Why Most Blogs Have Sucked For the Last 5 years (and What to Do About it)

5 years ago, the bar for the average business blog was set to “fine.” It wasn’t a big SEO priority or a big lead gen tool. Blogs were pretty much written just to be written. But, as an SEO consultant, I have seen a big shift recently.

Blogging has taken a backseat in the world of SEO for the last few years. But today, your blog drives everything.

Let’s go back about 5 years. Back then, no commercial website or business website really had a blog. There wasn’t a need. Your site was basic, a business card really. It was, “Come to my website, find out information about me.” That’s it.

Fast-forward 5 years. Today, branding and influencer marketing have made your website much more than just a calling card. It is now your biggest salesman and the face of your company.

So, the concept of how to create a good website has changed a lot. A couple of years ago, everyone needed to up their landing pages, so everyone increased content on their landing pages. Landing pages got all the love and focus in your SEO strategy.

But after everyone started doing that, we asked, “How do sites become more competitive from here?” Well, we can add more content through a blog.

Adding more content gives Google bots incentive to re-crawl your site and it shows that you’re active. Now, your blog is no longer an afterthought. It’s the centerpiece of your content strategy, and everything now stars there.

Re-Think Why You’re Blogging

A few years ago, you could have gotten away with a very average blog. You could have outsourced a 500-word fluffy blog for $10.00-$20.00 and it would have been fine.

Well, in 2019, fine is no longer good enough. The reasons we’re blogging have changed, so we need to change our approach and our tactics.

You need to understand the “why” before you can plan the “how.”

Reason #1: Tapping into the Questions Your Customers Are Asking

The whole point of doing SEO is to rank for the highest number of keywords that could potentially be driving traffic to your website, right? That’s the goal.  And step one of any campaign is always keyword researching.

When choosing your keywords, you will want to separate them into two buckets.

  • Action Keyword: Dentist Toronto
  • Informational Search Query: How do I brush my teeth?

That informational search query is literally the perfect blog/ piece of content that people are actually searching for. You can easily leverage this to rank and try to get some traction.

We recommend using Aherefs for keyword research

Once you have a solid list of informational search queries, there’s your 3-6 month blogging content marketing plan all laid out for you.

Simply put, you want to be the answer that people get when they’re Googling questions about your industry.

Reason #2:  Increase Your Cache Flow

You want to use your blog to send signals to Google that your site is growing in terms of:

  • The number of pages
  • The quality of content on your website

Why do you want to do that? As you publish more content, your cache base increases. Google will allocate more of their crawling resources to websites that post more frequently. So, if you’re not posting at all, Google might come back every 3-4 weeks. If you’re posting every few days, Google will come back at least once a week. If you’re posting every two hours, Google will come at least once a day.

You’re conditioning Google to know how much to expect from you.

Reason #3: More Internal Links

The third big reason you’re blogging is to build your internal linking structure.

Let’s say your business has ten different locations. You’re not going to write a blog post about each and every single location. That’s nonsense. If you’re a plumber with ten different locations, you don’t want to write those 10 blogs and nobody wants to read them.

But, what you can do is put out a really great article and then add internal links back to a few of your location pages/ service pages. You add an unintrusive bit like, “Hey, you know, we proudly serve the following areas” and then you can add all 10 interlinks to them.

Whether you’re internally linking to service pages or location pages, the whole point is you want to boost SEO via a very strong internal linking structure.

Those are the big three reasons right now. You’re trying to rank for more keywords. You’re getting in the good graces of Google and improving your cache with more content. And you’re supporting your content with a strong internal linking structure.

These are the 3 pillars of any good content strategy in any market, for any industry. But here’s the catch, you can’t do any of them if you’re producing garbage. Google needs to see that you’re producing good content that actually gets reads and links. How do we do this?

person working using his laptop

How to Write Blogs That Actually Rank

Ten years ago we could write a very average white page that would actually rank. It wasn’t very hard. I miss those days. Kidding.

Google can now tell if your content sucks, so ranking is harder than ever. But, their algorithm makes more sense than ever. It wouldn’t make sense if stale and inactive websites ranked well. The algorithm now rewards good content. The companies that take the time to do good work have never had such a huge advantage.

Back in the day, if you were a plumber, you went to an SEO firm and said, “I want to rank for plumber Toronto, Toronto plumber, and drains Toronto and that’s it, what’s the price?”

No one talks like that anymore. The days of, “These are my ten keywords” are far gone. It’s about, “How are you going to drive the most quality inbound organic traffic to my website?”  Everyone is a growth hacker these days. No one is a link building specialist or a content marketing specialist. They’re one and the same.

You grow your website by adding quality content. And how do you do that?

Forget Google and Write for Humans

For years, content marketers have loved to say, “Write for humans, not for robots.” This meant to keep your human audience front and center, and not write with Google crawl-bots in mind. Well, Google now thinks terrifyingly like a human being, so writing for people will kill two SEO birds with one stone.

