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Best Ways of Improving Time Spent On-Site
If there is one metric that can really tell a lot about your website, it is the time spent on site. How long people stay on your site should be your big concern.
Let’s remember what was Google’s primary goal?
Providing the best user experience. Why? Because people will use Google as long as it provides the best results. Google can generate ad revenue if only people keep using it.
Then, how does Google measure user experience on a website?
Google uses a versatile group of metrics to measure that. A few of them are time spent on site, mouse scrolling behaviors, link clicks, etc.
By using these metrics, Google assigns a quality score for each page on the web. Also, this score is not static and continuously updated by including new user data.
The assumption is, if people spend their time on your site, then your site is engaging people. Low session duration is a low-quality signal and hurts your SEO rankings. Also, having a very high engaging website can help you to outrank your competitor without having many links.
If a user lands on your site, and click the back button without any interaction, the user is bounced from your site. No matter how many seconds the user spends on your site it will be considered as a “zero-second session”. That is why you should entice people to click on the different pages on your website.
If you want to learn how your website performs in terms of session duration you should go to your Google Analytics.
Once you are in your Analytics, go to the Audience » Overview.
Make sure you have already excluded your own IP address in your Analytics. Else you are likely counting your own visits on your website that will mislead you about the average session duration.
Especially with the use of AI technologies like RankBrain, Google can really understand if a page responds to user intent. Visitors on your website should fully engage with your content if you want to achieve and maintain a high SERP position.
Also, the longer people stay on your site, the more likely they will act upon whatever the CTA (Call-To-Action) you present them.
You usually have a few seconds to telegraph a new user that your website is worth their time. If you fail to build a positive impression during this time, they will leave your website.
1. Have A User-Friendly Design
The first impression your website provides does really matter in everything, and your website is no exception.
People decide if they want to stay on your website or leave usually in a few seconds.
It is a quite short time for you to prove to them your website worths their time. No matter what type of information you provide, if you fail to provide a good user experience people will bounce from your site.
Use a simple site design that is easy to navigate for an average web user. Make sure everything is displayed intuitively without giving any hustle to the visitors.
Use a professional-looking theme. If your site design suck, people will not see any value reading your content. Invest in a premium theme that looks crispy and clean.
You can pick a really good one from >> ThemeForest.
2. Know what your audience wants
The essence of any successful content marketing campaign is to identify the correct characteristics of your audience.
You may not be able to pinpoint their exact demographic, geographical, and psychographic features. However, there should be an ideal persona you want to target. By knowing what your audience wants to read, you will create a bigger impact.
Don’t you know your audience yet? Then, it is time to make your research.
A study made by Digital Content Next in October 2014 emphasized the importance of researching audiences so that organizations understand who the most engaged readers are. How they arrive on a website, and later how do they behave on it.
Knowing which type of content performs the best helps you creating more focused content. Always keep an eye on engagement metrics like time spent on a page, the number of social shares and even the amount of backlinks a particular piece of content earns.
Analyze the tone of your good performing content. Is it written with a humorous and friendly tone, or is it official and informative? How many images did you use, are there any infographics in your content, etc.
If you know what works you can replicate that good result in many folds.
3. Improve Readability
When I visit a page if I have a difficult time understanding the content I usually quit. I think most people are doing the same. Your content should be readable to improve user experience. Readable content has both direct and indirect SEO benefits.
Consider writing shorter sentences that pull the reader to go for the next one. If you need to build 2 words sentences just do it. You don’t need a well enough number of words before you build a sentence.
If you are a WordPress user, your SEO plugin should show you the readability level of your content.
I use Yoast, and it informs the readability level of my content even while am working on it. As you can see, my content is scored with 69.1 at the time I take this screenshot. It is a quite good score I want to maintain.
You can check my best tips to improve the readability of your content.
4. Display estimated reading time
Let readers know how long your content is. The more transparent you are about your website, the better results your website will achieve.
If the readers know it will take only 3 minutes of them to read a particular page, they will feel more motivated to do that.
Use online tools to help you estimate how much time a particular piece of content takes to read.
You can use the “Reading Time WP” plugin to insert an estimated reading time of your post above your content.
The plugin allows you to define how many words per minute your reader should spend reading your content. By default, the estimated reading speed for adults is set as 300 words per minute.
However, depending on the complexity of the topics you discuss, and the readability level, you can increase or decrease this number.
A study published in Science Magazine in May 2013 discovered that our society is more and more relying on the aggregated, digitized opinions of others to decide on things.
What that means we seek approval of other people when making decisions.
This alone explains why people enjoy sharing stuff so much on social media. They like something, but they want to validate it with their family and friends.
Businesses can benefit from this by making their content on their sites more shareable. Encouraging your readers to share your content on social media will help you to reach a wider audience. As a result, you will have more time spent reading your content.
As a rule of thumb, audiences have similar interests to their friends and family, so a shared piece is going to get more readings. The assumption is, “If my friend read, and enjoy something to share it on here, then I may like it too.
6. Match your headline with your content
If your content is incongruent with its different parts or sections, you will have a hard time to build credibility. People hate to get trapped into something by clicking to a clickbait title.
It is good to use creative headlines. However, if your content doesn’t match with your title you will kill the trust. People can smell ingenuity from miles away.
Give people things you have promised in your headline. Also, give it quick. Many people make the mistake of holding the essential nugget of information to the end. You really shouldn’t do it.
Make your point fast in the early stage of your content. Then provide reasons for the reader to consume the rest of your copy.
Your headline and body of your content should be in alignment. People are going to skim whatever your headline tells, only then they will read your content.
