A WordPress plugin brought to you by Search Engine Journal.
Seeing the traffic to your website increase is a great thing, but what if your surge in new site visitors doesn’t come with a corresponding increase in reader engagement rates?
The truth is, raw traffic numbers don’t mean all that much when it comes to your website’s success. Sure, more traffic is generally better, but if you aren’t engaging your audience in a meaningful way, it doesn’t matter if you have 50 visitors or 50,000. Without that critical engagement, more traffic won’t improve your company’s bottom line in any significant way.
So, if you’re struggling to put an end to low rates of engagement and to bring your website’s performance in-line with your expectations, consider any of the following ideas:
Idea #1: Post on topics your readers actually care about
One of the all-time biggest “engagement rate killers” is dull, uninformative content. Raise your hand if you’ve ever clicked through to an article that initially sounded interesting, only to wind up clicking the “Back” button when the content you find falls far short of your expectations.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all-too-common, especially when you take into account websites that feel they must write to specific SEO keywords in order to capture search traffic. Instead of busting your butt to meet some magical ideal keyword density requirements, put that same effort into making your content interesting for your visitors to read. I guarantee you that’ll have a stronger effect on your website’s performance.
Don’t know what your readers actually care about? That’s no excuse! Give any of the following techniques a try:
- Ask them. Send out surveys to members of your email list asking what their biggest questions, problems, or concerns are within your industry, and then write on the subjects these inquiries reveal.
- Check your stats. Head over to Google Analytics to see which post topics on your site are being accessed most frequently. Extrapolate the subjects that are most likely to be interesting to your audience based on commonalities shared between your site’s top posts.
- Monitor social sharing. Keep an eye on the social profiles of industry leaders in your niche and see what types of content they’re sharing. If you see common themes, these could provide the basis for more interesting website articles for your site.
Idea #2: Vary your post formats
I love chocolate ice cream, but if I had a scoop of it for dessert every night for a few months, you can bet I’d be begging for a dish of vanilla just to ease up the monotony!
The same thing goes with blog formats. Text-based posts are great and they certainly have their place, but they aren’t the only types of content you should be posting to your company’s website. Share videos, post infographics, create picture essay posts, or share a simple quote instead of a full-length post.
Whatever you do, just mix things up a bit in order to recapture the engaging spark you had initially with your website visitors.
Idea #3: Use a casual writing style
When you do decide to publish text-based blog posts, pay particular attention to the writing style used, as language that’s too dry or technical can quickly diminish your audience’s engagement rate.
Even if you’re covering a naturally technical subject, try to write your posts as if you were speaking to a friend. Don’t be afraid of using colloquial slang or pushing the boundaries of accepted grammar and syntax rules. Put your focus on communicating with readers using a casual writing style, and you’ll almost certainly see a marked increase in your overall engagement rates.
Idea #4: Format your posts for readability
Have you ever clicked on a blog post that sounded interesting, only to be confronted with a page-long block of text without even a few simple paragraph tags to provide visual relief?
As a general rule, website visitors have pretty short attention spans, and they’re quite averse to things they perceive as being more work than they’re worth. So, if they land on your site and immediately determine that it’s going to require all of their focus just to make sense of your un-ending blocks of text, you can bet they’ll navigating away from your site before even giving your content a chance.
To prevent this from occurring, you simply must format your posts for readability. A few guidelines you’ll want to follow on all of your text-based posts include:
- Stick to no more than two to four sentences in a paragraph.
- Use section headers to give readers a map to your content.
- Break content into bullet or numerical lists.
Idea #5: Keep text posts short
Whenever you run text-based posts, keep an eye on your length. While there’s nothing wrong with releasing epically long, 5,000+- word Web articles every so often, don’t let this be the only type of content your audience sees from you.
Realistically, we’re all busy people. In the limited time we have to sit down and scan Web articles, plowing through a masterpiece-length blog post might simply not be in the cards.
If you want website visitors to read your articles right away (instead of filing them away to be read later, if ever), aim for a maximum of 500-1,500 words for most posts. Go longer on occasion if you must, but otherwise, focus on creating simple, easy-to-read posts that engage readers and provide them with a few pieces of memorable takeaway advice.
Idea #6: Improve page load times
Want a simple and easy way to keep website visitors engaged on your pages? Don’t make them wait too long for your content to load!
Website visitors have very little patience for sites that load slowly (after all, our days of dial-up Internet aren’t that far behind us!). So, if you make them wait, I can just about guarantee that you’ll lose a certain number of potentially engaged website visitors due to your slow load times alone.
At the same time, Google has definitively stated that it wants to reward sites that load quickly with higher placements in the natural search results, meaning that there’s an SEO benefit to speeding up your site in addition to the impact it’ll have on reader engagement levels. Basically, improving your site’s load times is a win-win for both your users and your ability to rank well in the natural SERPs!
To uncover ways to improve your website’s speed, log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and navigate to the “Site performance” link under the “Labs” heading. Although Webmaster Tools no longer supports its own site speed tool, you’ll find links here to two external services that will provide you with specific recommendations on how to improve your website’s page load times.
Idea #7: Share related post recommendations
Generally, within websites, engagement rates correlate strongly to the average number of pages a user visits in a single browsing session. While there are some circumstances in which high engagement might be measured by average time on a single page, users who investigate other areas of your site tend to be more engaged with your content than those who visit one page and stay there.
So, as a result, if you want to boost engagement rates on your site, you need to find ways to encourage visitors to navigate to multiple pages of content.
One way to do this is to add recommendations for related posts to the end of every new blog article you publish. While there are plenty of different WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal plugins that will add this feature automatically, you may find it worth your time to hard-code post recommendations into each of your new articles. This gives you the chance to provide more tailored and accurate recommendations than the sorting algorithms of these plugins may offer, leading to even higher rates of engagement.
At the end of the day, don’t panic if you encounter low-engagement rates on your website. Instead, experiment with the different ideas described above in order to uncover the source of your low connection rates and to improve the affinity people feel for your website. By simply making an effort, you’ll give your website the best possible chances of skyrocketing its engagement rates to near super-star levels!