What Do Search Engines Look for in Blogs?

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Welcome to Gettin’ Meta, a series of blogs about…writing blogs! Each month we’ll break down what you need to know about writing blogs that drive traffic, engagement, and clicks, all redirected back to your business. 

For many businesses, blogs serve as a double threat: they can present important information about your industry while also boosting your rankings in the search results. That is if they’re done right. So, knowing how to raise your SEO scores through blogs can be tricky if you’re unsure of what things should be emphasized. More than that, the uninitiated may not be aware of the interworkings that hinder their SEO advancement. So, let’s peel back the curtain and breakdown what search engines look for in blogs.

The Bread and Butter: Keywords and Keyphrases

Any discussion of SEO in blog writing always begins with keywords and keyphrases. Keywords and keyphrases are the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes, the…well, you get it. Keywords can be a single word but more commonly are keyphrases that you want a search engine to focus on when finding you in the search results. Keywords are almost like the driving instructions used to traverse the world of search results. When focusing on particular keywords, you always want to strike a balance. Too many repeating keywords in your blogs and on your website and search engines will rank you lower because they believe you are promoting spam. I know, there are no easy outs in the world of SEO. Striking the right balance is easier than you may think. Simply employ a WordPress plugin tool like Yoast SEO, which will help evaluate your keyword density throughout the blogpost.

Big Words, Big Word Counts

Did you know big words help your SEO? Okay, I’m not actually talking about long words. What I’m referring to are header tags. You know, that big thing hanging over this paragraph. That is an H2 header tag. Your title will usually automatically format as an H1, and for all other section subheaders in your blog, you should be using H2 tags. H3 and H4 tags can be used in specialized examples, such as in subsections within a paragraph. For instance:

Reasons Why I Love Petting My Dog (H1)

I’d like to discuss things about my dog, and why I love petting him.

My List of Reasons Why I Like Petting My Pup (H2)

Below I’ll utilize a sublist within the paragraph and use the H3 tag for each sub category.

He’s Very Cute (H3)

But also fluffy

He’s Also the Goodest Boy But Don’t Tell Him That (H3)

Don’t need this dog getting any ideas related to treats or walks right now.

Outside of this style, you will rarely, if ever need to employ H3 and H4 tags. Search engines typically crawl your blogs and use the header tags to determine what the blog is about. For this reason, reinforcing your keyphrase in the section headers is very useful.

Next, let’s discuss word counts. The bane of every college student with an essay due in ten minutes, word counts are just as important in SEO as they are to that college professor who docked you points for being a few words short of the requirement. Search engines will do the same. The standard word count for most blogs put out by small businesses is 300 to 500 words. This is the sweet spot so to say. However, feel free to go over if you like. The real damage comes if you fall under that threshold. Many small businesses will put out 200-word blogs and think they’re doing enough. Your blogs should probably be longer than a tweet, right?

Contrary to popular belief, repeating your keyword over and over again in a very short blog is not a recipe for success. But also, otters!

We like to keep things light, so I included this tangentially related tweet about otters. Good for SEO? Maybe not. Good for our souls in what can be a challenging business? Very! Also, don’t do what I am doing right now. This would be what we call padding a word count. Including a bunch of unrelated information simply to trick the search engine into thinking you’ve hit the 300-word threshold or have exceeded it. Search engines will take note of this, and likely de-rank you because what you’re saying has little to do with the topic you’ve established via your keywords and header tags.

The Intangibles

To understand what search engines look for in blogs, we have to breakdown the intangibles. Let’s fire through some of those right now to see the inner workings of blog SEO.

Media

Blogs are about more than just words. Media is important because it helps diversify the content of the blog, making it more interesting to search engines, and thus improving your rankings. This is especially true in the case of original photos or videos utilized on your blog.

Alt-Text Descriptions

Speaking of media, don’t forget to include your alt-text descriptions! These will explain what a photo or video is trying to display in the case that it doesn’t load properly. These are important to search engines because in the case of websites, nothing is perfect and everything just simply breaks for no reason at all sometimes.

Meta Description

Meta descriptions are something you’re already very familiar with, even if you don’t recognize it by name. It’s the little sliver of text that appears beneath a page title in the search results that tells you a little bit about the page. If you don’t manually set this, the search engine will pull from the blog what it thinks is an accurate part as the meta description, but AI isn’t always the best at withdrawing context from written English. If I didn’t set my meta description for this blog, the search engines might think it’s actually about dogs or otters. Not so good for SEO.

