Alleviate the Pain of Clicking by Rewarding Engagement

pain*

Informational content and sites have a high bounce rate. Often 4/5 of all people visiting your article won’t do anything on your page besides looking at it. Frequently it’s just a glance. Even the 20% who do something in most cases just view another page on your site or blog. It means they just click an item, e.g. an image or an internal text link.

The people who really engage with your content in that they comment or share are actually very rare.

Usually I have witnessed that for 100 visitors only one will comment for example. Deep engagement on site level by debating or creating a community is really scarce. Maybe one of 1000 site users will engage that much. It’s a real pain to click for most people.

Especially “drive by” traffic from search engines is hard to convert to engaged users on informational sites. That’s why we have a whole discipline called “landing page optimization”.

What about informational content then that is not on a landing page in the strict sense?

Can we make people click without bombarding them with pop ups, shoving huge red call to action buttons in their faces and pushing them hard along the sales funnel? How can we alleviate the pain of

  1. clicking
  2. commenting
  3. sharing
  4. debating
  5. community building?

How to make clicking less painful

The pain of clicking the mouse button or touching the screen is manifold. It can hurt in case you waste time, lose track of the task you want to accomplish or simply end up reading or watching something completely unrelated.

In order to make people click you have to first to convince them to dwell on your page long enough to see an item to click. So you need an enticing hand-crafted headline. Then you need some striking visuals. A summary in the first paragraph or at least an intriguing intro are also necessary. Only then the people will really skim your text and read a paragraph or two.

The text snippets people read on your page must be gripping enough to make them read more.

That’s why I use a lot of citations from my articles to highlight the most promising parts of the text. In case your post is image heavy or consists mainly of a video you need to post the best image/s or screens first to motivate them do stay longer. With videos you can simply take a screen shot of your favorite scene.

You are still not at the clicking stage of the user interaction with your page. Until now you have only made the person stay and read, look closer, watch. Now that you have their attention the next step is finally about clicking.

The next thing is actually about giving them more of what they want or like.

You don not really know what the people want on your page, especially as everybody is different but you can guess based on the page content and the site they have appeared on. So give them what they like – in case they have viewed the post in its entirety they need similar posts below it – to get more of that. We use the Zemanta related posts plugin.

related-posts

Images work best for visually oriented topics like art, design or photography. They can work with “boring” topics like SEO too.

Just don’t always use graphs and screens to visualize your point, use amazing images as a metaphor. In the SEO industry bloggers will often use anchor images for posts about link building. That’s not a good metaphor anymore, it’s so overused that there must be something special about the image at least to make it work. So focus on the originality.

Some major publications have started to interrupt posts with links to similar articles by simply adding a highlighted line of text which is also linked. This can be distracting but it can also work well.

 

How to make commenting less painful

While it’s already difficult to make people click it’s very hard to convince visitors to comment. Unless you are writing for a huge AOL blog you will have difficulties in getting comments at all.

There has been lots of debate on the merit of comments and lots of advice to switch them off but let it be said that in the age of blogs and social media those who make their audience shut up lose out on the best parts of it.

Not all comments are created equal and you have to be very picky to encourage real genuine comments.

Some of the biggest pains of commenting are the usability and technical issues coming with it, the privacy implications, the fear of being alone and the conviction that no one will notice. Why bother when nobody will read the comment or even reply to it?

You have to reply to each and every genuine comment unless you have already a community that does in a polite manner.

comment

A comment system like Disqus we use on the Pro SEO blog ensures there is some cross-site commenting feedback and a look and feel users are accustomed too. They can also log in via many social networks and other log in services so that bot comment spam and typing in of names etc. is dealt with.

Beyond that it’s important to use a call to action on “0 comments” types of posts. We have yet to improve that here too. “Add your comment” is a good start. I also prefer other words than “comment” because “commenting” suggests solely stating your opinion while other reactions are more valuable, for example adding something useful instead of just voicing agreement or disagreement.

 

How to make sharing less painful

While most people will argue that you have to show multiple social media sharing buttons right on top of your articles, below them and even on the side at the same time I prefer the conversion optimization approach of fewer distractions and in the best case one call to action.

On my own blog I have only one button, it’s the red Google +1 one. Twitter, Facebook etc. only show up on demand by a selection of a text passage or via mouse over on an image with the help of Markerly.

markerly

A compromise of both social media button inclusion strategies is probably best. For example a Twitter button on top and Google + 1 below the post has worked very well for me.

Adding too many irrelevant buttons can backfire. Too much choice leads to inaction as the brain is overwhelmed with options.

It really hurts to have to choose between too many options. Why? We don’t want to miss something, so each option we don’t choose is a potential loss. Having just one option takes the weight of decision making off our shoulders. You have only to decide whether to click or not to click the button. So removing button clutter and thus choices is crucial.

Having lots of social proof is good for your site but in case several buttons show a “zero” you have negative social proof

saying something like “nobody likes and reads this site”. Some sites solve this problem by showing custom designed social media icons instead of the default buttons with numbers in them. Only once you click them you will see the number of other votes and shares.

It would be really embarrassing to be the first to share an article nobody else likes and agrees with. Usually most people do not want to be the first person who takes that risk. After all maybe the article is really bad and that’s why nobody shared it prior to you?

Creative Commons image by Keith Tsuji