If you welcome people into your home but don't engage them, they'll be hard pressed to see why they should stay. It's the same regarding your blog and your visitors. Your blog is the home to showcase your brand, and if people don't have a good experience there, that web traffic will probably never return.
Continue reading to learn about user engagement and how you can make it easy for visitors to commit to returning to your site.
What is engagement?
User engagement (or visitor engagement) is, in a nutshell, how the visitors to your website respond to your content and interact with your site. Do they come to your site and quickly leave because they don't like what they see? Can't find the information they are looking for or expect to find? Feel out of place because they don't understand what's presented? Or they can't access the information fast enough?
It's not enough to think, "I need traffic to my website" and work solely on driving visitors to your URL. It's really important that you also optimize your website for your visitors... and not just search engines like Google. The longer someone engages with you, the higher the likelihood that person will become your follower/fan or client/customer. User engagement yields conversion optimization.
Why does engagement matter?
"Please don't go. Don't go, don't go away" -K.W.S., "Please Don't Go" (One-hit Wonder from the '90s)
When visitors aren't getting their needs met, feel lost, or find no reason to stick around, they will walk right through the door; they'll bounce.
The percentage of bounces you have of visitors who left your site after they only looked at one of your pages is your bounce rate, and you don't want that number to be high (over 70%) or to increase. Search engines won't like it and that will be reflected in your analytics, and you'll be singing along with K.W.S. for your visitors not to go away.
Keep in mind that "customers who are fully engaged represent 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth." (Gallup State of the American Consumer 2014)
How can engagement be measured?
Search Engine Land published an explanation of the metrics of engagement, which are listed as:
Page Bounce Rate - A measurement of the visitors who left (bounced) from just one page on your website. (You want a low number.)
Site Bounce Rate - The average number of bounces for your entire website. (You want a low number here, too.)
Pages Per Visit - The number of pages just one visitor clicks to open in an individual session on your website. (This is a number you will be happy to see increase.)
Exit Rate - The percentage of page views that were the last in a visitor's session on your website. (A high number here could show you where your visitors are not finding what they are looking for or don't like what they see.)
Average Time On Page - The average amount of time visitors spent on a specific page on your website. (You will determine if a high or low number is acceptable to you depending on your goals for and the function of the individual pages.)
Now, your goals regarding engagement as a blog/website owner (and one who probably wants to grow her/his small business) are to:
Get visitors to stay on your site
Get visitors to spend time looking at your content
Get visitors to click on multiple pages on your site
Let me lead you to better user engagement on your website with these 7 tips:
1. Make Your Navigation Menus Clear
The navigation bar at the top of your website should clearly direct your visitors to your page menu. If it's cluttered with too many items (7 is the magic number), you have long submenus, and the items are not listed in any logical order, you can ensure that people will bounce around from page to page, searching for what you could not easily bring to them, or you will lose them completely.
Describe these important menu items with short (usually one word) titles. Your navigation bar should not stretch out too long, and titles should not get cut off because of word length.
Use secondary navigation bars only if absolutely necessary. (If you use WordPress, your theme may allow you to add additional site menus.)
2. Give Your Headlines Some Pizzaz
Your page headlines are like event titles, and they help some visitors determine if they want to enter or not. Pack some pizzaz into your headlines and entice visitors to click through. If the headline is good and properly matches or conveys the content, site visitors will feel good about sticking around. You only have a few seconds to capture someone's attention on your site; be sure to retain it by employing a little creative oomph.
3. Pick the Perfect Voice and Tone for Your Text
Know your audience, and choose the right voice and tone throughout your website to let them know you are communicating directly to them.
Is the nature of your fashion or lifestyle blog more casual, or is it more business-like? Don't have your text speak with a haughty air of authority or full of SAT words for a website about fun and glamor. If your site is more professional and serious, don't fill it with the latest slang. A food and drink or cosmetics blog shouldn't read like a legal brief.
The text on your site should be appropriate for the subject matter, and it should also reflect you and your personality. Write as if you are communicating with a friend or colleague as applicable and make your reader feel comfortable (and like they want to continue "hearing" what you have to say).
4. Parse Your Paragraphs
Make your content pleasant to look as so that it is more likely to be read. If your pages are just headlines and rows of text, it's time to break things up with new paragraphs, numbers and bullet points, and maybe a few visuals. You want your website visitors to engage and to be engaged; this can't happen if they can't make it past the page formatting.
5. Review and Refurbish
In "6 Simple Tips for Making Your Site Stand Out," I offered helpful web design tips on how to enhance your site, which will have a big impact on user engagement. Give it a good read and take the time to implement the tips given there. Making your site stand out gives your visitors a reason to stay longer.
6. Don't Lose Visitors Before They Even Get Into the Door
The days of dial-up Internet are long gone, so don't make your site visitors feel like they've gone back in time, waiting for AOL over a modem, all because your content is super slow to load. In this era of immediate gratification, people aren't willing to wait more than about 5 seconds for a page to load (1 to 2 seconds is optimum).
As you add new content to your site, employ the use of a free speed test tool often. Make sure your site is loading quickly with Pingdom.
7. Make It Easy to Share Your Content on Social Media
Social media should be a major tool in your marketing arsenal, and you should use it in conjunction with SEO. Search engines' crawlers check for signs that your site is popular and that popularity factors into your search engine results page (SERP) rankings (and who doesn't want to be on at least the first page, if not the top?).
Choose which of the most popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.) where you should have profiles, and integrate them into your website with Like and Share buttons.
Your blog site is what gets you noticed and known. You want your visitors to not only enjoy the content you offer but to make a commitment to you by returning again and again. Don't be left singing, "Please, Don't Go."
In an upcoming blog post, I'll write more in depth about visitor comments as a part of user engagement-- how you should monitor it and participate, and how this kind of engagement is good customer service. Be sure to bookmark our blog so you won't miss it.