Best SEO Practices For Blog Formatting
Updated October 22, 2020
Creating a great looking blog is a great way to impress visitors, but search engines are much more reliant upon blog content. If you want your posts and pages to rank well with search engines so that you get more traffic (and conversions), then you’ll need to consider how your blog format impacts SEO.
Read on to see what formats work best, how to approach your blog content and what you can do to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of your blog site.
What is Blog Formatting?
The format of a blog is not the appearance visually, but rather the material content that goes into it. As such, blog formatting comes down to a number of factors that can influence your search rankings.
The length, in total number of words, of a blog post, is known as depth. Depth is one of the most important factors in search rankings because depth impacts perceived value.
Think back over the past year or two and ask yourself which blog posts you’ve shared, bookmarked or thought to yourself were truly valuable, insightful and stood out from the rest. Did you bookmark many 300 word posts? Did you share many 500 or 600 word posts? Probably not!
The posts that stick out above the rest are the ones which are considered “deep dive” content and generally range from 2000 to 5000 words in length. If you want to be remarkable, you’ll have to commit to putting several words down on the page.
Depth is also critical in search engine rankings. There’s a reason top SEO practitioners recommend writing over 2000 words per post. It’s because those are the posts that rank the best. On average, #1 ranking posts on Google, in competitive areas, average just over 2100 words per post.
There are times when brevity suits the situation. If someone wants to know the time in Helsinki, there’s no need explaining to the reader how to make a watch in Finland. Give them the time and get on with it. However, if your topic is about how to do something, then commit to the topic and provide the word count that they’ll need to find it substantial.
When writing a new piece of content, it’s critical that the content fits the intent of the searcher. Search intent boils down to 4 different ways that people look for information. When they use a search engine, they’re trying to find information to accomplish a goal. That goal needs to be kept in mind when formulating content so that it properly fits their purpose.
The 4 Types of Search Intent Include:
If someone is looking to find out who the 23rd president of the United States was or who won a sporting event last night, they’re performing informational searches.
Sometimes these are answers to simple questions. Other times they are more complex questions about how to do something, like tie a tie or start a fire without a match or lighter.
A blog post can address a single topic, like, “How do I format a blog post for informational search intent?”, or it could include that topic as one component in a larger article. Often it’s better to have several such sub-topics as part of a larger one so that you can answer several related questions all in one place.
Question: How to format a blog post for informational search intent?
Answer: Formatting a blog post for informational search intent means presenting the question and presenting the answer in clear, concise language. The answer shouldn’t require a sieve in order to strain out the correct answer – it should be there jumping off the page at them!
When someone using a search engine is looking for a specific resource, like “KnownHost” or “Facebook”, it’s a navigational search. They want to find a property on the web. It can also be more specific, like “KnownHost AUP” or “KnownHost Wiki”.
People often make navigational searches because they’re quicker and easier than typing in a full URL or because they don’t remember the exact URL to type into the address bar.
As mobile becomes more predominant, these become more common and even take place as voice searches, eliminating the need for typing at all.
Formatting a blog post for navigational searches comes down to ranking for the search term specifically. In the case of “KnownHost AUP”, search engines would automatically look for resources on the authoritative site KnownHost.com for pages dealing with AUP (acceptable use policy).
Page Title: The phrase should be used in the page title. The closer to the left of the title, the better, because that’s the most important part of the title. It’s also hugely important for search rankings.
First Paragraph: Within the first paragraph of text on the page, the phrase you’re wanting optimized for should be prominently mentioned. In this case, mentioning “KnownHost Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)” would give mention to both the phrase and a semantically related alternative, which is ideal because search engines understand how acronyms and their expanded full word versions mean one in the same thing, giving you two mentions of the key information right from the start.
H1: Including the key phrase in the large, prominent heading, of the page is another search engine signal that this is what the page is all about. Including a mention in the H1 is a positive step in the right direction.
Image ALT Text: Whether you have one image or 20 on a page, one near the top should include your keyword phrase being optimized in the image ALT text. The ALT text is supposed to describe in text what the image depicts visually so that someone who cannot see the image, such as those with a screen reader, would understand what the image is about. Include your keyword phrase somewhere in the ALT text of one image, not many images, on the page.
Saturation: It’s no longer recommended that you mention the same phrase over and over again 25 times on the page as a way of getting to rank for that phrase. In fact, a few mentions can often be enough, particularly on a page that’s shorter, rather than longer.
When a search engine user is looking to make a purchase, their intent is said to be transactional. In these cases, they’re looking to buy something, find a deal or a discount, or otherwise get details about where to find what they’re looking for at a good price.
Transactional searches might include words like “buy”, “cheap”, “discount”, “coupon” or “sale”. When someone is looking to buy a service or a large item, they often include “near me” or include a zipcode or city in the search phrase.
How do you format blog posts for transactional searches?
To format blog posts so they rank better on transactional searches you need to use the common “buy-phrases” listed above throughout your content. If you’ve got a post that showcases your company and the line of low-priced watches, you’ll want to use the word cheap, discount, inexpensive, low-cost, low-priced, bargain and other sale related words throughout.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve included your location on the site, the blog and the post page in question. This is typically done with local business structured data or structured markup, the inclusion of address information + maps and including your company information on sites like Google My Business.
4. Purchase Research aka Commercial Investigation
There are many times when someone is looking for information that may lead to a purchase, eventually, but for which there is just the need to research it at the moment. Maybe they’re trying to determine which SUV they’ll pick as their next vehicle or what zero calorie diet drink they’ll want to try next, particularly if it’s root beer flavored.
Searches that are done prior to a purchase, but aren’t necessarily about making a purchase in the here and now, are purchase research or commercial investigation searches.
