Unlike a bounce house or basketball, when it comes to content, bouncing is not enjoyable. As defined in the first part of this series, a ‘bounce’ is when someone immediately or soon after entering a webpage closes the tab or browser, or navigates to a different site. Bounce rates are typically tracked for blogs and websites when the visitor leaves within the first 0-30 seconds.
Most web managers and content creators treat visitors like movie goers – once the ticket is purchased, it doesn’t matter if they stay for the whole film. The truth is, the longer someone stays on your content, the better opportunity you have to engage them further, whether for a sale, newsletter sign-up or another goal. Having bounce-proof content means that the majority of visitors who take an intentional route to your page will be engaged to the point that they can’t look away. In fact, they look for more and stay for the sequel.
This is no easy feat as mentioned in the previous three parts of this series. The average visitor stays just long enough to read 20% of a page’s content. This translates to mean our efforts to attract visitors is much more successful than our ability to keep them interested, but there are things we can do.
With a primary focus on finding the reasons we leave an article without reading it, I decided to dig into this subject and find out how myself and others can create bounce-proof content. In addition to doing my own research, I surveyed others using these four questions:
- What causes you to click on a piece of content to read?
- What is the quickest way to get you to click off of a piece of content?
- What are some additional things that cause you to close an article or stop reading?
- How can this be avoided (clicking off of an article before reading it)?
Based on my experiences with content, second-hand research, and information collected from the above survey, I have compiled my list of top tips on how to create bounce-proof content.
What Makes Content Bounce-Proof?
Get engaged with your reader. You don’t literally have to marry them, but by creating a strong relationship with your audience, you significantly increase the likelihood that they will read every last word of your content, even when a piece isn’t your best. Within your family and community, you are more likely to help someone out if their car breaks down or they get locked out of their house. The same is true for online communities. Build a relationship with your reader, and they’ll pick you up when need it most. Engage them by staying consistent, providing value, giving them easy ways to interact with you, and provide solutions to the problems they are facing. I know, it sounds difficult, but if you aren’t trying to provide value to your readers/visitors, why are you writing?
- Avoiding Pet-peeves
In part 2, we looked at reasons people bounce off of content. The majority of those reasons revolve around common content mistakes. Slow page-loading times, slideshows, videos when an article is expected, annoying advertisements, misleading headlines, drawn-out articles, the lack of design or images, and a bias point of view are all reasons we leave. Produce simple and easy to consume content, and you will help the reader easily buy-in to what you’re providing.
- Direct Headlines
Within my circle of friends, I am known as a movie hype-man. Whenever a dumb comedy or gory action flick comes out, I tend to tout it as the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I set the expectations so high that even if they otherwise would’ve enjoyed the movie, the film’s inability to match my lofty praise ruins it for everyone. Over-the-top headlines accomplish this same exact thing. They build us up, and if the content can’t quickly deliver, we are leaving the theater. Be direct and don’t over-hype your content if you are striving to get people to read the entire piece.
- Sacrifice Quantity for Quality
One-hundred engaged readers or 1,000 who leave 20 seconds after landing on your page, which would you rather have? If you chose the 1,000 visitors, you shouldn’t be reading about how to prevent readers from bouncing because it’s not something you care about. Focus on a niche that provides an immense amount of value for your target audience, and your readers will more than likely stay for the whole show. You don’t have to sacrifice quantity in the long run, as your following will grow with you, but in the short term, you may have lower numbers by focusing more on your user and less on over-the-top headlines.
- Grammar Check
You don’t have to be a schoolteacher to have acceptable grammar. Invest in a grammar program or use free tools online to catch obvious errors. Have friends or people you trust critically review your articles. Taking the time to proofread your own work isn’t very fun, but neither is receiving comments about your errors from grammar police trolls.
- Play to Different Reading Styles
This tip comes courtesy of Catherine Juon. “Another quick tip on keeping people engaged: speak to the different kinds of ways different people absorb information. For example, include illustrations for visual people, and back up what you’re saying with data to keep the attention for the numbers-oriented crowd.”
If your content isn’t compatible with mobile web, you’re missing out on a significant amount of potential readers who will have trouble properly viewing your site or articles.
Other Quick Tips:
- Provide immense value in the first 10 seconds.
- Make sure internal links go to external pages to avoid losing visitors.
- Use polls, questions and surveys to engage your audience.
- Embed videos and curate content instead of incentivizing your visitors to go somewhere else.
One Final Tip
I’d like to end this series with the most simple and obvious, yet most helpful tip – ask your readers. Sure, you will have random visitors click on and off of your website, but no one knows what you provide better than your faithful customers, and what you need to improve on. Ask for open and honest feedback from your network and those who know the most about your work. Make a conscious effort to improve the copy on your website and content in your articles, and the users will come back again and again.