Five Ways to Improve Audience Engagement

June 10, 2013

When it comes to building revenue in publishing, engagement is the name of the game. The more engaging your content, the longer visitors stick around, the more they are likely to buy. We all know that even though it sounds that simple, in reality, there is a bit of finesse and artistry involved.

Here are five tips to help you improve your audience engagement:

1)    Measure It!

It goes without saying that if you know what people are consuming, you have a good idea of how to engage them.  Of course, to start with, you want to make sure that powerful analytics features are part of your toolset, but you also want to use those features to help define metrics that are relevant to your audience. 

For example, Gawker Media defined “branded traffic” –tracking visitors who bookmark its blog sites or search for a site by name. In doing so,

“Gawker found that roughly 40 percent of visits come via branded routes, as contrasted to links from search engines. And such visitors are more devoted and engaged, spending ninety-one seconds more per visit than others.”

These results have Gawker’s marketing team thinking about how reader loyalty translates to charging higher ad rates.

It also helps to use your analytics to segment your audience.  Matt Shanahan provides a guide that involves 5 segments:  fly-bys visit once a month; occasionals 2-3 times a month; regulars 1-2 times a week; fans more than twice a week (usually 5% or less of the audience but comprise half or more of the pageviews)—and then there are mavens.  Shanahan describes mavens as a unique and powerful type of fan who can drive significantly more (and more productive) visits than other social media sources:

“Mavens are experts that are passionate about their industry, the issues facing them AND they blog. The maven is usually focused on tackling his own issues, but wants to share insights and ideas with others. Mavens start and frame visits for publishers through the use of their blog.”

If you can start to recognize various segments of your audience, you can tailor strategies to maximize engagement from each segment and leverage the value each has to offer. 

In the meantime, keep your eye out for emerging tools to help you measure engagement more effectively.

2)    Let Your Fans Help You Make Recommendations

If you are recognizing various segments of your audience, you can use the collective behavior of the segment to make recommendations to individual members of the segment. Watch what the segment is consuming and use the information you gather to tag and surface recommended products and services that are relevant to individuals in that segment.

3)    Foster Direct Relationships

When you automate your processes, you always run the risk of compromising personal connections—which are still highly valued in the online world. Use your metrics to gather deeper, contextual information about your visitors so that you can time your lead nurturing activities appropriately and deliver them directly. They won’t respond to spam after one interaction with your site—and in fact you might lose them altogether by using that type of tactic.  But they are likely to respond to individual notifications that come after a series of observed activities from them. Don’t forget the value in being your own customer.

4)    Experiment

Give yourself permission to experiment with how to engage your visitors more effectively. Let your audience inspire you and look at what others are doing.  Methods that work for other publishers may work for you or give you ideas of what will work better. Start with these two:

You know that positive reinforcement is effective—so think of ways to reward your most engaged visitors: offer exclusive content, special deals on new products or even simply give them a name or label that reinforces their value in your online community. 

Offer varying styles of content. Check out how Fast Company is working with “slow live blogging.”  Instead of posting some stories in long form, writers are building the story with short posts based on emerging details.  Fast Company is watching the impact of these posts on bounce rate, visit duration and pages per visit. 

5)    Polish Your Tools at Hand

Just because the quiver of engagement tools is growing, evolving and improving doesn’t mean you don’t already have useful tools in your hand. Don’t forget the power of SEO—and keep up with the latest developments in that realm.  And remember how effective a well-placed and well-worded call to action can be.