At some point in your life, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” With a few simple changes, that same principle can be applied to website design, content creation, SEO guidelines, and all other facets of your overall marketing strategy. You can lead users and searchers to your online content, but you may be finding it hard to make them engage with your site or page. User engagement is just one part of how someone interacts with your online content, but it is the most important part of their interaction.
User Engagement and Bounce Rate
If your site visitor doesn’t engage with your content, they won’t click anything. They will look for a moment and then move on, perhaps to content they find more informative, appealing, or useful to their needs. When they do this, arrive at a page on your site and then move away without clicking anything, it’s called a “bounce rate,” and it can be detrimental to your search result rankings in and of itself. Search engines see a high bounce rate as meaning that your site doesn’t contain any content relevant to the wants and needs of a searcher.
While bounce rate is just one of several hundred factors used by search engines to determine ranking position, it should be important to you – simply because it means your visitors are doing little more than window shopping when they arrive at a page on your website. User engagement, when done right, can keep visitors on your site longer and convert them into leads, customers, or regular readers. This is usually done through the use of user experience design and optimization (UXD – User Experience Design and UXO – User Experience Optimization), respectively, which are essentially the same thing).
The Rules Are – There Are No Rules
One of the biggest hurdles that many content creators, marketing specialists, and web designers have to face is the fact that there really aren’t any definitive rules for creating an optimal user experience. You won’t find any lists, pages, or white papers strewn across the internet describing the “rules” for UXD or UXO. What you will find is plenty of information on things you “should” do, like tips and guidelines. This then leads you to the dilemma of knowing which information to take with a grain of salt and which you should diligently apply to your online content.
Because you are attempting to increase user engagement, you have to take into account the human element. No two people will interact with your content in the same way. The human element is a constantly changing “X factor” that no one can define, predict, or manipulate, but you can work around it by always following the first step in user engagement optimization – knowing your specific or desired users.
The First Step in User Engagement Optimization
Before you create content designed for engaging your users, you need to know who your users are. How old are they? Are they male or female? Single or married? What is their education level? Those are just a few of the questions that should be asked when you are developing a profile for the ideal audience you wish to attract with your content. Other questions will relate to what they want or need to make their lives more enjoyable, enriching, or rewarding. Many people look for something online because they want to solve a problem, answer a question, or meet a need. Your content needs to do at least one of those things to be appealing to your users, and you can’t do that until you know who your users are or who the users are that you want to attract.
Create For People, Not Machines
User engagement is about appealing to your users or target audience. You cannot do this if you have a single-minded focus on following tactics such as the best strategies for SEO. While SEO is important to the success of your site or page on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), it should always take a backseat to the importance of creating the best user experience possible. Google’s algorithm might give your content an excellent spot in search results, but Google won’t share your content with others by talking about it on social networks or linking to it in a blog. You can have the number one ranking position in search engine results and still have content that no one likes. That’s why it is extremely important that you create for people, not machines, because the people that visit your site will – ultimately – be the ones who decide its fate.
Four Top Tips for Enhancing User Engagement
You can find dozens, if not hundreds, of tips and tricks to help you increase user engagement on your website, landing page, or other online content. While many of those tips are useful and can make a difference when applied correctly, here are four top tips to enhance user engagement for your content. When you apply these, it will instantly make your web page more user-friendly and appealing to your visitors.
- Visual Appeal – Always pay attention to how your page looks. On-page visual factors like object symmetry, appropriate white space, readable fonts, and color contrast are important factors in user engagement because people simply will not stay on a page they don’t find visually appealing. A/B testing is a great way to gauge the impressions of your users, so take advantage of it when adjusting the visual elements on your web pages.
- Advertising – Talking about selling advertising on your page, Don’t do it unless you have to. Most online users go out of their way to avoid looking at any page content they think is an advertisement, so you’ll just be wasting space that could have been put to better use. In addition to limiting the ad content on your page, don’t attempt any hard-sell tactics within your content, either. Users do not like encountering an obvious sales pitch, and it’s one of the fastest ways to lose user engagement in otherwise amazing content.
- Keyword Research – Keyword research is a great way to find out what words and phrases are relevant to the subject of your content. Long-tail keywords are especially effective because most searchers are using longer phrases when entering their search queries. An important thing to keep in mind is that search queries are becoming more conversational and less mechanical. Your keyword choices should be as relevant as possible to both your content and how your target audience is searching for it.
- Speak Their Language – Most people use search engines to find something online because they are new to the topic. This means they won’t understand your technical terms or industry buzzwords. Leave those items out of your content unless they are necessary, and always make sure they are either well-defined or included in a contextually explanatory way.
There are many other things you can do to create a site or page that has a high user engagement factor. Spend some time doing research on the practices and tips that will work best for your design and marketing strategies, and then apply them to your content. When you create content that is designed to appeal to your users and meet their wants or needs in a focused way, you will be rewarded many times over with higher traffic, lower bounce rates, increased conversions, and more.
How to Measure User Engagement
You can follow metric in your Google Analytics Account or use a tool like we do called CLICKY. Besides user metric, Clicky shows you how well your content is performing, measures time over time changes, measures website traffic, shows lead sources by IP address and more.
Simple measures can tell you a lot about how your website and individual pages are performing.
Bounce Rate – The lower the better. This indicates people are staying on your site and taking action.
Actions – The higher the better. Actions measure how many times people click, share, comment, play, download etc.
Time on Site – The higher the better. Average is less than 45 seconds. Get your average visit up to several minutes each and you know your site is giving the user a quality experience.
The Good news is that if you ready THIS far into the article, you are serious about improving your user engagement. Congratulations.