7. Break your content
You should break your content into bite-size parts. If you fail to provide digestible content that people can consume easily, they will quit.
In reality, only a few percents of people will read any content to the end. It is the typical content reading behavior of the average web user.
However, if you provide a more structured content experience to your audience you will keep people on your site for longer.
You should use subheadings as much as possible. Big text blocks are a huge turn off for the readers. Readers should have the opportunity of skimming your content to have an overall idea of what is discussed in it.
Because most people like to skim a piece of content, before making the decision of reading it.
Subheadings play an important role in attracting and holding the attention of the people. It keeps them going from one subhead to the next down the page.
Subheadings are smaller than the main headline but larger than the main text of the content. It is only for one reason, to make them stand out from the main text.
Build shorter paragraphs. If you have over 3-4 lines of paragraphs the reader will have a hard time to follow your content. Especially in mobile devices, the number of lines in a paragraph can easily double the number on desktop devices. Make sure your paragraphs look decently long in both desktop and mobile devices.
8. Evoke Curiosity
Curiosity is a powerful emotion. If used right, the readers will give your copy their full attention.
However, there’s a catch.
Despite its strength, this emotion is a tricky one. And it’s often mishandled in copywriting. If you don’t use it properly your reader’s involvement will vanish even with a tiny distraction.
You may know how to use curiosity to entice your readers to consume your content. However, if you don’t adopt the following rules, you may lose more potential customers than you can hardly imagine.
Here is why curiosity is so hard to get attract.
We love having new information through entertaining things. It is the curiosity that makes us stick to puzzles, or playing computer games for hours. We may not like a particular book but still want to finish it since we wonder how it will end.
Curiosity has been the engine behind the greatest discoveries in history. However, it is overused by everyone. If you want to take advantage of this great feeling you need to do it more delicately, different than the other people.
Here is how you can do it.
Tease, but not that much.
You need to create a disorder for the reader.
You need to stop the reader assuming, “Yeah, this will probably be about A, B and C. I think, I already know how it will end.”
Also, curiosity does not intensify permanently. It rather peaks and decreases if left unsatisfied for too long. Overdoing curiosity is a common problem in content marketing. Assuming the reader will remain interested forever is a shallow expectation.
Your headline is critical to attracting the reader’s attention. However, it doesn’t assure their continued interest. Your headline encourages people to read the first line of your content. The first line makes the same for the second line. It continues like that until the end of your content.
9. Use Videos or Podcasts On Page
Videos are perfect since they rely on visuals, music, animation, voiceover to tell a story. Videos make it easy to explain complex ideas since it invites all our senses together with our imagination to work together.
If you can include relevant videos on your pages people will watch them. They will spend more time on your site without even noticing it.
Make sure your videos are super related and complementary to what you discuss on your page. Adding a video for the sake of having a video will not help you.
Podcasts are also very similar, although they lack visual engagement. If you use both podcasts and videos contextually you can supercharge average visit time on your website.
10. Use High-Quality Images
High-quality images are necessary for your website for many reasons. If you use unique, and shareable images on your site you will improve your on-page SEO and Google rankings.
Also, your website will be picked up more often on Google image search results. This will bring your site additional traffic without directly competing with your competitors.
High-quality images will decrease your bounce rate and will encourage people to think about the images instead of discouraging them by showing a wall of text.
Finally, images will increase the credibility of your arguments provided that they are relevant to what you have to say. Being more credible means more conversions and more revenue for your business.
11. Have a Fast Website
I can’t emphasize enough how important to have a fast website. Site speed affects your SEO rankings, overall user experience, and conversions.
Slow sites tend to have a low conversion rate, high bounce rate, and a limited number of page visits.
A slow website will cause users to bail because no one has the patience to wait for a website to load forever. This can be a bigger problem for businesses that have a long conversion funnel.
Site speed is a major quality indicator, and only high-quality websites win in SEO competition. You can read my best practices here to improve your site speed.
At the minimum have a reliable Webhosting service like mine. I use DigitalOcean to host this website and it works like a charm.
Websites that have an SSL certificate run faster. There are also many other reasons for you to have an SSL certificate. You can get your SSL from Namecheap.
You can also consider investing in a high-quality CDN service. Glowhost CDN is a high-quality one you want to have.
12. Recommend your other posts
We have already discussed that visitors should see multiple pages of content on your site before they leave. One page sessions are not only bad for SEO but also hurts your profitability.
But how could you achieve that? You have to show related posts to the actual post reader is consuming. You can place related posts either on your sidebar or at the bottom of your content. By doing so, you will have more page visits and a lower bounce rate for your website.
If your theme doesn’t allow you displaying other related posts to the reader, you may want to use plugins. If you have WordPress, you can use “Yet Another Related Post” plugin can help you to show users other related posts on your website.
13. Display The Last Update Date Of Your Content
No one wants to read a piece of content written 3 years ago. A lot of things changing rapidly pretty much in most niches. If you have published a piece of content more than a year ago, it is time to update it.
Updating your old content will serve multiple goals.
- Your content will be fresh and prioritized by the search engines.
- People will more likely to read it once they notice it is recently updated.
- You will have the opportunity to expand your old content to provide more depth.
- You will have the opportunity to add new long-tail keywords to your content that may bring you additional search traffic.
However, you shouldn’t update a few words and hit the update button. Try to make it better each time you update your content. Search engines are smart enough to tell if you are trying to benefit from the freshness boost without renewing your content.
If you are using WordPress you can use a plugin called WP Last Modified Info.
It is very nice to display the latest update date on top of each post. You can choose a different location to place the latest update info. The plugin also allows you to customize the text and date format you want to use.