All too often, we worry about unique visitors, overlooking the important metric that is visitor engagement. Not only will these simple tips make a real and quantifiable impact on your site traffic, but they should also help to retain the visitors that you’ve worked so hard to get on your site.
Find the problematic pages
When you’ve an established presence, it becomes more and more important to start to analyse your content and the ways in which people interact with it. With social media being such a powerhorse for traffic, interaction and engagement are fast becoming the new backlink, and knowing how people are reacting, can help you maximise the impact your content is having.
Doing so can help to open up a couple of opportunities, and even provide ideas for fresh content. Find your popular content, re-read, and expand upon it to make it even better.
You can do this very simply by looking at your ‘Top Content’ report in Google Analytics. If you are getting lots of visitors to a page, but have a high bounce rate, that may indicate a page that could do with some extra work.
Keep an eye on ‘Time on Page’ as well, as this could show that the content IS being engaged with, but just not enticing people to visit other pages on the site, and potentially an underlying navigational issue. Another tip is to make sure you select a large enough date range here, as short sharp bursts of traffic for one or two days can influence this report dramatically.
Back date your links
When you start blogging, often you need to rely heavily on supporting material that others have created to explain concepts, and supplement your own writing. Absolutelynothing wrong with that – but sometimes, we forget that older content may benefit from the NEW content that we’ve created.
This is where the concept of ‘back dating’ your links comes in, where you return to old content, re-read, and where appropriate provide links through to the new material. It’s a surprisingly simple way to keep visitors on your site, as they click through from older pages. Personally, I see it as freshening my older content and introducing readers to additional new pages on my blog. At the very worst, you can expect the search traffic that lands on these (sometimes naive) pages to stay that bit longer on your site.
There are of course much more automated ways to do this, with plugins that match keywords in your content with pages on your site. However, before running headlong into this option, you have to be aware that different context’s that keywords are used in, can accidently link an article that makes little sense in the current context of your writing.
Respond to comments quickly
Hat tip to Dawn from Sensei Learning and Performance for this one, who recommends responding to comments on your blog quickly. I’d second that opinion with vigour, adding that along with responding quickly, a good comment plugin (see Subscribe to Comments from these marketing plugins for wordpress) can help your blog grow, receive repeat traffic, and increase engagement from your visitors.
Responding to visitor comments on a one to one basis helps make you accessible to your readers, and contributing actively to the discussion can help to clarify your points further. The more content you can provide, whether through your blog article itself, or via comments, the better for organic traffic.
Reward reader comments
You will find that a very small percentage of your site’s visitors will comment on your material. Typical engagement rates are about 0.57% for Facebook fan pages – and that’s on a platform who’s user interface is designed primarily to encourage interaction.
Rewarding comments is a sure fire way to do that. Some commenting systems such as Disqus provide built in ‘Liking’ of comments that others make, and this sort of social validation can provide increased interaction. I have however been vocal about commenting systems in the past. Another option is to utilise plugins such as CommentLuv – which reward commenters with a juicy link to their last blog post.
Use Interactive elements
Interactive elements shouldn’t be underestimated in increasing interaction. Video, slideshows, and images can all help to keep visitors browsing around your site. My own recent experiment with my blog’s category pages (more spacing and showing image previews for posts) showed an increase in pages per visit of 11%. That’s a huge indicator that people stop and take notice when you provide visual content on your site.
Keep an Eye on Your ‘Refresh Rate’
The guys over at Analytics Pro’s have an fantastic post that I recently came across, explaining a concept known as ‘refresh rate’ – a reflection of pages which are viewed more often than others in a session, indicating either a higher engagement or something particularly impressive about those pages. Recognising these and analysing them can make a real difference to both navigational design, and content production for increased engagement in the future.
This hack is well worth taking a look at,as is their Analytics Toolbar – which adds some extra bits and bobs to your Google Analytics reports. I’d recommend you run this regularly to identify your most engaging content, and provide more of it!
Tease out your subscribers
For bloggers, if you have a high number of your visitors typically coming as the result of RSS subscription, it may be worth providing a link to your comments from just your RSS feed. As I’ve mentioned here before, RSS footer allows you to do just that, and can tease your visitors out of their RSS reader and onto your blog to share their thoughts.
Mine your search
Your website’s searchbox is a goldmine. When someone searches on a website, it generally means one of two things. Either, they’ve been on the website before, spotted a useful piece of content, and want to see it again – or - they are new to the site, and want to find content centered around a particular subject.
In either case, knowing (and providing) the answers to those queries can greatly enhance your visitors experience. So mining the queries that people use to find content, or the queries they are using that result in ‘No results’ can be useful as part of a content development strategy.
The following Youtube video shows how you can track site search queries, although you may want to programmatically integrate with Google Analytics yourself (using Event tracking). Its a relatively trivial task to send unsuccessful search queries back to Google for tracking. You can then use this to either improve your search, or to better integrate carewords into existing content.
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