It’s a mystery that bamboozles us all: google ranking factors.
While we have a good grasp of the search engine ranking factors that Google uses, we don’t know every exact detail behind the search engine’s algorithm madness.
But what we do know is that there is a lengthy list of search signals that may impact the success of blogging for SEO.
However, this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost when it comes to writing awesome blog posts that rank well.
It’s a matter of working with the Google ranking factors we know about and optimizing accordingly.
If you’re concerned about SEO for blog posts while simultaneously delighting your customers, these are some of the Google ranking factors to keep at top of mind for your blog strategy and blog writing process.
It’s a critical ranking factor for blog posts: keyword intent. Gone are the days where keyword research is solely about search volume and competition.
Today, you have to think like a customer and analyze how they are using specific keywords that are related to your business. It’s the why behind the customer’s search query.
There are four types of keyword intent:
- Informational: The customer is looking to gather information about a product or service. They likely haven’t made a decision to buy at this point. This information might be found on a how-to blog post or an in-depth guide. The keywords associated with informational keyword intent are often phrased as a question.
- Navigational: The customer is looking for your specific website or blog.
- Transactional intent: The customer has already researched the product and they are searching with the intent to buy.
- Commercial intent: The customer is searching with transactional intent using commercial keywords, such as “buy now”. Other commercial intent keywords include discounts or free shipping.
When I find a keyword that I want to target, I like to do some reverse engineering to further understand what the customer wants and how Google is perceiving the context of the keyword.
How to Reverse Engineer Keyword Context
Let’s take the term windows for example.
There are two possible outcomes if you search this term: Windows the operating system and house windows, otherwise known as replacement windows.
Now let’s pretend we are a homeowner who wants to install windows in our home. So, we might head over to Google and search “install windows.”
A window company might think this is a great keyword to run with for a new blog post since these companies typically provide window installation services.
This is the important part: type in the word “install windows” for yourself. What do you see?
It’s a bunch of search results for installing Windows the operating system. This would drive the entirely wrong traffic to a window company’s website, resulting in wasted resources creating the content and zero conversions.
Granted, Google is smart enough to know the difference. But it’s not out of the realm of reality for a homeowner to use this phrase.
For a window company, a better approach would be using the keyword “window installation” or researching similar options that bring a better return on investment.
The second approach to reverse engineering keyword context is by looking at the actual pages that are ranking on page 1 for your keyword. If you’re trying to get a product page to rank for a keyword that yields many blog posts in the search engines, you may want to rethink the type of page you’re creating.
What Keywords Bring the Best ROI for Blogs?
There’s nothing worse than chasing keywords that yield little-to-no return on investment.
In terms of keyword intent, commercial intent keywords are very valuable as they can result in conversions faster than informational keywords. With this approach, you’re looking to use those commercial/transactional keywords in your content.
In addition to the keyword intent categories, you can discover top ROI keywords with the following:
Cost per Click
One way that you can find out if you are targeting keywords of monetary value is by checking the CPC data on keyword research data, such as SEMRush.
In fact, Neil Patel and Eric Siu’s Marketing School Podcast suggests to target keywords with a higher CPC, relative to the rest of the keywords you’re considering.
These are words that are obscure or difficult to spell, such as mesothelioma. Since they’re so specific, those who are searching for these terms might be searching for products or services, such as a lawyer taking mesothelioma cases.
It’s easy to get tied up in search volume numbers, but bigger isn’t always better. In fact, a lower search volume with a highly specific keyword can indicate that the customer is ready to buy. Remember what we talked about with transactional and commercial keyword intent?
Write Strong, Persuasive Copy
This isn’t a keyword, but a poorly-written blog post with even the best keywords used won’t get you very far. Make sure the surrounding copy is stellar for SEO blog writing as well as writing for your audience.
Once you have your ducks in a row with keyword intent, another important Google ranking factor lies within the length of your blog post.
Length of Blog Post
How long should a blog post be? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question.
The length of blog content (word count) has a direct correlation with search engine rankings. This correlation, overviewed by Backlinko, shows that content in the 2,000+ word range ranks higher than content with lower word count.
Image source: Backlinko
This search engine ranking factor bleeds into another: page covers a topic in-depth.
When you’re writing in-depth about a topic in your industry, it’s almost impossible to cover your content in a 500-word blog post. Depending on the subject matter, 1,500 words might not even be in the realm of enough content.
