5 sure ways to spark website engagement
Last updated: November 29, 2023
According to data from Similarweb, and analysis conducted by Axios, Facebook and X referrals to news websites have declined by around 80% and 60%, respectively, since September 2020. And that decline has accelerated recently, as both platforms navigate regulatory pressure and begin to prioritize platform-native content.
If you’re managing a website, you might be wondering what to do next. Spark website traffic — and engage your audience — with our best practices.
5 sure ways to spark website engagement
1. Set KPIs
“Engagement” is such a broad term that it could refer to just about any metric, from comments and clicks to site visits and social shares.
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Without specificity, it risks becoming meaningless. So before anything else, define your most important engagement metrics. Do you want people sharing or commenting? Do you want people spending more time on your website? Interacting with different types of content?
If you offer paid subscriptions, you need to take this one step further: What patterns of engagement are most predictive of an eventual paid subscription? Are people more likely to subscribe when they comment on your posts? Or when they read multiple articles per session? Whatever the metric, you’ll want to optimize for them as you create your engagement strategy.
Not sure where to start? Run a query on your paid subscribers and compare their engagement history to the rest of your audience. (Omeda makes this easy: Since it includes a customer data platform, you can easily search your entire audience database and see their engagement history across all channels — all in one place.)
Some questions to consider include:
- Did your subscribers have a long history of engagement across your website, email and/or ads before committing? How much time did they spend interacting with your content before subscribing?
- Was engagement on one channel especially predictive of an eventual subscription (i.e., are people more likely to subscribe when they engage frequently on your website vs. on email)?
- Are people who comment, like or share your articles more likely to become subscribers?
- Do subscribers tend to spend more time on your site than non-subscribers? Do they visit more pages per session?
- Do subscribers tend to interact with different verticals on your site?
Your answers will help you determine your most important engagement KPIs. You might find that people who visit your website at least once per week are more likely to become subscribers than less frequent visitors. In that case, you’d aim to get newsletter readers clicking to your website at least once per week.
2. Identify your success factors
Really, your site engagement comes down to your content strategy. Speaking directly to your audience’s pain points will grab their attention and keep them coming back to your site.
Consult your website analytics solution to learn more about your audience’s interests and needs, including:
- Identify your most popular topics and writers. Split this by audience segment to identify opportunities in different verticals. (On Omeda, you can track impressions, clicks and conversions on every page, for both known and anonymous users. You can also track referral sources and reader paths, so you can evaluate your website performance in the context of your entire subscriber journey.)
- Look for top referral sources and organize your promotional strategy around those channels.
- Determine how long your audience spends on site and how many articles they read per session. (Not happy with your numbers? Use Omeda’s content recommendations widgets to serve recommended articles to each reader based on their observed interests and purchase history.)
- From there, dig deeper. What paths do readers take on your site from each article?
Couple this information with audience research, industry resources and your own intuition to determine your audience’s biggest pain points and knowledge gaps. From there, you can tailor your content strategy to those areas — and watch your site numbers soar.
3. Perfect your UX
Ideally, your audience would sit down, settle in, and read your article from start to finish without scanning. But we’re hardwired to attempt to achieve our goals with as little effort as possible. So we use a series of common eye tracking patterns to scan articles.
According to UX researchers, the most effective way to scan pages is the layer cake pattern — closely reading subheadings, then skimming the following body text for interesting content.
So to maximize engagement, strengthen your subheadings. Write your subheadings as if your audience won’t read much else of your post.
How can you put this into practice? Adopt these tips from UX research and consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group:
- Make subheadings stand out from the rest of the page content, through any combination of a different color, larger size, different typeface, underlining or bolding/shadowing.
- Use heat maps to see where your audience scrolls and clicks most often. Then include CTAs, ads and/or conversion forms in those locations.
- Ensure subheadings describe all topics in a section. This gives readers an idea of what to expect in that section.
- Make your subheadings as specific as possible. If your subheadings are too broad, your audience may wonder if you’re going to repeat yourself between sections.
- Lead with the most important words: This gives readers the point of the heading right away.
(Want to learn more? Check out their full breakdown on designing for the layer cake pattern here.)
4. Optimize your headlines
We’ve gone deep in the weeds so far, but really, engagement comes down to one question: Can you stand out among the clutter and grab your audience’s attention?
A well-crafted headline is one of the most impactful ways to do this.
But as any writer will tell you, writing headlines is the hardest part of the job. Create headlines that earn clicks with these tips:
Use the active voice
For example “6 ways to write subject lines like a pro” v. “6 ways subject lines are written.” Since the active voice reflects the way we think, it’s easier to understand and will earn more clicks.
“Cool, now how am I supposed to do that?” you ask. SEO consultant Neil Patel recommends using the four Us to inspire your readers to act:
- Make the headline unique.
- Be ultra-specific.
- Convey a sense of urgency.
- Provide something useful.
Quantify your headlines whenever possible
Research shows that headlines with numbers earn more social shares and engagement.
Inspire a reaction
Think about the impact you want your piece to have on your audience. Do you want them to be surprised? Educated? Angry? Use powerful words to drive your desired emotional reaction.
Capture the subject of your story
Hacks won’t help you if your subject line doesn’t accurately represent what’s inside the article. Sure, everyone knows that you shouldn’t clickbait your audience. But also make sure that your headline matches the voice of your piece — readers will be confused if your punny headline leads to a technical, heavily researched article.
So you have several pieces of a great headline. Now how are you supposed to put them together? Let’s turn to legacy media for some great examples:
SAT Data Shows the Deep Inequality at the Heart of American Education – The New York Times
While this piece introduces new SAT testing data, it primarily seeks to spark dialogue about income inequality and its impact on American children. So this emotionally stirring headline is much more effective than: “Report: SAT scores differ by household income level.”
The Salmon on Your Plate Has a Troubling Cost. These Farms Offer Hope. – The New York Times
This headline works on a few different levels.
- Using the second-person “you” personalizes the issue for readers and naturally grabs attention.
- The headline hints at something surprising and potentially outraging without outright stating it. This sparks curiosity in the right reader and entices them to click.
- The words “troubling” and “hope” both have emotional connotations that will stand out to readers.
UAW Expands Strike to Biggest Stellantis Plant as 6,800 Walk Out in Michigan – The Washington Post
The purpose of this piece is strictly to provide news. On that front, this headline delivers. It clearly states the latest development in the ongoing story, using “6,800 walk out in Michigan” to emphasize its significance while still maintaining a neutral tone.
It’s not written to drive traffic back to their site, but it doesn’t need to be: According to a recent study by Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked. So the Post can still spark major social sharing and contribute to the national conversation about the strike, even if the on-site numbers aren’t that high. (And it can use its lifestyle content to offset any potential loss in traffic.)
5. Support your points with examples and stories
“Renew your passport on time! To avoid any impact on travel, remember to renew your passport at least 8-11 weeks in advance.”
“Renew your passport in time! My girlfriend and I spent months planning our 5th anniversary trip to Prague. But the day before we were supposed to leave, I opened my passport… only to realize it had been expired for months! We needed to cancel our flights and accommodations, lost thousands of dollars, missed out on an amazing trip… oh, and I slept on the couch for 2 weeks.”
Of these two options, which one will make you renew your passport on time? My money’s on the latter.
That’s because we’re hardwired to understand and remember stories more clearly than standard facts: In fact, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story.
Apply this to your writing whenever possible to drive more site traffic. Supporting your points with tangible stories and examples will help them stick in your audience’s minds well after they click out. And once you’re stuck in your audience’s minds? They’re that much more likely to come back.
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