How Consumption Habits Inform Engagement

“Build the content and they will come” is wishful thinking. If you’re a brand or publisher, you should know better than anyone that producing quality content is just the beginning. Of almost equal importance is a solid marketing plan to push your content out to the world. Publishers are leaving a lot of engagement on the table by not looking more closely at how their content is being consumed.

Think about basic consumption habits, such as what time of day the content may be consumed, on what device it may be consumed, and what the best format for the content is. It’s actually fairly intuitive; think about your own content-consumption habits. When you’re commuting to work on Monday morning, you likely only have a few minutes to spend with an article on your smartphone, which is radically different than how you would consume an article on a weekend morning using a tablet.

The first step toward a killer content strategy is to determine how traffic patterns differ by platform, day and time. Many publishers see their smartphone traffic spike in the early morning, late evening hours and on weekends, while traffic on desktops follows an inverse rule. Your traffic, however, might follow a different pattern, so setting up with a system like Google Analytics across your desktop and mobile Web platforms will help you understand the patterns more closely.

Dig even deeper and determine what specific types of content perform best during specific days and times. Most content-marketing strategies seek a level of engagement after the first click. Smart content strategies look at what titles and content garner the highest first initial click rate and the most EAC. Often, content won’t gain the highest initial click-through rate — but once a reader does click, it can result in the highest EAC. This is especially true for video campaigns. Layering on day-parting over your best performing content will reveal clues about how to further optimize your campaigns for better overall engagement.

Once you fully understand your traffic patterns, the next step is mapping content format to device types. There are three key factors in determining format: the length of the content, the physical size of the content and the front door (usually a text link or image). The overall length of content can play a big role in how your audience engages with it. As a starting point, you should check the number of words you are publishing against the CTR you see on the links. Are you getting a higher CTR on shorter content from traffic on mobile devices? If so, you may want to move toward posting shorter articles for mobile devices and longer-form articles for desktop. However, it’s important not to sacrifice quality for page-view quantity. If your best content is in a longer format, you shouldn’t stop posting long-form work just for the sake of page views. Use this information to guide placement of content rather than using it to blow up your overall content strategy.

The size of content can be the biggest differentiator between high bounce rates and long engagement. There’s nothing more aggravating than eagerly anticipating a piece of content only to have it take forever to load. Don’t disappoint your audience by posting content so large it loads at dial-up speeds. If you must publish large pieces of content, it’s more likely a desktop audience that will wait for the piece to load than a mobile or tablet audience.

Pay close attention to titling on text links, image placeholders or still frames on videos.  These “front doors” can have dramatic effects on CTR and EAC — as much as 60 percent difference. Plan upfront for the ability to A/B test different “front doors” on the same pieces of content, by device, platform and time of day can have profound benefits.

Many top publishers are moving to responsive design — but this won’t help you with content strategy if you are putting the wrong content out there in the first place. By analyzing your traffic patterns, you will gain a better understanding of how audiences interact with your content. Getting eyeballs on your content might seem rather daunting, but with the right marketing strategy in place, it’s easier than you think.

John LoGioco is svp & gm, Americas at Outbrain, a content discovery platform.

Image via Shutterstock

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