4 Qualities in Our Top-Ranking Blog Content (and How to Use Them in Yours)

By Sarah Asp Olson

Blogging can feel a little bit like screaming (or typing) into the void. 

How do you know if your lovingly crafted content is connecting with readers? Is your post generating traffic for your website? Is it bringing in new leads and/or customers? Does any of this even. Matter. At all?!

Okay, dramatic, but it’s a valid question. 

There are all sorts of metrics you can (and should) track — like page views, bounce rate and SERP rankings. 

But when it comes to actually putting words and images on the page, what’s most important? 

To answer that, we looked at some of our own top-performing posts and found four common elements that contributed to their success. 

In this post, we’ll offer our recommendations and tips on how to integrate these components as you create your own blog content. 

1. Long-Form Content

There are plenty of opinions on the ideal length of blog content. Some have honed in on an exact number (Buffer says 1,600 words; Hubspot recommends between 2,100 and 2,400), while others call the whole question a load of BS. 

A 2022 Orbit Media survey of 1,016 bloggers found that 65% of bloggers publish posts in the 500–1,500 word range, while 19% publish content between 1,500 and 2,000 words long. The average post was 1,376 words. 

The average length of our top-performing blogs this year was just about 1,500 words.

Why long-form content? 

The purpose of long-form blog content is to provide valuable information that readers want to engage with. Longer content allows for more context and explanation — which is especially good for complex topics.  

Source: Backlinko 

Long-form content also: 

  • Ranks. When Backlinko analyzed the top 10 Google results for specific keywords, “the average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.”
  • Builds credibility. 
  • Gets backlinks. Long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than shorter articles. 
  • Gets shared. Long-form content (about 1,000 words) gets shared more across social media platforms, but there are diminishing returns after the 2,000-word mark.

Here’s an example from our own site:

At 1,717 words, “The Best Google Web Fonts: A Designer’s Perspective” gave our lead art director, Ben, the space to dig into examples of how and when to use different fonts. 

Source: “The Best Google Web Fonts: A Designer’s Perspective” 

Of course, length is only one piece of the ranking puzzle. According to Google’s quality guidelines, a high-quality page should:

  • Achieve its purpose well.
  • Have a high level of expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
  • Have a satisfying amount of main content, including a descriptive and helpful title.

Longer blog posts offer you the chance to add value, which Google likes, but Google’s quality raters won’t look favorably on a 2,000-word post that’s mostly fluff — and, frankly, neither will your readers. 

2. Quality Visuals 

We writers pride ourselves on painting pictures with our words. But, do you know what’s better than word pictures? 

Actual pictures. 

That’s because visuals help us absorb and remember content. When you hear a piece of information, you’ll likely remember about 10% three days later. Add a picture, and that number jumps to 65%. 

Using images in blog posts: 

  • Breaks up large chunks of text.
  • Enlivens content.
  • Explains content.

Your audience will connect better with the content you’re sharing when they have a visual attached to it. Just ask our resident graphic designer: 

How many images per post? Buzzsumo found the ideal word-to-image ratio is one visual component for every 75 to 100 words. 

Source: Buzzmo

If you reference our blog length guidelines above, you’ll discover that equals about 15 images per post. 


You aren’t alone in that reaction. Orbitz found that only about 4% of bloggers are regularly creating content with 10-plus images. But the payoff for those who do is significant. The rare few in the 10-plus club were 42% more likely to report “strong results” from the photo-rich post. 

Make images count. Just like adding words for the sake of length has diminishing returns, stuffing your post full of static stock images is not going to have the payoff you’re hoping for. Quality visual elements add value to your post. Here are some examples from our blog: 

Headshots give visual interest to quotes from subject matter experts.

Use infographics like this one from Hubspot to illustrate complicated concepts. 

Screenshots offer further context and help readers retain information. 

Data visualization clarifies concepts and stats. 

How to generate images. Tools like Canva have opened up the design world to bloggers who may not have in-house design staff. They can be a great way to start creating original art. 

A word about stock images. The fact is, original graphics are better than stock — about 40% better, according to one estimate. But that doesn’t mean you should throw out the stock altogether. Here are some tips for selecting stock images: 

  • Choose a reputable site (there are even some good free ones out there).
  • Avoid cliches. Stay away from overused tropes like “woman smiling while eating salad” or the happy employee huddle.  
  • Use people. We are predisposed from infancy to be attracted to faces. Make a smiling face part of your post if possible. 
  • Edit images by flipping them or overlaying a quote.  

3. A Journalistic Approach

More than anything else, we’ve hung our hat on creating well-researched, expertly written content. We call ourselves a content-driven digital marketing agency, and we mean it. 

We take a journalistic approach to our blog content strategy, meaning we value research, curiosity, accuracy and research from start to finish. 

Our process looks something like this: 

1. Choosing a Topic

You can write the most beautiful content in the blogosphere, but if it’s about something your audience isn’t interested in, you’ve wasted your time. The key to selecting a great topic is to share information that plays to your strengths, is relevant to your industry and hits home with your target audience. 

Our senior account manager, Madison, is heavily involved in topic selection for the m3 blog. Here’s what she has to say about topic selection:

2. Writing

Exceptional storytelling is one of the most important components of the work we do — both on our own blog and in the content we create for clients. We keep our buyer personas front of mind and craft each narrative as if we’re sitting down to talk face to face. 

As for how we structure our pieces to maximize the storytelling approach, check out a few of our top performers: 

The Listicle. In our highest-ranking post of the year, we laid out “10 Proven Ways to Increase Website Traffic.” The list style gives readers bite-sized bits of information that are easy to read, but it has enough meat to be helpful. 

Source: m3 Blog

The “How-To” Post. How-tos are educational and offer readers valuable information. Here, we guided readers through the process of creating a B2B marketing strategy in nine easy steps. 

Source: m3 Blog

The “What” Post. Perfect for readers who may be new to your product or services, a “what” posts explain concepts and why they are important. 

Source: m3 Blog

Other post formats we like: 

  • The feature article.
  • The thought leadership post.
  • The FAQ post.
  • The interview post. 

3. Editing

Editing is one of the most important steps in the content creation process. Just ask Wendy, our senior editor. 

4. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most consistent ways to drive traffic to your blog. In fact, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, so ranking near the top of Google’s page one is key to getting clicks. 

We do this in several ways by making sure every post includes: 

  • High-volume, target keywords. These are words that are both relevant to your content and that people are likely to search for. Google offers tools to help you find the right keywords.  
  • Keywords with two search intents, such as informational and commercial. Search intent is the reason people are typing a query into Google. Understanding search intent can go a long way toward boosting your visibility. 
  • Anchors/hyperlinks. These are your internal links and should be used with other high-volume keywords. The best way to optimize your anchors is to use high-volume keywords in a different search intent than your target keyword. 
  • A long-tail keyword in the title. Long-tail keywords are the literal phrases users type into the Google search bar. Using these in your H1, or blog post title, helps Google understand what the blog post is about. 

Examples of long-tail keyword headlines

If this feels intimidating, don’t worry — you’re not alone. SEO can be a tricky concept. We write about it often for that very reason. Download our free e-book, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which breaks down key SEO terms, best practices and helpful tips. 

A Final Word

These four components rose to the surface as we scanned our top-performing posts. While it’s not a comprehensive list, implementing these tactics may be a good place to start as you think about your own blog content. And, as always, we’re here to answer any questions you may have or lend a hand along the way. 

Happy blogging!

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Sarah Asp Olson

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