People at this stage of the buying process might be doing comparisons of “brand a vs brand b” or looking for reviews about product a (or the brand behind it). They also might search for “best”, “top”, “top 10”, “strengths and weaknesses” or other searches that seek to find the good, the bad and the ugly about a particular company or product line and how well they fit into the pecking order of the market as a whole.
How do you format blog posts for commercial investigation searches?
If you want to be found for commercial investigation searches, you’ll need to go long form (deep dive) and include multiple items, typically in a list format. Posts that rank best for commercial investigation typically are lists of the top 10, top 20, 50, or even the ultimate guide to blah blah blah in nature.
Wanting to rank for “best restaurants in Austin”?
You’ll find the top results include lists of the top 10, top 19, top 38 and top 23. You’ll not be breaking into the top 4 results with a list of just one or two restaurants. Others rounding out the top 10 include ones that focus on “coolest, hottest, newest”, and deal with organizing the data by cuisine, neighborhood, price range, female friendly, special offers like happy hour, and more speciality information.
The way to rank for commercial investigation is to be detailed, specific, include tons of information about each and go long with the size of the list. You won’t be ranking with 300 words about your own restaurant – it’s just not going to happen.
As Abu Bakr said, “Without Knowledge, action is useless and knowledge without action is futile.”
Want to know the number one technique to driving more organic search traffic? Give massive value! Give value that includes actionable information.
It’s one thing to answer a question and answer it well. It’s another thing to give the reader something they can take away. Using this post as an example, by now you should have been able to make a checklist of what things you can do to format your blog posts for top search rankings and traffic that includes:
– content length of 2000+ words
– title, first paragraph, H1 and image ALT with the keyword phrase
– content aligned to search intent with specific words to use
– what markup to use for location so that you’re found for local/near-me searches
– when to use lists and how many items are needed to have a shot at the top 5
– creating content that’s actionable
Giving value means not just informing and entertaining the readers, the infotainment is a good step in the right direction.
Giving massive value means empowering the reader to take action, today, in concrete, specific steps that will benefit them. Maybe they’ll have more readers to their website, lose weight, be loved and admired, get rid of that pesky snoring sound they make. Whatever the case may be – giving value means providing specific knowledge that can be acted upon immediately.
There’s more to success than just achieving good search rankings. Once visitors get on the page, you want to keep them there so that they consume the content, sign up for your newsletter, read other pages and buy your stuff, whatever that may be. In order for these things to happen, your blog posts need to be engaging.
How to format blog posts so that they’re engaging?
Some of the most popular techniques for building engagement include:
– use statistics – numbers turn vague generalities into realities that people appreciate
– use graphs, charts and images – a picture really is worth 1,000 words
– use questions – and answers, because each is stored away as knowledge they’ve gained
– use controversy – go against conventional wisdom and be remembered
– use quotes – reinforce your position with the opinions of noteworthy others
– ask for input – get readers to comment about their situation and experience
Give Them What They Crave
You could follow all the above guidance, write solid quality content that ranks and do well. You’d get traffic, people would bookmark and share the content, many would take action on the day they read it – following the steps you’ve outlined for them to take. That would be a win.
There are certain types of content that inspire people, that influence them and drive them to take action. These types of content are what they crave. The best storytellers, both brands and individuals, are able to use these types of content as their modus operandi (their way of doing something). You can use any, or all, plus there are plenty of others, but these should help you get started in the road to blog storytelling.
How to format blog posts so that they give people what they crave?
When you want people to feel inspired and satiated by what we’ve read, give us content that…
– Tells us a story – we love to see things unfold, particularly with twists and turns
– Makes us smile – we love to laugh, especially in difficult times
– Reveals something – we love surprises, secrets and forbidden knowledge
– Has a winning underdog – we love good overcoming evil and the little guy coming out ahead
– Confirms dreams come true – we love it when dreams become reality
– Takes us back to basics – we love age old wisdom that still makes good sense
– Pushes us to persevere – we love tenacity and how pushing forward pays off eventually
There are dozens of different approaches to content we crave. You don’t have to pick one and stick with it forever, just try some of these out from time to time in formatting your blog posts.
While technically not a blog formatting technique, having patience plays a big part in getting your blog posts to rank well.
Those eager to have every post rank really well will spend considerable time and effort in tweaking a post in order to get it to rank better. Sometimes, they’ll spend so much time making changes and watching rankings bounce to and fro that they’ll mistakenly undo something good and do something bad!
Keep in mind that the average blog post takes 3-6 months in order to gain traction in search results. You need to give it time before you automatically start making changes.
Google realized that people were trying to manipulate how pages ranked in the search engine and instituted (even patented) an approach to combating this called the Google Rank-Modifying Spamming Patent.
To prevent spammers from making changes, watching search rankings, then making more changes over and over again, Google came up with the rather brilliant technique of giving false readings.
When someone makes a positive change that Google sees as an attempt to manipulate the rankings, in some cases they’ll send rankings worse, knowing they should in fact improve. This signals to the would-be manipulator that they’ve done something wrong, so they undo their changes thinking they’ve made it all better again.
The way to overcome this situation is to make a set of changes based on solid knowledge of what works, then wait and wait some more. Over a period of time the true ranking result will appear, after the false signals have faded.
Plan your work. Work your plan. Be patient.
Focus on creating content that is memorable and lengthy enough to add real value. If it’s something a reader can take action on, today, to make their life better, then odds are it’ll be perceived by search engines as something worth ranking well.
Optimize, focus on answering questions of importance and build in such a way that the content is aligned to the search intent of the person behind it by using the right phrases for the search.
Don’t delay, start today! Put these techniques in motion and your blog post formatting will result in better rankings, better traffic and ultimately better conversions for your website.