, the phrase “Realtors Baltimore” was searched 60,500.

Since “Realtors Baltimore” was searched around 57,000 more times than “Realtor Baltimore,” it would be wise to use both terms when writing a post about choosing a Realtor in Baltimore.

Incorporate the Blog

If the goal is to raise the search engine results of the larger website, it is important to incorporate the blog into the larger website. Use a call to action at the end of the blog post to direct the reader to other parts of your website. Keep it on the same domain and provide clear links that encourage visitors to explore the rest of your website.

Make it easy for your reader. If the path to your larger website isn’t clearly marked, they will never find their way.

Measuring the ROI of social media is tricky, but consider the value of the top spot on Google. How much would you pay for the top organic search return? Although it doesn’t happen overnight, a blog can be one of the best ways to get there.

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