I’m not good at making things pretty. I’ll just lay that out to begin with, in case you thought I’d be able to share trade secrets of beautifying the web. But I’m good at figuring things out and not afraid to make mistakes in order to reach my goals, and you’d be shocked at how far those two things will get you in life.
While checking the spread of my writing and tracking site engagement via Google Analytics, I found disappointing trends in behavior I believe can be fixed.
- Old blog posts don’t get read as often. Even though some of my old articles had a great deal of activity around them at the time they were written, once they’re off the front page of my site they fade into obscurity.
- Even with a good number of pageviews and long session time on articles, there’s a high dropoff rate from the home page. The flow of activity on my site usually starts with a shared link, with the next two pages most often clicked on being the home page and my “About Aimee” page (in that order.)
- Google analytics shows me very few people visit the category pages. When they do, only a handful click through to an article.
- A lot of people check my contact page but I don’t have actionable content there. In other words, it’s a dead-end page. Even if they find what they’re looking for (info about me) the only links lead them off my site.
As I’ve said, I’m not great at making things pretty but I do work in ecommerce, and I have a theory that the same sales techniques we employ can be used to sell my words here. I’m going to be marking goals to track in Google Analytics of lower bounce rate (the amount of people who leave after reading one page), more activity per visit (increasing the number of pages someone reads in a visit), and increasing engagement on old posts. Not all of these will be fixed with a site redesign, but it’s a solid first step to address these issues.
Addressing the Issues
Old blog posts don’t get read as often. What makes people read more old posts?
- More visible inbound links from related content. I need to make a conscious effort while writing to reference my own posts when the topic applies. If someone finds the article they’re reading helpful or interesting, they’ll likely find related articles helpful and interesting.
- Related posts listed at the bottom of an article they share tags with will achieve the same effect. I already do this so…check!
- Highlighting popular posts. They’re usually popular for a reason.
- Showing number of comments. This is something I theorized to my friend Miguelito, who was then able to test the theory and prove it true on his website. If someone sees a lot of comments (or reviews) on a post (or a product), they’re more likely to click.
High dropoff rate from the home page. What increases engagement from home page?
- Figure out what content is critical for a first view. It’s better to assume that when someone lands on my home page, they’re going to scan what’s right in front of them and never scroll down.
- Move the content people are looking for to the home page. Analytics already show very few readers use the category pages but a lot look for my contact info, which sends them off-site. I need to restructure how I present my content and put my personal information in reach alongside the content.
- Optimizing content for scanning. Research shows that people move in predictable patterns when scanning a website for the information they seek. I’m using “scanning” deliberately–they don’t read entire sentences, even.
Very few people visit the category pages. What would make the pages more about utility than cool effects?
- Have you looked at my category pages? They’re extremely slow to navigate. At most, 6 articles show up per page so you have to go through a lot of clicks to find articles that interest you.
- Once they do load, the focus is on the article image header and you have to hover your mouse to get the article info and link.
- Furthermore,sometimes it bugs where if you click anywhere but the link icon, it simply expands the image or does nothing at all.
I don’t have actionable content on my contact page. How can I keep readers engaged?
- Give author info on the article pages themselves. This is content readers actively seek, and I’m kicking my community manager self for not remembering my number one rule: keep it personal and be myself.
- Make social and contact links available in the header. Right now, they’re at the far bottom of the page or on my contact page. I’m a social creature, and my online identity is part of my writing.
- Move “About Aimee” (#2 clicked on link from inside site) to the home page .
That’s all for tonight. It’s been a lot of number-crunching and Google searches for people more experienced in this than I. Next time: creating the new layout to match the changes I’ve outlined. Next next time: making it pretty with color schemes and font choosing.
Image used with permission (whether he likes that I asked or not) by https://twitter.com/ihatemmorpgs