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Increase Website Engagement with 7 Steps

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Website engagement is a goal as important as audience and revenue growth. The three goals are closely connected.

Increasing website engagement leads to higher pages per visit and more return visits. Higher pages per visit and more return visits will produce more ad inventory, which leads to more revenue.

Various studies have shown that page speed and clutter are the two biggest criticisms users have about websites. Google in particular places heavy emphasis on the importance of speed as a ranking factor. Our experience shows that speed clearly improves rankings in Google search results.

It stands to reason that making a page faster and simpler are the two of the most important recommendations on our list of ways to increase website engagement.

1) Reduce Page Weight

Forget the often-heard claim that broadband solves the page weight and speed problem. It doesn’t completely solve it because broadband has a limit and browser software has a limit.

A site with many large graphics lacking optimization and many bloated javascripts doing visual gymnastics may have loading problems. This is especially true on mobile phones.

Google’s own research using the RAIL model shows that website visitors will begin to perceive slowness in a little as 100 to 300 microseconds.

“Beyond 1000 milliseconds (1 second), users lose focus on the task they are performing,” Google says. “Beyond 10000 milliseconds (10 seconds), users are frustrated and are likely to abandon tasks. They may or may not come back later.”

How to Track Speed

The latest version of Google Analytics will track page speed. The company also offers the PageSpeed Insights tool for measurement. It’s as simple as entering a URL to get the results.

In Google Analytics, click on Content and then Site Speed in the left column. A report shows the speed of every page on the site.

Focus on the slowest pages and take the following steps:

  1. Reduce the number of external files called by the page, i.e., combine stylesheets, etc.
  2. Use small and lean javascripts whenever possible. The fewer the better.
  3. Reduce the number and weight of photos and graphics on the page. Use graphics software to optimize the images.
  4. Eliminate external server calls. Facebook plugins are notoriously slow.
  5. Limit the number of ads on a page to three or four. Ads not only require external server calls, but they also usually deliver large graphic files and even larger scripts.

In PageSpeed Insights, the results offer reports for both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. Note that mobile is the default report. Look for the “performance value” as a number with 100 being the highest. In Google’s own words, the reports cover:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1. or less.

2) Keep Clutter Down

Just because you set the screen resolution on your own monitor at 1366×768 doesn’t mean that everyone else does.

In fact, for some sites, 1024×768 has recaptured the top spot for screen resolutions of site visitors because of the growth of Ipads and other mobile devices.

Some of the steps listed under Page Weight will help reduce clutter:

  • Reduce the number of ads, photos and graphics
  • Narrow the page maximum width to 1280 or 1024 (either responsive or not)
  • Minimize page depth

There is another good reason to minimize page depth. An in-page analytics tool, which measures the clicks on a page, will usually show that click rates drop dramatically below the browser status bar.

In other words, people don’t use a browser scroll bar if possible. They like to see what they want at the top of the page.

3) Make Navigation Consistent

Simply use the same navigation on every page — the same colors, fonts and position. Likewise, consider repeating the navigation at the bottom of the page.

Navigation bars are the top of a page are not heavily used. They serve a graphical purpose more than providing usability. Navigation at the bottom attracts even fewer clicks. But it takes up minimal space and gets at least some clicks. Breadcrumb navigation also has little use.

The lesson is that relevant in-page links get more clicks than site navigation.

But site navigation is necessary even though it is not as effective as other tactics to attract clicks. When visitors can’t find what they want on a page, they go to site navigation for help.

Careful site navigation also helps search engines find and index all pages on a site.

4) Place Important Links High

Again, website engagement studies show that a majority of site visitors do not scroll much and that click rates drop dramatically below the bottom of the opening screen.

What is the point of putting any content below 800 pixels on a 1280 x 800 display?

Although click rates drop below the display area, there are people who scroll and click down there.

One way to attract scrolling is by placing an element on the page right at that point so the top of the title or photo is visible. If done correctly, it may be attractive enough to encourage scrolling.

Regardless, high-value content belongs at the top of a page. Low-value content belongs at the bottom.

5) Use Relevant Links

Know thy audience. If someone comes to a page about golf because they found it in a Google search, it doesn’t make much sense to have links on the page about bowling.

It’s clear from site statistics that relevant links on a page lead to more clicking and therefore more page usability.

Consider using analytics to track clicks on a page to see which ones do well and which ones don’t do well. Replace the poor performers with new ones on high-profile pages.

6) Reduce Bounce Rate

Follow the above steps, such as reduce page weight, place links high on the page and make the links relevant. As a result, bounce rate will probably go down.

What is bounce rate? It is the number of times someone comes to a page on the site and leaves the site again from that same page. In other words, they don’t click on anything on the page.

A high page bounce rate suggests poor usability. A high site bounce rate suggests it even more.

A good goal for bounce rate is below 50 percent. Getting it below 40 percent is even better, and anything under 30 is unusually good.

Start with the pages that have the most page views to get the biggest return on investment of time. Keep in mind that some pages will see improvements in bounce rate while others will have a tough time of it.

7) Track and Adjust

Analytic software makes it easy to track and adjust page usability. The important metric is bounce rate. Once a bounce rate trend is established, make a few changes and watch the results.

Keep tweaking each page over time. Eventually, bounce rate will go down, pages per visit will go up and so will total audience and revenue.

Website engagement is a continuous improvement process that pays for itself over time.

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