THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1. One simple way to get readers to hang around your site
2. Two alternatives (one automatic, one manual) for achieving that
3. The business case for doing this
A business blog isn’t just an outlet for your writing. It has two functions: to get readers to do something, and to get your website noticed by search engines like Google. And there is one simple SEO copywriting trick you can do on your blog posts that will help you achieve both those aims.
To understand how a search engine tries to view and rank your website, I have to use some jargon. So I apologise in advance. But the jargon is important, because it can explain the behaviour of both people and search engines.
Your digital surgery
Think of your site like your dental surgery. Imagine the search engine is a guy just hanging around the business, watching the people who visit (but not in a creepy way).
If the vast majority of them walk in the front door, look around, and run straight out again, they are not endorsing you. But if most of them are hanging around for implants, some whitening and other treatments, then they are endorsing you. And the mystery search engine guy hanging around the practice will take a note of that.
If this takes place on your website, search engines call it ‘user engagement signals’. Search engines don’t like to reveal exactly what signals they use, and the balance of signals. But we do have a general idea of what some important user engagement signals may be.
This is the measurement of the percentage of users who visit only one page on your website. When you look at your Google Analytics results, you can see the bounce rate of pages on your site. If it’s sitting between 40 and 60 per cent, you’re the same as most people.
That could mean around half the people who visit your site from a search engine find what they were looking for, and leave again. Problem is, it could also mean they go to your site, realise it’s not helping them, and go back to do another search or check another result.
That’s why an important engagement signal is …
Time on page
This is also known as the ‘dwell time’, and is also measured by the search engine. It makes sense that if you spend a long time on the page, it means you like what you see there.
Unfortunately, it could also show that you have fallen asleep or wandered off to get a cuppa. That’s why they also think about …
Time on site
If your average site visitor is spending a lot of time on your site, surfing around, it may mean that they are really engaged in the content you have to offer. This could indicate that your site is a high quality one.
However, it also might mean your site is difficult to navigate around, or loads really slowly (which might be a by-product of having lots of high-resolution images on it, for example). So time on site alone isn’t the best indicator. But measured in conjunction with others, it can be very revealing.
Pages per visit
Similar to the measurement of time on site, this can be a great indicator of quality. Unfortunately, it can also be manipulated. Think of those sites you see on social media offering a list of something, which demands you click on a link to see each subsequent entry.
That’s why, if pages per visit are measured, it’s more likely to be in conjunction with …
Do people come back? We know that Google remembers the sites you’ve visited. Have you ever done a search, only to be faced with results with a line underneath saying, “You’ve visited this page 4 times before”?
If people are returning to your site multiple times, that strongly suggests they like what they are seeing. And the search engines notice that.
Copywriting for people and SEO
It may seem intimidating to have to think of those factors when you just want to write a blog post. But there is a way you can address all of them (to a degree), without looking like you’re trying to write for a search engine.
It’s by finishing your blog post with a simple call-to-action.
A call-to-action is a simple sentence or two (or maybe a paragraph) at the end of your blog post telling people what to do next.
Don’t go for the hard sell
Calls-to-action are really misunderstood by many people, including copywriters. They think it has to ‘close the sale’, or shift people closer to buying something. But they don’t have to be ‘salesy’.
Why not use your calls-to-action to drive people towards other, related bits of content on your website? It may be more appealing to them than a sales message, given that they have already expressed an interest in your content. They're just not ready to take the next step.
Think about those ‘related stories’ links you find at the bottom of newspaper articles when you’re reading them online. Many newspapers have two groups—one is a list of stories from the newspaper itself. The other is a list of stories from elsewhere on the web (which is a paid advertising service from those other sites).
Two ways to do a call-to-action
There’s two ways to do this on your website: manually or automatically. The automatic way is easy if you have a WordPress site—just get the ‘related stories’ plugin, and let it do its work. You’ll see from the bottom of this page that we use the related stories plugin, and it does just fine.
However, like any plugin or algorithm, it’s not as good as a person. That’s why I like to have a final paragraph which functions as a call-to-action, explaining what you can do next. It might suggest reading another post to take the next step in the publishing process, or taking a step backwards to understand the topic a little better.
A manual call-to-action also lets you ask people to sign up for your newsletter again in a non-intrusive way.
The business benefit
Having those extra couple of links to other blog posts on your site benefits people, because it helps them to find relevant, connected information. It will help them understand something they have just read in a deeper way.
If it works in that way, search engines will also like it, and reward you with a higher ranking. Because all the side effects of helping people spend time on your site include those engagement metrics I listed above.
Search engines also like internal links on your pages. If your blog post doesn’t lead anywhere else, the search engine crawlers checking it out will treat it like a dead end. Because it is one.
Finally, there is a direct link in the benefits to your business. If people like what they read on your site, they are far more likely to sign up for an email newsletter. And if you make it easy for them by asking them to sign up, you are creating more potential patients.
The next step
Do you look at your website now and think, “Gee, there’s stuff I should change on my blog to get search engines to notice it”? I wrote a post recently that takes a simple, step-by-step guide to basic stuff you should do with your blog posts that will make them more readable for computers. If you think you’re ready to take the next step, and focus on using your blog to build your email list, there’s some important laws you should know about privacy, copyright and defamation before you start.
So what do you think?
If any of that is unclear, please feel free to leave a comment. I do read them and comment back, and I’m more than happy to discuss it with you.
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