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Performance

5 Engagement-Boosting Resolutions for Marketers This Year

As online marketers look at goals for 2014, they are likely staring down numbers for improving conversions, traffic, engagement and user satisfaction. Whatever the exact terms of the goals, we know they are all after one thing: making their websites more profitable.  To do so they’ll be reexamining everything from broad strategies for content development, media buys, promotions, and site design, right down to the minutia of CTA location, copy tweaks, and color scheme.

But out of the hundreds of possible avenues for making websites convert better and make more money, this year we are encouraging marketers to consider adding a few more weapons to their arsenal, ones that they may not have considered before.  These each fall into the category of tactics that may seem to fall under the purview of IT, but in fact have a direct impact on marketing metrics.

1.  Show your visitors the most relevant content first

The first thing your visitors see should be content they expect, not peripherals like widgets, banner ads, or sidebar content.  But if your site doesn’t render in a properly prioritized fashion, these items may be exactly what first confronts some or all of your visitors.

You have a tiny window to capture a visitor’s attention. The likelihood of a bounce goes up if the first items to render on your page aren’t useful to the visitor.  Plus, when visitors have more time to engage with central content, there’s a better chance they will get hooked and continue to explore the site or hit a CTA.

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This filmstrip shows that on CNN.com, a third-party advertisement appears before the page’s main focal point, a video

You can use tools like websitetest.com (excerpt shown above) and webpagetest.org to test your site from a variety of devices and locations.  They show “filmstrips” of your page load process — to see what a visitor would see.  Find out what pops up first.  Logos and structural content like navigation can be the very first things to paint in the browser window, but the central content should come directly after, if not first.  You can accomplish this with manual reordering and delay-loading of content, or look into solutions like Yottaa that perform these techniques on the fly.

 2.  Achieve “Just In Time” content

With new methods in development allowing sections of pages to load separately from others, the goal should now be to delight users with content that loads “just in time”.  As a user scrolls down a long page, he or she should be presented with content at a human-adjusted pace, one that involves no waiting, but doesn’t overwhelm with too much flashiness in content appearing all over the screen at once.  You can optimize engagement in this manner by using tools or development techniques that have images and content render the moment the user’s eyes land on that location.  These techniques include progressive rendering (images) and delay loading, sometimes with fade-in effects.

3.  Render pages faster

Don’t lose site of speed. This means both sending your user a page that they can fully use in a matter of a few seconds, as well as a page that starts rendering almost immediately.  For the first goal, a fully functional page, you can experiment with FEO techniques to optimize images, JavaScript, and CSS, focusing on reducing weight and the number of requests.  For the latter goal, to initiate rendering faster, you can you can leverage a CDN’s forward cache with much of your site, and be vigilant about the caching settings for all assets on your pages.

4.  Minimize distractions

After you have ensured that valuable content is appearing first, you can take it a step further by delay-loading peripheral content like chat widgets, social media, and modal popups. These assets are only useful for visitors that have already engaged with the content on the page — nobody is going to follow you, ask a question, or signup for a newsletter if they haven’t read the page yet.  By delaying the rendering of particular pieces of the page you can give the visitor an opportunity to absorb information before inviting them to engage further with your brand.  This can also help with both aspects of #3, by speeding up your rendering.

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Above, www.home-decorating-co.com loads in 1600 ms, but the Buy Safe Guarantee insignia is programmed to show up after a roughly 2 second delay. Other elements like social media and chat widgets are delayed even further.

5.  Send the right content to the right devices

No matter how your mobile solution is set up, you need to be conscious of what content is being sent to what devices. Even if your site is responsive, if you have a flash video it should not be sent to Apple devices, for instance. And if your site is not responsive, images that are functional on a desktop viewport may not work at all on mobile devices.  You can choose what content goes where by writing them into stylesheets, but a lighter-weight and easier solution is to use a service that identifies device on the fly and sends the content from cache.

Finally…

Don’t forget to test, analyze and monitor. Once any of the above methods are in place, you must verify that they are, in fact, helping your site make more money.  Cross reference trends in user engagement metrics like time on site, pages per visit, and non-eCommerce conversion rate with the implementation of these methods.  Then look at eCommerce conversions, order value, and revenue.  With these techniques added to your conversion marketing arsenal, you should see better-engaged visitors and a boost in metrics across the board!


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