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You may not have an enormous number of visitors to your website, but there are a number of ways Google measures how good it is. And there is one thing you need on every blog post that helps grow your audience and your Google results. By Morgan Waugh
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. For the last 15 years, people have been trying all sorts of tricks to make the blogs on their websites more appealing to both people and search engines. According to Rob Johnson, content director of Engage Content, there’s one simple thing you can do on your blog posts that will help you achieve both those aims.
“First, to understand how the search engines work, think of your site like your dental surgery,” says Johnson. “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’. If you log into your practice’s Google Analytics account, you can see all these metrics on the page. 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.
1. Bounce rate
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,” Johnson explains. “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 …
2. 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,” says Johnson. That’s why they also think about …
3. 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 highquality one.
“However, it also might mean your site is difficult to navigate around, or loads really slowly,” Johnson says. “So time on site alone isn’t the best indicator. But measured in conjunction with others, it can be very revealing.”
One of those other measurements may be…
4. 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 …
5. Repeat visits
“Do people come back?” asks Johnson. “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 four 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 bots
According to Johnson, there is one simple thing you can do to have an impact on all those factors. And it applies whether you’re writing or hiring a copywriter to produce your blog. It’s by finishing your blog post with a simple call-to-action.
“A call-to-action is a simple sentence or two at the end of your blog post telling people what to do next,” Johnson explains.
“Calls-to-action are really misunderstood by many people. They think it has to ‘close the sale’, or shift people closer to buying something. But they don’t have to be ‘salesy’. You use your calls-to-action to drive people towards other, related bits of content on your website for example.”
If people are reading something on your website, they don’t necessarily know what to do next. Since your blog is meant to build a relationship with potential patients, guiding them to do something gives them a reason to hang around. 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 listed above.
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. 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,” Johnson says. “It might suggest reading another post to take the next step in your research, or taking a step backwards to understand the topic a little better. Having those extra couple of links to other blog posts on your site benefits people, because it helps them to find relevant, connected information.
“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.”