As a publisher, you have two main goals for your content: driving traffic to it and keeping the traffic on your website long enough take an action that will generate revenue. There are hundreds of traffic-generation strategies documented across the web, but the following five are strategies used by the top online publications that any content creator can implement in order to drive traffic and reader engagement.
1. Make sure the content on page satisfies the headline in a variety of ways.
Have you ever gotten excited about an article you saw on Facebook based on the title, and then felt ripped off when you clicked through to the destination only to discover that it didn’t deliver the content promised? You see this quite a bit now in the world of related content widgets, especially those which sensationalize the content with controversial titles and/or thumbnail images that are intended to grab the eye, but may not be completely representative of the content the reader lands on. When this is experienced, by the reader, not only will they leave your site immediately (read: adding to bounce rate), they will likely not click on any links within or to your website again. The Internet has this uncanny ability to not forget these moments.
While capitalizing on trending topics in your content niche is a popular way to drive people to your website, you need to make sure your content lives up to the expectations your headlines create. Also, remember that not everyone likes to read lengthy articles. To really keep visitors on your page, deliver the content in more ways than one – video especially can keep your visitor around longer as it’s something they can’t skim and move on.
When using video as an engagement strategy for your readers, the key is to make the text around your video intriguing enough to make your visitors want to watch it. Perezhilton.com does a great job at this by creating short text that satisfies the headline without giving away the content in the video. This will keep people on the page for at least the duration of the video.
One thing Perezhilton.com could do to keep visitors even longer would be to add related video suggestions at the end or potentially adjacent to the video. In this case, it could be more clips about Julia Roberts (as you see above), celebrity pregnancies, or snippets from other guests on the Letterman show. Good content curation and tagging can make this chore simple and is a very impulsive thing for a reader to engage with assuming the content in view at the moment is not 100% up to their satisfaction.
2. Use a strong internal linking structure that helps readers find related content.
The text-link – remember that? Linking between articles on your site is one of the most straight forward and ‘organic’ things you can provide to your readers to help aid the discovery of related content. If someone comes to read about a specific topic, chances are they will want to learn everything they can about it and help re-enforce your thought leadership on the subject matter. Hence, the more related content you can mix in, the more likely you are to sustain readership engagement (read: reducing bounce rate and increasing pages they are visiting per session).
So, how do successful publishers use linking to help readers discover related content? Here, you can see that Lifehacker uses two methods. First, they have standard links within the main content itself that takes you to other articles (e.g. the keywords: computer glasses, F.lux, many tools and mentioned). How did the links get there? While I’m not an editor for Lifehacker, the links could have been generated by the writer themselves (as they often possess the best historical knowledge of the content they’ve created in the past to reference in new articles). Editorial teams who ‘sweep’ the content post publication and assemble the links by hand to connect them to other related content, or by new and automated solutions like LinkSmart, perform these actions at scale and in real time to link related articles.
In addition to in-text linking, Lifehacker also uses related content widgets which link to the same content as the standard links (with the option to scroll through to even more related content). It’s a strategy being employed frequently by publishers to ensure the reader sees bail out options to click through to (keeping them on site longer or in some cases being paid for the click if the reader is taken off site to another publisher).
Why use both approaches? It’s a great way to catch the eye of both the people who are reading the content itself as well as the skimmers who might skip over the content and see something else they like. It can also provide additional sources of income for publishers by being paid for access to readers when they click on links.
One thing Lifehacker should be evaluating is the efficacy of these approaches by implementing A/B testing to see which leads to a better click through rate. By analyzing the CTR data for each, they could determine which ones get visitors to read more articles. For instance, if they found the related content blocks worked best, they could use the in-content links for revenue generation instead. On the other hand, if they found the in-content links worked best, they could replace the related content blocks with related visual ads – both of which could help with revenue generation.
3. Link out to relevant resources.
Carrying on the theme from no. 2 above, some publishers consider linking out to other websites as a bad strategy for keeping traffic, but that’s not always the case. If you’re linking out to relevant resources within your content, your visitors will love your site more and trust it to deliver valuable information. That trust will turn a first time visitor into a loyal visitor and could also be providing a new revenue stream for publishers who are ensuring that each visitor’s session (whether they stay on site or travel to a related ‘partner’ site) is generating the required amount of revenue.
In the above example, you can see that ET online uses a combination of all of the previously mentioned strategies to keep visitors on their website as well as give them valuable resources that are highly relevant to the content they are viewing. They have a video to keep people engaged on their page longer such as an internal link to more articles related to Lauren Conrad and a link to Lauren Conrad’s fashion collection at Kohl’s.
The link to Kohl’s saves the visitor from having to seek out something they are most likely to be interested in. The result? The next time the visitor has choice to click through to articles on fashion from other websites and ET online, they’ll likely choose ET online because they know they’ll not only get to learn more about fashion, but they’ll also be able to quickly get pointed in the right direction to buy it.
In short, don’t be afraid of linking out to others. And don’t be afraid to approach these partners about working relationships that help channel readers from your great content to their great service or content. It will help your visitors get more value from your content, and help you monetize your content too.
4. Advertise with larger websites for a boost in traffic.
Tapping into another website’s traffic is a great way to drive a targeted audience to your content. For example, you know people visiting TMZ are into celebrity gossip. This makes them the perfect advertising partner to drive traffic to other celebrity gossip websites. They advertise partner websites in several ways, including in-content links to other news articles, such as this one to from within a TMZ article to Complex.
Partners also receive large block ads in between TMZ’s article listings to their content.
Advertising partners also have a prominent spot in TMZ’s website footer with their top headlines.
This allows TMZ’s advertising partners to receive a large portion of referral traffic, while simultaneously making TMZ a great resource for anyone who wants to find the latest celebrity gossip from an array of sources. It’s a win for both the advertisers and TMZ.
5. Analyze the traffic to determine which channels bring the stickiest visitors.
As you invest into strategies to drive traffic to your content and increase the time visitors spend on your website, you need to keep a close eye on your analytics to ensure that the strategies you invest in are helping you meet your goals. Google Analytics will show you what channels and traffic sources are driving visitors to your website, but the in-depth information about visitor retention for each piece of content can be tricky to interpret, especially as Google Analytics makes the tracking of link clicks difficult to track.
This is exactly why LinkSmart offers free analytics that publishers can use to quickly analyze how your visitors engage with each piece of content as well as the individual links on each page. The data provided can help editorial teams to make better content decisions and maximize the revenue opportunities on the best performing content in real time.
Plus, you can learn more about what makes your most successful content really work for your visitors, all the way through to understanding the link-to-text ratio; a metric that helps the publisher understand the ‘sweet spot’ of links required within content per number of words to provide the best click through rate.
So be sure to choose an analytics platform that will really help you get to know the content that performs best. This way you can create content that will drive traffic, keep visitors on your website longer, and make them come back for more.
What strategies do you use to attract and sustain more visitors on your website?