Backlinks

Backlinks are the shady backroom dealings of SEO operating all around you without your knowledge. Okay, not really but they can seem that way at times. Backlinks are essentially how many times other pages are linking back to your blog or website. So for instance, if I were to tell you I found that otter tweet on this list of other funny tweets celebrating the 280 character count, I have officially created a backlink to it. Pretty cool, huh? Try to get these where you can, as they are important.

Reader Retention

The last thing I want to note here is reader retention. This is simply a fancy way of saying how long someone spends on the page looking at your blog (maybe even reading it if you’re lucky enough). This is important to the conversation of what search engines look for in blogs because those where readers only spend a few seconds may cause the search engine to think it’s simply spam, and de-rank it. Keeping people reading is a subtle little way to help boost your SEO.

Search Engines Look for in Blogs What Most of Us Do

At the end of the day, all of these small things may seem like a hassle but really they all just go into making the experience of reading a blog better. We all know when we’ve come across a blog where the writer simply hasn’t put the time or effort in. It’s important that everything we create online to represent our companies actually represents it.

If you aren’t sure how to get your blog where it needs to be, contact the team here at Urban Ignite. We don’t play around when it comes to creating stellar content for small businesses.

We may, however, show you more pictures of dogs and otters because we all need more dog and otter pictures in our lives.

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Anna

As a Design Specialist for Urban Ignite, Anna Hughes works to create stronger visual aesthetics for client brands via web design and development, social media template design, print collateral, and a variety of other design-centric projects. Her goal is to craft successful, direct, and on-brand design materials to help companies better communicate their mission and purpose. Anna brings thorough experience in print-based projects, giving her a tangible understanding of typography and layout design. Anna works to clearly and creatively communicate a client’s message. 

 

Anna earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Messiah University. She is a huge fan of hiking, running, kayaking, and anything that involves plants and the autumn season.

Brady

Brady Stafford works as a Copywriting Specialist for Urban Ignite, helping clients shape their narrative, tell their story, and expand their portfolio of SEO-driven written content. His copywriting appears on website and landing pages, blog posts, social media posts, and email campaigns. Brady utilizes SEO practices to drive traffic while still creating informative, narratively compelling content across different mediums. 

 

Brady received a BA in History with a minor in Journalism from the University of West Virginia. Several of his historical essays were published by the University. Outside of work, Brady is an avid musician who fills much of his time listening to or playing music. He is also a travel aficionado who enjoys rock climbing and mountaineering (which are different!). Having completed all of his targeted summits on the East Coast, he hopes to conquer Mt. Rainier in Washington and Mt. Denali in Alaska in the future.

Emily

Emily works as a media specialist for Urban Ignite, focusing on videography in production, pre-production, and editing. She uses her skills as a storyteller to visually communicate the stories of our clients and their work, using creativity, problem-solving, and technical knowledge to guide her projects. She graduated from Goucher College with degrees in both Communications and Philosophy, with her philosophical studies amplifying critical analysis and writing skills as well as a love for questioning and research. What she loves most about her career as a videographer is the opportunity to learn a variety of niche knowledge about the different subject matters of her videos. 

 

Outside of work, Emily enjoys painting psychedelic geometric artwork, watching action films, reading science fiction, and learning about history, places, and trivia on Wikipedia. She has a bearded dragon named Franco and sometimes they eat kale together. She plays the piano once a year.

Steven

Steven Quinones works as a Media Specialist at Urban Ignite, balancing pre-production, media shoots, and post-production work. Steven often works directly with clients for on-site shoots, and is an expert at setting the scene and guiding participants through the process. His goal is to help you feel comfortable in front of the camera, and his guidance can help make even your shyest team member feel like a star. Steven previously worked in a professional photography studio for four years, as well as spending for years in a sales position. His freelance work has included music videos, wedding videography, and more. 

 

Steven has travleed and lived across the country, being born and raised in Nevada before making his way to Maryland. He embraces the experience of meeting new people, and connecting with artists in the places he visits. He is a huge fan of stand-up comedy, with Theo Von and Mark Normand among his current favorites. Steven will be the first to tell you that Mexican food is the best of all foods.

Elijah

As Director of Media, Elijah’s goal is to cultivate an environment of collaboration through media production, driving storytelling for clients through excellent photo and video content. They have worked freelance as a cinematographer and editor, whose previous clients include the Chemistry Department and Cell, Molecular, Developmental Biology, and Biophysics Doctoral Program at Johns Hopkins. She also works as an adjunct professor at UMBC for photo and video classes. Elijah received her Masters of Fine Art from the Intermedia + Digital Art Program at UMBC, and her Bachelors of Fine Art in Digital Media from Youngstown State University.

