Improving Website Engagement Means Getting Your Site Visitors to Stay

Getting website visitors to stick around is critical in moving them through the buying cycle. Here are the aspects of your site to focus on to increase engagement and conversion.

On Saturday mornings, the station my clock radio is set to play “Living on Earth,” a show about environmental topics. After a brief intro on the show’s topics, the host Steve Kirwood says, “Stick around!” before cutting over to the local news.

I’m not sure if his jaunty delivery makes more people stay tuned in through the news break, but it sure has stuck in my head. And it comes to mind today, because getting visitors to stick around on your website is a critical component in your site’s marketing and lead generation success. Here are some tips for encouraging deeper website engagement.

What’s in It for Them?

Make it impossible for your audience to miss what’s in it for them. Forget your years of experience and and your awards and how great you are. That’s not going to get them to stick around. (Yet.) More on this below. Make sure your value proposition is front-and-center.

Be Entertaining

Often overlooked in the focus on being informative — which clearly is critical — you should also pay attention to whether your content that is fun to read, view or listen to.

B2B shouldn’t mean “Boring to Boring.”

We’re all people — even when we’re in the office — and we all like to enjoy even the mundane moments of our day. No, you’re not likely to make your B2B site as bingeworthy as the latest Netflix hit, but you can make people smile. And that’s going to help keep them engaged.

Be Informative

Because you can’t be Netflix, you have to be valuable. It’s just that simple. People aren’t coming to your site primarily to be entertained, anyway; they’re coming to learn more about how they might solve a business problem. Help them do that, and they’ll not only stick around longer, they’ll be back more frequently.

Write Well

All of the above implies good writing, but it’s worth pointing out that your content has to compete with a lot — not just other firms offering the same service, but all the fun stuff on social media and everywhere else. You have to craft more-than-passable prose.

If you can afford to hire a good writer, do so. Work with her or him often enough so he or she knows your company and your products inside and out and can craft a strong story.

If budget is an issue and you have to do the writing yourself even though you’re not 100% confident in your skills, go against your instinct to write less. Write more. The more you write, the more quickly your writing will go from questionable (or wherever it is now) to captivating. That’s your goal.

Perspective Matters

In your writing and the way you organize your site, think from your prospect’s perspective. If you’ve presented your value proposition properly, you’re well on your way. Keep that value central to all your writing, as well as your site’s navigational controls and structure. Even your calls to action should follow this principal and answer the question, “What would someone who’s just consumed this piece of content be interested in next?”

Ask for the Sale

Speaking of calls to action, find the balance between overdoing it and never doing it. You may not be literally asking for a sale, but you should be asking your audience to take the next step in building a relationship with you. Get them to take that next step by making the next step logical and rewarding.

Track Engagement

With these ideas implemented on your site, you should see an increase in engagement metrics, like average session time and number of pages viewed per session. You are tracking these data points, aren’t you?

By they way, if you’re wondering why I have an alarm set on Saturday mornings, so am I. Our dogs always have me up before the alarm goes off, anyway …

Building a Better Website: Which Comes First — Content or Coding?

Thoughtfully and skillfully planning your website is as critical to its success as high quality coding and creative visual design. Here’s how to plan your website like a pro.

Trick question. Neither comes first. What comes first in creating a truly great website is a great planning process.

marketing strategy
“Digital Agency Sketching Planning Business,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by perzonseo.com

The key elements of the planning process are

  • Strategy Brief
  • Site Map
  • Wireframes
  • Functional Specification
  • Design Brief

Here’s a brief look at each of them.

Strategy Brief

The strategy brief is typically a one-page document that guides the rest of your planning process. It lays out your goals for the website – what it needs to do to be considered a success – and the tactics you’ll use to achieve those goals.

As with every stage of planning, it’s critical here to get the input from your key stakeholders. This is for two reasons:

  1. Your stakeholders are most likely to have the insights you need to build a successful marketing tool
  2. Getting their buy-in early is critical to getting them to believe in and use that tool when it has launched.

