If content is King, then engagement is Queen — or at the very least Grand Vizier. And nowhere is this more important to remember than on information and media sites, where hooking visitors and keeping them interested is the cornerstone of engagement-dependent revenue models.
Despite this, media companies that invest massive effort in producing engaging content often forget that the way they present their content needs to be engaging as well.
Maximize Accessibility; Minimize Annoyance
Here are some simple yet powerful steps that information and media companies can take to engage their digital visitors and keep them coming back.
Feature more types of media and label them more clearly.
Content-focused media sites need to keep in mind that some visitors like to watch videos, while others prefer to read articles and some may just want to look at photo galleries. And some visitors like all three.
Savvy media websites can cater to all types of visitors by placing links to different types of media on their landing pages. By using small and intuitive icons such as camera and play buttons next to content links, visitors can immediately identify which media types are being offered, thus deepening engagement and enhancing the overall visit experience.
Highlight more subjects and make them more accessible.
Visitor experience analysis has shown that visitors to media sites tend to navigate less often via menus than via the content itself.
Many media site visitors first engage with content offered on the homepage — trending news stories, for example — then navigate through the website from within that content. Clearly, visitors to such sites are interested in many different subjects beyond the subject that first caught their interest.
To harness this insight, information and media sites should present a variety of content from an array of subjects above the fold on the landing page. This is crucial to drawing visitors in to internal site content pages, where they will be likely to continue their journeys.
By way of example, a leading European news website we worked with dramatically reduced its landing page bounce rate by making this type of change. By featuring the main trending story next to a wide selection of other subject matter, the site helped draw in users, encouraging their journeys throughout the site’s rich content offerings.
Mute auto-play videos.
Auto-play videos are an important source of revenue for media sites, yet we’ve all experienced the annoying jolt of blaring sound from a video that started playing immediately when we landed on a page. Indeed, our analyses have confirmed that auto-play videos annoy visitors, many of whom pause them immediately.
There’s a simple solution: Mute auto-play videos, so they begin to play without sound. If this is not an option from a technical point of view, at least place the video at the top of the page, so your visitors can find it and stop it quickly.
Think twice about ad placement.
Ads — like auto-play videos — are an important source of revenue but visitors clearly dislike them and often block them. From our experience with major media sites, employing these three best practices will keep both advertisers and visitors happy:
- Avoid placing ads within written content. Visitors show better interaction with ads when they are placed on the right bar of the screen.
- Avoid placing ads that are too flashy or visually noisy.
- Place more ads on article and photo pages and fewer on the homepage and other highly-trafficked website areas where they distract visitors who are searching for something else.
Media sites are challenged to strike a fine balance between the richness of their content offerings and the creation of over-cluttered pages that confuse rather than entice. The same diversity of content we recommended above, while playing a vital role in keeping visitors engaged, can easily be perceived as overwhelming.
One solution is to reduce the real estate that content takes up by using dynamic presentation elements like photo galleries. Another idea is to reduce promotional and third-party materials —especially popups — to a bare minimum, particularly on landing pages.
Finally, once you have chosen a clear and accessible format, stick with it. Don’t endlessly rearrange your landing pages because the more visitors feel at home, the less they perceive your rich offerings as clutter.
Focus on Visitor Intent
Visitor engagement is critical and lies at the very heart of the information and media industries. To foster true digital engagement, media companies need to understand that while compelling content is important, visitors don’t want to consume first-class content on websites that confuse, frustrate or bore them.
That’s why information and media sites need to focus their efforts according to visitor intent and adapt themselves accordingly by adopting tools and methodologies that allow for understanding what people actually looking for.
Don’t ask yourself if your visitors are finding what they’re looking for: Ask yourself what your visitors want and adapt your site to help them find it.