Think of it as preparing a topic to present and teach to a classroom for a 2-hour lecture.
Hopefully, you’ll present some creative content that captures (and holds) the attention of your students, but it needs to be informative. You need to show the students every important angle on the subject matter. Include any important detail necessary to give them the best opportunity to learn from your content.
However, it’s also important to never increase the word count of a blog post for the sake of doing so.
How to Determine the Length of a Blog Post
To circle back to the question of how long should a blog post be?, I’m including a graphic below with some guidelines you can follow:
Since Google’s primary goal is to provide useful and relevant content for its users, you must consider your own audience. Are they likely to sit down and read through a massive blog post?
You can determine this answer in several ways:
- Review your Google Analytics on blog posts with varying word counts. Do you find a bounce rate correlation between these posts?
- Review social media performance on blog posts for varying word counts. Do you find an engagement correlation between these posts?
- Review conversion data on blog posts of varying word counts. Do you find that you get more or fewer inquiries, whether it’s email subscribers or leads, on these blog posts?
If you don’t have the answers to these questions, it’s time to start tracking the data and A/B split testing. Try writing a post that’s 1,000 words and then another that’s 2,000 words and see how they perform.
The truth is that it is possible to write content that answers a question in a single paragraph. Maybe you need 300 words or maybe you need 3,000 words. Whatever word count you arrive at, be sure that the content is providing value and not serving as filler to reach an arbitrary word goal.
Content Structure & Blog Format
Who would have thought that blog formatting plays a role in search engine ranking factors? While site architecture is certainly important, you need to remember that the formatting of your blog is significant as well.
A properly formatted blog:
- Improves SEO by providing a good user experience.
- Decreases bounce rate by improving attention span.
- Makes blog content easier to digest.
- Grabs attention with headers, subheaders, and bullet points.
- Breaks up the text with photos to help improve context and memory.
But what are the rules for blog formatting, anyway?
These are a few simple blog formatting tips to improve your readers’ experience:
- Use white space! It helps the brain process information. See an example of good vs. bad white space below:
- Use visuals to break up your content. Let’s face it—a big block of text is pretty boring to look at. Try putting an image for every 250-350 words.
- Use headers and subheaders. Essential for skimming as well as SEO, use keywords instead of H1 and H2 tags. My blogging tips video below explains how to write scannable blog content:
- Make your headers and subheaders a different color for visual interest and fast scanning.
- Use at least two columns for your blog with a sidebar, allowing for access to tags and categories.
Once you take these Google search ranking factors into consideration and you have a stockpile of blog posts, be sure to fit content updates into your editorial calendar. This is another search engine ranking factor that plays a role in SEO.
It was believed that publishing frequency played a role in SEO for blog posts, but it turns out this wasn’t the case when it was denied by Google back in March of 2018.
Even though the number of blogs you post each week, month, etc. may not directly impact SEO, keeping your content up-to-date can help with rankings.
One way Google determines this is by analyzing the amount of change for a content piece.
Image source: Moz
This illustration shows how adding a lot of (useful!) content to an existing blog post that is lacking content can work.
It’s important to note that Google may ignore small updates to blog content completely, such as simply replacing a link. Moz suggests that you update the surrounding text if you are updating links on a page.
But how do you know when it’s time to update a blog post to benefit both blog readers and SEO?
Keys to Keeping Blog Content Fresh
These blogging tips can help teach you how to update blog content that’s old and outdated:
- Read through your blog content and pull out facts that are supported by statistical data. How old is this data and is it still true today? If not, replace with the newest findings. If the stats have swayed dramatically in one direction or the other, you may have to rework the blog post to make it true for current reading.
- Click all links in your blog post. Are they still working or pointing to the intended source? You can also use Screaming Frog to detect broken links all throughout your website.
- Do you have any new media, such as graphics or video, that can improve the quality of the blog post?
- Are your keywords still relevant? Remember that keyword data changes and keyword intent is more important than ever.
- Include an “updated on [date]” note to show readers the last time the post was touched by you. This act alone won’t necessarily result in a boost with SEO, especially as some try to use fake timestamps on blog content to make the post look fresher than it really is.
Don’t forget that quality is an essential search engine ranking factor. Make sure your content exhibits E-A-T; Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
SEO Writing for Blog Posts
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