Site Map

For all but the most complex of sites, “site map” sounds to most people like something that can quickly be scrawled on the back of a napkin. It can, but that’s rarely going to work out very well. Taking the time to map out how to organize and present the content needed to make your marketing case will yield much better results – a smoother development process with fewer costly “do-overs” and a finished product that addresses all major audience segments and their interests.

Wireframes

The wireframes are the bridge between the site map and the functional spec. It creates a page-by-page guide to the site, what elements need to be present on each page, and how your audience can interact with those elements. Wireframes frequently even dip their toes into features and functionality.

One thing wireframes shouldn’t be is a design document. To be effective, the wireframes should be as neutral and non-visual as possible. The focus has to be on what will be on the page, not where on the page it will be.

Functional Specifications

The functional spec takes your wireframes one step further, fleshing out not only how your audience can interact with the website, but how your administrative team can edit and update the site, and what  the site coding will do for you automatically.

These can be quite simple, expanding only slightly on the contents of the wireframes, to incredibly complex in cases like ecommerce sites with heavy transactional loads.

Design Brief

The more you can define in detail here, the fewer questions and corrections you’ll face during production. And those corrections are always faster and less expensive to fix during planning than production.

One last thought on the planning process: content. Not included above is a Content Map, though perhaps it should be. We talk a lot about content in the discovery process. Leaving it for the end, as a lot of clients want to do, is a mistake as a well-crafted site map and wireframe can fall apart quickly if there is not enough content to populate some areas of the site and too much to fit in others. This is again an area that is cheaper to address in advance.

(If you’d like to learn more about the planning process we use at Andigo and how to adapt it to your own needs, join me later this month at Wordcamp in NYC where I’ll be presenting on this topic. And if you won’t be in NYC on September 15th, contact me and I’ll send you a link to a recording of the presentation.)

Technical SEO for Content Marketing

Google and other search engines have made it clear that site performance is a consideration in their algorithms, so technical SEO matters more than ever.

Get the eye glaze ready — we’re going to get technical!

I get that stuff like technical SEO is the last thing most marketers want to talk about, but I promise we won’t dive too deeply into the geek-speak. Consider this a primer, with the goal of helping you to recognize the factors at play so you can discuss them intelligently with your technology staff. (Who, I’m sure, will be all too happy to go into the details I’m leaving out!)

Google and other search engines have made it clear that site performance is an important consideration in their ranking algorithms. Site visitors are frustrated when content won’t load and the search engines want to provide the best possible experience.

Of course, a slow site isn’t helpful for you either. No matter how great your content, if your visitors are already headed back to the search results page for the next-most enticing link before your content loads, you’ve lost an opportunity. Here are a few things you can do to get your website’s technology  and technical SEO in order and improve your chances for content marketing success.

Technical SEO is an important part of website performance

Hosting Performance

I rarely see anyone focus on this, but if you’re not sure where your website is hosted or how that hosting provider is connected to the internet, you have your first homework assignment. The largest corporate entities among us most certainly have their own server farms and smaller firms who have very high traffic web properties will, too. But many of the rest of us hire this out to one of the many commercial hosting outfits. There are a great many options both in terms of the services you can contract for and the kinds of providers offering them.

There are generalists whose services include everything from shared hosting to VPS (virtual private server) hosting to dedicated hosting where an entire hosting machine is yours and yours alone.

There are also specialists who offer hosting focused on the needs of one particular CMS, or the needs of one type of website (whether regulatory or transactional needs), or other criteria.

Choosing amongst them can be overwhelming if you don’t speak the language, so you need to bring in your web development team to help you navigate the options. Do not turn the decision over to them, though. Instead, work with them and set your ego aside. Be willing to ask the “dumb” questions to make sure that they’re helping you make a decision that factors in your marketing needs and not just their technology needs.

SSL Certificates

This is another area that is getting more scrutiny. You may not know what an SSL certificate is, but you’ve seen them in action. Any time you see “https” in a web address rather than “http,” you know there is an SSL certificate under the hood.