Website analysis often focuses on headline traffic volumes, yet the behavior of individual site visitors is just as important. Search engines don’t just analyze how many people view a site over a certain time period, they also monitor how much time visitors spend on individual subpages. Even significant visitor numbers won’t count for much if individuals are abandoning the site quickly. This often implies a lack of relevant content, and relevance is the most important aspect of search engine results.
Website analytics tools monitor audience engagement, from traffic volumes at specific times of day to the way in which people navigate around a site. Analysis of these metrics might reveal a high departure rate from a particular page, potentially indicating its contents aren’t very relevant or appealing. If half your traffic departs at the billing stage of an ecommerce platform, shipping costs and taxes are probably deterring purchases. If a blog has an average view time of five seconds, either its title isn’t engaging enough or the content isn’t relevant. After all, you don’t get to decide what’s appropriate or interesting – that’s the audience’s job.
Keeping Site Visitors Engaged
There are numerous tricks and tips to keep people engaged on a website for longer periods of time, though many of these are specific to certain industries. Some are also unique to ecommerce platforms, like the ability to rotate a clothing item through 360 degrees for different perspectives, or being able to view it in half a dozen colors. Nonetheless, the following recommendations are intended to be beneficial to firms in almost any market, whether they’re using a website builder or compiling their own HTML:
#1. Cater for mobile audiences.
Nowadays, internet traffic is generally displayed on phones and tablets, so don’t design purely for desktops. Midphase offers a website builder tool, with 165 templates that reformat to suit individual screen resolutions. Our website builder tool also enables you to retrospectively remove elements that are taking a long time to load, which is important, as the next point explains…
#2. Ensure pages load quickly.
Modern audiences have minimal attention spans, and a three-second wait causes users to start abandoning a loading site. Google and Bing also estimate loading times as part of their ranking calculations. Compress images, embed videos via YouTube’s servers and remove unnecessary code or plugins. It’s also good to entrust hosting to a company offering a global network of fast servers.
#3. Direct incoming traffic to the most relevant URL, not the homepage.
This is a classic mistake involving inbound links: ignoring subpages when entering a destination URL. If people aren’t greeted by the information they want and expect to see, they will usually return to their search results and seek an alternative answer. When inbound links are under your control (such as creating new social media posts), choose them carefully.
#4. Place teaser content above the fold.
Despite sounding like an extract from a guide to marketing clichés, this is valuable advice. Teaser content is any material likely to encourage someone to read on, while the fold is the portion of a web page immediately visible on loading. Clearly, the location of the fold will vary widely depending on the device and browser, but it’s a useful piece of advice as a general guide. Inspire users to scroll down (prolonging total viewing time) by posing a question, introducing a concept or hinting at a solution to a problem.
#5. Build internal links.
Don’t try and answer every question on a single web page. Instead, encourage people to move between one URL and the next – and ideally back again. Inbound links have SEO value, but they also keep audiences engaged for longer as new elements are discovered. Every website should take visitors on a journey from their arrival to an optimal destination, chosen by the company’s owner.
#6. Break up content.
Lengthy slabs of text are unappealing, whereas the same volume of written copy can be made to look far more approachable with editing techniques. The article you are reading uses a numbered list, for instance. The BBC News platform publishes one sentence per paragraph. There are many other ways to divide the text into more visually appealing chunks – bullet points, subheadings, highlighted quotes and so forth.
#7. Choose images carefully.
Another way to break up text involves interspersing words and images. Moderation is key, however, as excessive photos may become overwhelming in themselves. Images are often the most data-hungry aspect of site content, and slow-loading pages hamper SEO as outlined above. Expandable thumbnail images are great, while a large ‘hero’ image at the top of the page works, too.
#8. Add third-party content.
This can take various forms, a typical example is a guest blog by a decent commentator. Links to media portals will drive traffic away, but republishing existing content (with the author’s permission) keeps it on-site. Don’t be afraid to discuss or quote reports with relevance or benefits to your niche, but acknowledge the authors. Check for copyright issues before republishing, as well.
#9. Challenge your audience.
It’s not always appropriate, but competitions and challenges increase total site visit durations by encouraging everyone to think, rather than merely consume content passively. Caption competitions, prize draws and comments sections maximize on-page time by persuading people to generate content. If your products are customizable, add a personalization tool that allows them to experiment.
#10. Regularly add new content.
Even if you sell a fixed line of products, there’s always scope to introduce new content. This has the twin benefits of giving consumers a reason to revisit your site while boosting SEO by adding keyword-optimized content. A News page is ideal since this could encompass trivial events like a new product line. Promote any news stories heavily on social media, including inbound links.
Common sense should be a watchword for all the above points. If your competitors are using a certain technique online, perhaps you should as well. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you can always undo it later. Website builders aren’t intended to be used once and forgotten about – they support endless honing and refining of a company’s online presence.
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