As marketers, we can no longer get away with 500-word fluff pieces that are only slightly better than Lorem Ipsum. We need to do the work. We need to focus on quality long-form content that is really engaging, with good visual elements.

Engagement is key. With Google RankBrain, they’re looking at user engagement (UX) metrics and dwell time on any given blog. If you’re putting out a 5000-word post and people are spending ten seconds on it, it’s not going to rank. It’s that simple.

If nobody is reading it or linking to it, the jig is up, Google knows it sucks. But, if it has good user engagement and people are reading it and actively clicking the links, it’s going to perform very well. You’ve done good work and you will be rewarded.

Conversely, if you do link building when there’s no new content, your assets will be devalued because there is no fresh content. You really want to focus on publishing amazing content with very strong internal anchor text. Next, you want to do link building to those blog posts, which funnels the link-juice to some non-commercial page back through to your commercial page via that kind of heavy internal linking.

Tell Stories to Connect With Your Audience

We’ve established that adding these generic 500- word nonsense or fluffy blogs doesn’t work anymore and it’s no longer competitive to do that.

Let’s say you’re a plumber. How do you make a plumber sound fun? Well, you write blogs about stories of plumbing emergencies and the importance of putting a backwater valve. Today, it’s important that these blogs have a good depth, that they’re interesting and they’re relevant.

So, tell stories that educate, entertain, or enlighten.

Google Now Has a Sense of Humor

horse laughing with his teeth out

5 Years ago, anyone with enough time to write your blog was instantly qualified to write your blog. They didn’t have to be a writer or content marketer. They could be a one-off freelancer, a sales staff member, or even a student intern.

The only prerequisite was they had any grasp of your business and the English language. The blog didn’t have to be good, it just had to be 500 words. It didn’t need to have insights, it just needed to have keywords. It didn’t need to be funny, it just needed to be finished.

But today, Google knows that humans ignore those filler-blogs, so it does too. Google RankBrain now has all sorts of linguistic analytical ranking signals, so you have to be very aware of the content you are posting on your website.

Google is now very quick to pick up on descriptive tools and literary devices like popular slang, turns of phrase, and even jokes or puns. It knows these things are likely to do more to engage your audience, so it can pick up on them.

If less-than-skilled writers write your content for $20.00, your blogs are not going to contain any humor or language complexity. Google can tell if a robot (or terrible human writer) wrote a piece. They know nobody is going to stick around for more than 10 seconds and they’re going to bounce, so Google will punish you.

But, they can also see that your dwell rates are good and that people are clicking for more. They can see you’ve clearly published a good piece and you will be rewarded.

Refresh, Revamp, and Re-optimize Your Existing Blogs

Now that we’re posting these much higher quality content blogs, what do you do with all these old 500-word blogs? Do you put more money into them, or put a 301 no direct on them?

Trash or Rehash Old Blogs?

It’s a pretty simple thing. If your blog gets traffic, or there’s any value from an SEO perspective, keep it. But, if you just don’t want people to see it, well, that is an easy decision for a 301 no direct.

Maybe it still gets traffic or the keywords are there. Or maybe it was a really well-written post that just needs better images or a better title. Try giving it a second life.  It’s great to refresh old content, it gives it validity. It shows that that piece of content you wrote is valuable, and you’re spending all the time a year or two later to update it.

For example: You wrote a blog post about 10 things to do in a city. Your initial blog was only 500 words, and each city only had a two-sentence description, with no images or links. Well, that would be pretty easy to turn into a 2000-word guide and that would be worth saving.

But, if it’s just old or outdated and it just doesn’t look good for branding, then you simply 301 direct it. If it’s an arbitrary blog or you were “newsjacking” some news that happened two years ago, it’s a no-brainer.

Also, with your link building or your guest blog posts, you better not no-index it! Because, then you’re going to lose some of your links.

Closing Thoughts: Picking Your SEO Battles

It’s all about making judgment calls and that’s what SEO is about. You’re making a judgment call on whether you should build a link, should your noindex a blog or should you 301 it.

It’s never as cut and dried as yes or no. As a business owner, is it worth it for me to go spend four hours of my own time to improve this blog? Is it worth it for me to pay someone for their time to improve this blog?

Somebody may tell you that you have to write 10,000 words on your website blogs… Great, do they have a cheat code to unlock unlimited money?

It’s all about what is cost-efficiency. If money is no object and you work for an international brand, you can say, “Oh let’s just delete this stuff, because we can just get more written.”

But, if you’re a plumber by day and run your website at night, you probably don’t have the option to just delete content because something new is around the corner. You have to be budget conscious, and pick and choose the content that will lead to the bigger SEO wins.

If you want an SEO expert to join your battle, I’m happy to help. Give me a call by clicking here.

About the Author

Paul Teitelman - SEO Consultant

Paul is a well-respected Canadian SEO consultant and link-building expert with over 15 years of experience helping hundreds of companies rank for competitive keywords on Google. He is a Toronto-based SEO consultant who is passionate about search engine optimization and link building. Over the years, he has made a reputation for himself as a leader in the industry by consistently delivering phenomenal results to his growing client base.