 

Outside of work, Elijah spends time on her own bodies of artistic work, focusing on the act/actions of surveillance, as well as notions of memory, nostalgia, longing, and personal identity. They enjoy, as many do, video games, films, tv shows, but also engage in several hobbies focusing around dilapidated and obsolete technologies, like utilizing VHS camcorders, 8mm/16mm found films, and post-apocalyptic costume making.

Tarah

As Urban Ignite’s Director of Design, Tarah Maxsell is your visual design expert. Her work touches nearly every creative process at our firm, from logo and branding design to web layouts, social media templates, and everything in between. Her process is one of intentionally seeking out beautiful solutions to all of your design challenges. Tarah’s work has been recognized by Out Of Home Today (OOH Today) for excellence in outdoor advertising. 

 

Tarah received a BFA in Fine Arts with a focus on Graphic Design from Messiah University. Tarah enjoys anything she can outside, as well as ceramics and interior design. You’ll most often find her with her husband Nick and their Goldendoodle Wesely.

Christian

As the Director of Web Content, Christian Fuller helps execute your digital marketing strategy through compelling websites, engrossing written content, and an intricate knowledge of best SEO practices. Christian oversees all web design and written content creation projects, helping ensure the final product delivered to you is spectacular. 

Christian believes that content writing is essential to building the narrative of a business. He puts the work in to help your brand find its tone and voice so you can speak the language of your audience. Copy should always grab attention, and communicate something valuable. He helps you find the perfect sweet spot. 

His web design experience allows him to guide our web team efficiently through the process, accounting for elements like the flow of content, website interactivity, and mobile optimization. Christian believes a strong website is an invaluable marketing tool and helps clients execute their creative vision. 

Christian brings 5+ years of copywriting, web design, and SEO experience to the table. He earned his BA in English from the University of Maryland. Outside of work, he is a frequent traveler and camping enthusiast, creative writer, and super fan of anything horror or punk music-related.

Leigh

Leigh Engelke is our coordinator-in-chief as the Operations Director, ensuring everything runs smoothly and efficiently. She is the primary point of contact for clients, addressing their day-to-day needs and communicating new project details to internal staff. Leigh ensures nothing slips through the cracks, and that content output is consistent. She is also responsible for internal procedures at Urban Ignite, helping everyone stay on track and adhere to company policy. 

 

Leigh believes that clear, transparent communication is the key ingredient in a successful business relationship. She wants every client to have clarity on the progress of projects, and be able to communicate any concerns as they arise. Leigh is here to take care of our clients, and she’s excellent at it. Fostering a healthy working environment where employees are free to communicate their feelings is also essential Leigh as Operations Director. 

 

Professionally, Leigh brings experience working with the Maryland Department of Social Services, where organizational efficiency was crucial. Her decade-plus experience in the food service industry gives her excellent personability, knowledge of task management, and the ability to keep up with the fast-paced needs of clients. 

 

Leigh earned a BS in Psychology from Goucher College. When she’s not managing operations for Urban Ignite, you can find her hiking, painting, crocheting, practicing yoga, or just hanging out with her cat and best buddy, Rex.

Jordan

Jordan Fuller is the Founder and Creative Director of Urban Ignite. He works with clients and the team to help drive the creative vision of each project. 

 

Content creation has always been at the core of Jordan’s identity, starting with home movie production at the age of 6 and video editing at 14 for his YouTube channel. He took an optimistic approach, teaching himself web design in case the YouTube channel found success. While that project never achieved virality, it gave Jordan the tools to lay the foundation Urban Ignite would be built upon. 

 

Urban Ignite began with clients in the construction and home remodeling industry, and managed to grow as a trusted digital marketing firm despite its small team. In the early days, Jordan saw the negative effects overworking can have on a team’s creative output. As such, the workplace model was readjusted to focus on efficiency and work-life balance. This model includes industry-competitive pay while maintaining a 30-hour work week. 

 

Jordan is a creative repository for clients, helping them dream bigger when it comes to content and marketing strategies. 

 

In his free time, Jordan enjoys a good concert, nature walks, video games, meditation, or exploring local events across Baltimore. He also loves collaborating with others to make art, whether it’s at work or for personal projects. He is the host of local “house shows” which have showcased local musicians at the Urban Ignite office space for eight years running.