The Most Popular Local Search Blogs

The local SEO industry is blessed with many incredible authors, sharing truly valuable information consistently for well over a decade now. The industry has been in a state of constant changes since the late 2000s, which has helped both marketers and small businesses remain competitive. The importance of this sharing information within this industry cannot be overstated.

Over the years, there have been a number of mostly opinion-based surveys attempting to rank local SEO industry authors and their blogs. By definition, opinion-based surveys lack impartiality, especially when they are conducted by one of those authors or blogs participating in the survey as a “contestant”. We decided to conduct research based on objective metrics, which could potentially answer three questions:

  1. What are the most linked local SEO blogs?
  2. What are the most shared local SEO blogs?
  3. Which 2020 articles are “must-reads”?

Methodology

We started by collecting all the relevant industry blogs and news sites. We filtered out some sites that may have been included in other lists, because they may have been inactive over the past year (which we defined as having published less than 5 local SEO related posts within the observation period), or because they were not posting local SEO content. On the second point, we have made some exceptions where a site may have a specific section that deals exclusively with local SEO, and in these cases we have collected data only on that particular section of the sites. In total, 18 sites made the cut.

We manually collected all the blog posts published on these sites between December 2019 and November 2020. Using BuzzSumo, we collected the number of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets for each of the blog posts. Using Ahrefs, we collected the external backlinks to each of the blog posts. In the case of backlinks, we normalized the data for certain posts where a large amount of backlinks were coming from the same external domain. This happens sometimes when a site has a search index, for instance.

The sites are ranked in the following manner:

  • Most linked: by mean number of backlinks across all blog posts;
  • Most shared: by mean number of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets (at a ratio of 1 to 2), producing a final “social score”;
  • “Must-read” articles: by number of links for the individual article.

Findings

The Top 10 Most Linked Blogs

RankBlogMean # of External LinksStandard Deviation
1Moz (Local)361284.06
2Sterling Sky119185.68
3Local Visibility System5778.63
4BrightLocal4249.29
5Whitespark3462.71
6Local SEO Guide3023.21
7Grade Us2339.56
8GatherUp2162.75
9Reach Local1311.63
10Juris Digital1239.18

The Local section of Moz is the most linked blog, based on the number of average external links per blog post. Moz (Local) led by a significant margin on the second placed blog – Sterling Sky. They in turn are far ahead of the herd of local SEO specific blogs, and are followed by Local Visibility System, Bright Local, and Whitespark.

Other things equal, it is to be expected that based on quantitative metrics the blogs of sites covering a large array of topics might be more frequently linked to, as they likely have broader visibility and reach. Also, Moz has the advantage of getting hundreds of links from scraper sites every time they publish a piece. It is also interesting to look at the standard deviation at which the average numbers have been achieved, because higher standard deviation might signify that certain individual blog posts are particularly valuable. This will come out as a factor later on when we review the “must-read” articles of the year.

Honourable Mentions

As mentioned in the methodology explanation above, we excluded blogs with 5 or fewer posts during the observation period. Should we have included these blogs, Blumenthal’s would have come in second place, with 282 external backlinks on average. However, this result is achieved at a standard deviation of 477.54, and is only based on 5 posts. Most of that result comes from only one post (which will later be included in the “must-read” articles contest). If we exclude that one post, the average number of links drops to 70 links per post on average (at 76.48 standard deviations), which ranks Mike Blumenthal’s blog third. These days, Mike is predominantly active on the NearMedia blog.

Another blog that would have scored well is Ben Fisher’s Steady Demand. With 4 blog posts, Ben’s blog has averaged 61 links per blog post (at 61.80 standard deviations). If the results would have remained constant with more blog posts, the blog would have been ranked fourth.

The Top 10 Most Popular Blogs

RankBlogFB LikesRetweetsSocial Score
1Moz (Local)78.81228.98307.80
2Sterling Sky15.4421.1136.55
3Local SEO Guide8.8422.5831.42
4Whitespark14.7816.1530.93
5BrightLocal16.4410.3526.79
6GatherUp9.729.3819.10
7Grade Us5.987.4113.39
8Local Visibility System3.137.7710.90
9Pigzilla3.476.109.57
10Online Ownership4.573.768.33

Once again the local section of Moz’s blog leads by a significant margin. The blog is by far the most influential as far as local SEO topics are concerned, and it appears to have the widest reach and the largest following.

Once again, in second place comes Sterling Sky’s blog. We can conclude with relative certainty that this blog is the most linked and most popular local SEO specific blog. Behind Sterling Sky are three local SEO blogs with very close results – Local SEO Guide (sixth in terms of links), Whitespark (fifth in terms of links), and BrightLocal (fourth in terms of links).

Blumenthal’s blog would have been ranked high, assuming steady rate of likes and tweets with more blog posts. The site has a social score of 35.90 based on 5 blog posts, which would have ranked it third – right behind Sterling Sky.

Must Read Articles

As mentioned above, one of Mike Blumenthal’s posts – “Google Testing (Or Rolling Out?) New 3-Pack Carousel” – was broadly shared and gained a large number of links. This article is the most linked-to local SEO article, even after we do adjustments for some domains sending unusually high numbers of links.

Overall, the list is dominated by Moz (Local) with most posts written by Miriam Ellis, and by Sterling Sky (written mostly by Joy Hawkins and Colan Nielsen). Of the top 30 posts, only 7 were not published on either of these two blogs. After Mike’s article, the most linked-to non-Moz and non-Sterling-Sky article was Whitespark’s “2020 Local Search Ranking Factors Presentation” (written by Darren Shaw) which ranked 19th, followed by GatherUp’s “Do Consumers Support Businesses Requiring Masks?” (written by Mike Blumenthal) which ranked 20th, and BrightLocal’s “Google My Business Photos: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Good Online” (written by Jamie Pitman) which ranked 23rd.

Conclusion

There is an abundance of information about local SEO topics available. However, that abundance means that an uninitiated person can easily get confused and overwhelmed. It’s important to understand which sources of information provide the best value. Links received from external sites and public (social media) mentions are the closest we can get to objective metrics.

Based on our research findings, the Local section of Moz is by far the most linked and shared source of local SEO information. The two likely go hand-in-hand: higher popularity results in broader visibility, which in turn results in higher likelihood of links and references. This doesn’t undermine the quality of posts the Moz Local team, led by Miriam Ellis, consistently produces.

Out of the local SEO specific blogs, Sterling Sky emerged the undisputed leader. They achieved their impressive scores in the two categories across a total of 52 posts published during the observation period. Of these, 7 made it to the list of the top 20 “must-read” posts of the year out of over 750 total posts.

Behind Moz (Local) and Sterling Sky, a few blogs scored similar results across the analyzed categories – Bright Local, Whitespark, Local Visibility System, and Local SEO Guide. GatherUp’s blog was dragged down mainly by webinar recap posts, which saw relatively few links and limited social activity associated with them.

The wildcard was Blumenthal’s, which would have scored very high if more articles were published on the site. Local SEO information zealots can always follow Mike Blumenthal on the NearMedia website.

Local SEO industry experts continue to share a wealth of information freely. I truly hope that this practice continues for many years to come. What is your favorite source of local SEO related information? Share in the comments below!

AUTHOR

Nyagoslav Zhekov

Nyagoslav is the Director of Local Search at Whitespark. He has been in the local search industry since 2010. Nyagoslav has been cited on Search Engine Land, David Mihm's blog, Local SEO Guide, and has presented at SMX West.

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