Are Your Readers Engaged? A 3-Minute Checklist

It’s common knowledge that if you give your website visitors what they want, they’re more likely to return and more likely to stick around and explore your site. However, how do you know if you’re giving readers what they want? You can ask them, of course, and study their answers to see if there are any trends that stand out. You can also look at several types of indicators to learn how engaged your visitors are. If your goal is to monetize your site, then reader engagement is critical to your success. Here’s a quick checklist that can help you gauge audience engagement with your website.

1. Do your articles and comments regularly receive comments?

If most of your content brings in even a handful of comments, you’re probably doing several things right. Have you had articles or blog posts with comment threads that grow and take on a life of their own? What do those posts or articles have in common? You can learn a lot about what engages readers by seeing what gets discussion going.

2. Do you get regular email from site visitors with questions or inquiries for further information?

Even great websites might not get a lot of email inquiries, but look at your email inquiries for clues. Do they all ask the same (or similar) questions? If so, you have a good clue as to how you could improve your site by making the answers prominent for visitors.

3. Are average visitor times on your site increasing?

Spending time on your site means visitors are pleased with what they've found.
Spending time on your site means visitors are pleased with what they’ve found.

This is a good indicator of audience development, and shows you are building up a library of valuable content that keeps visitors around longer than they might stay otherwise. If average visit times drop, however, you may need to do some digging to learn what’s going wrong.

4. Are visitors viewing multiple pages?

When visitors poke around on your site, it’s a good sign, particularly if average visit times are increasing. If you’re not getting a lot of multiple page views, check the obvious things, like how easy to navigate your website is.

5. Is content sharing on social media sites increasing?

Shareable content is gold, and if your content is getting shared more, it’s a great sign that audience engagement is healthy.

6. Are the number of search exits low?

Internal site searches of analytics in your Google Analytics account can tell you the percentage of people who exit after performing a search. If this percentage decreases over time, it’s probably because your site’s audience engagement is improving.

7. Is “Time After Search” increasing?

This is another Google Analytics internal site search statistic and represents the amount of time visitors stick around after a search. The longer they stick around, the better it bodes for audience development.

8. Is “Search Depth” increasing?

This Google Analytics metric tells you how many pages visitors view after completing a search. The more, the better.

9. Are you providing content that addresses strangers, repeat visitors and big fans?

Strangers are naturally skeptical when they first visit a site. You’ll engage them by answering common questions, such as “Can this site tell me how to do X?” You keep repeat visitors engaged with good content, preferably about people like them, like “How an Ordinary Bakery Manager Increased Profits by 20%” for example. For your site’s biggest fans, you want to make it easy for them to take that next step, whether it’s subscribing to your newsletter or buying a product. Don’t make them search for the action you want them to complete.

10. Do you avoid the things that annoy readers into clicking the “Back” button?

Don't make people suffer through an endless slide show just to answer one simple question.
Don’t make people suffer through an endless slide show just to answer one simple question.

If visitors have to wait for a flash animation to load before they can find your business hours, they’ll probably go elsewhere. Multimedia content that loads automatically (particularly audio) is a huge turn-off. Most visitors can click the tab shut much faster than they can adjust the volume. Think of the things that annoy you most about websites (like slide shows that reload an entire page and require scrolling for every single slide) and don’t use them on your site.

How did you do? If you could answer “Yes” to 8 or more checklist items, congratulations; audience engagement for your site is solid and improving. Six or seven yeses means you’re doing OK, but there’s definite room for improvement. Five or fewer yeses indicate that your content is probably not pulling its weight in enabling audience development. The information that indicates visitor engagement is generally easy to find from your site analytics, so make the most of it and you can be confident you’re giving visitors what they want from your site.

Photo Credits: cooldesign /, David Castillo Dominici /


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