If you’re the brains behind a current news site or a future news site, and you want to increase news site engagement, this blog post is for you.
Have a read and gather some key insights, which will help you start the ever-evolving process of ranking on Google.
Before we dive right in, let’s talk a bit about SEO and engagement.
Firstly, according to this article, there are 1.7 billion websites. This is not taking into consideration sites present on the dark web. Moreover, there are close to 5 billion people who search the web every day.
With over 3 billion web searches on Google, you know you have to bring your A-game when it comes to any SEO battle.
The top 15 news sites boast over 1 billion, unique monthly visitors.
If you want a piece of that pie, read on to find out some important basic factors that you need to take into account.
1. Show Your Why
Knowing your WHY is the secret to a long-lasting brand.
Your WHY is basically your mission statement. Consider BBC’s mission statement, which is: “To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”.
The key objective of BBC is to represent and serve the diverse communities of all of nations and regions, especially the UK.
How exactly do you find your WHY? Simon Sinek answers this brilliantly in this 20-minute video.
But if I were to break it down into three simple areas, it would be as follows.
1. Why: This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.
2. How: This is how the business fulfills that core belief.
3. What: This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.
Figured out your WHY? Good. Now honor it, and don’t stray away from it.
2. Get Your UX On Point
UX is all about your page experience, and a good experience will help you increase news site engagement. This experience affects your SEO ranking. Google recently stated that UX is about to become an important ranking factor for all websites.
There are plenty of resources online that point you in the right direction. We’ve identified some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to the UX of your site.
Go HTTPS: Google upholds security for all, and going HTTPS helps prevent intruders from tampering with the communications between your websites and your users' browsers, such as intrusive companies, such as ISPs or hotels that inject ads into pages.
Stay Clutter-free: One of the main things that affect a great page experience is clutter. Many sites have taken a minimalist approach, and this is now the norm.
Intrusive Ads: Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. Ask yourself this question: Would you want to be interrupted while reading the news?
Malicious Content: Don’t be that site that offers to host free downloads that promise one thing but behave differently. These downloads perform actions (displaying spam ads, performing click fraud, or stealing other users’ passwords) without the user’s consent.
Autoplay Videos: There’s nothing quite as annoying as clicking to read a story on Covid-19, and having a video jump at you promoting the best tourist places to visit. While that’s probably in bad taste, you wouldn’t want any interruption in any form.
3. Reliable Source Of Truth
Marcus Aurelius stated that: Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
I am stating the obvious here, but every news site offers its own perception of the facts.
Having said that, as a news site, you are a YMYL site, and you need to ensure that you come across as authentic.
It would be fair to say that while there are many shades of grey that color our worldview.
Choose a perspective that you will stick to.
While E-A-T is extremely important, and, possibly more so, since we are about news sites, it is not a ranking factor.
Expert Level: Be knowledgeable about a certain area. Ensure you communicate this knowledge in a way that engages your audience. Find out what your audience is searching for, then meet and exceed their needs.
Be An Authority: Journalistic authority is found within relationships between journalists and the public, their sources, tools, and their critics.
Seek Virality: Content becomes popular when it is useful and helpful. Sensationalism won't help in the long run, and will only serve to throw cold water over-enthusiasm.
Trend Bandwagon: Trends are a good indication of the future, but jumping on the latest and greatest is not advisable. One trend that does more harm than good depending on the context is having a paywall.
Fake It: In other words, be authentic. There has been an upsurge in fake news in the last decade. This is something that is a serious issue. And, ironically, it has given rise to credible sources of news.
4. Optimise For Voice Search
Convenience is in, and it is one of the main driving factors for the increase in voice searches. It is easier to use your voice than your fingers, and this helps increase news site engagement.
(Here’s a fun fact: the large majority of this blog post was crafted using voice dictation on my MacBook Air.)
You’d think that it’s mainly smartphone users that have decided to maneuver the World Wide Web with their voices. Desktop users are using voice to search online.
Google has become a repository of answers, and you’d realize this when you ask a question via voice. Ask a question and the answer just pops up.
Write Simple: Google is heading in the direction of the Star Trek computer. The understanding natural language that is conversational is what will drive an audience to your site, and help you rank.
Use Long-Tail Keywords: Use long-tail keywords in your content. An example is: Where are the best restaurants in NYC? A conversational tone is what is going to help your site rank.
Optimize For Video: When using natural language (that is, voice), you’ll find that Google shows video results first.
Write Fancy: Stay away from fancy language. Google voice is all about being answer-driven.
Forego Device Behavior: To put it simply: know your customer. Some people use Windows-enabled smartphones while others prefer iOS and Android. And each generation uses voice technology to different degrees.
5. Be Mobile Friendly
Is your site mobile-friendly? Google Search Console's Mobile-Friendly Test is the easiest way to check if your site makes the cut.
Google rolled out its Page Experience Update for 2021 recently. Ensuring that your site is mobile-friendly is a big deal. The reason for this is that more and more people are using their smartphones to consume media on the internet. Global mobile traffic increased from 6% in 2011 to 56% in 2021.
A Few Tips
Here's a list of quick tips on what you should look into when making your website mobile-friendly.
Have a responsive web design.
Make information easier to find.
Get rid of ads that block text.
Make your site fast by using AMP.
Keep your web design simple.
Use bigger font sizes.
Don't use Flash.
Making your website mobile-friendly is directly linked to the user experience of your site.
6. Be A Content Benchmark
The digital landscape is changing and there is a difference when it comes to copywriting and content writing.
The former is meant to create leads and conversions. The latter’s job is to inform. As a news site, and as a journalist-driven entity, the type of writing would be a combination of being informative and opinionated.
The news has changed drastically over the years. It has become more social and also more data-driven.
A Few Tips
There are a few things you can do if your aim is to be a content marketing benchmark. Here they are:
Define your competition.
Define your keywords that convert.
Analyze the competition's keywords.
Choose the right split of content types.
Identify story angles.
Hire journalists with a following.
Choose your niche.
Consider The Economist as a benchmark when it comes to data journalism and analysis. Similar benchmarks would be BBC and CNN in their respective spaces.
7. Tone Down The Bias
Out of over 300,000 YouTube comments on over 190 videos about abortion, the conversation was more respectful when the videos focused on personal experiences instead of facts and statistics.
Truth has varying shades of grey; Friedrich Nietzsche said it best: What is the truth, but a lie agreed upon?
Being swayed by an emotional story (if it's not substantiated with facts) can be because it is biased. Plenty of news sites are biased.
So, if this is the case, should you as a news site cover your stories with a veil of bias? Just make sure your story angle isn't overly biased where you are accused of being exactly that.
This largely depends on the position you take. If its eyeballs you are after, cater to what the eyes want to see.
If your aim is to speak the truth, cater to that. Over the long haul, this will help increase news site engagement.
8. Use A Newsletter
One is because of the lack of time. People are time-poor. Some say that it is a matter of perception, but analysts at McKinsey, for instance, say that a “perennial time scarcity problem” afflicts corporate executives.
While some of us click over to our favorite news sites to gather information, most of us don't have time.
As a person who reads and writes a lot, I subscribe to the Pocket newsletter where I have all the news I need at just a click.
While there are enough reasons to have a newsletter if you are a news site, one important factor is to help your content compete with the rest of the stories elsewhere.
The truth is that you need eyeballs on your site, and a newsletter does exactly this.
At some point after garnering a huge readership, you could opt for a subscription model that can help you earn as well.
The 8 ways above will help you start your journey as a news site or help improve your current news site.
Additionally here's an extra tip. As a news site that is looking to build a loyal following, give your audience a voice. This will help you increase news site engagement.
Connecting with your audience and building up credibility is non-negotiable. We wrote about 6 famous sites that have comments sections, and the level of credibility that is present on those sites shows that audience interaction can lead to loyalty and sustainability.
Community is everything, and this draws a thin line between a good news site and a great one.