The Need to Engage Online

“5 Cs” of engagement: Creating, Critiquing, Chatting, Collecting and Clicking.

SINCE the inception of the World Wide Web in 1989, there are now more than 80 million websites online, with many more computers connected to the Internet, and hundreds of millions of users.

When people go online, they tend to spend more time on sites that are worthy of their attention. After all, time is a limited resource.

So, where do people spend all their time online? Which websites are more successful in capturing attention? How engaging is the content on the website?

The Internet Activity Index (IAI) — issued by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and was based on a four-year study — found that Internet users spend most of their online time browsing content and less time on communications and commerce combined.

Content is critical

The dominant role of content is driven by several important factors. The first is the online transition of traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding entertainment information or checking the weather forecast. The second is that the Internet provides a wonderful broadcast medium for every netizen to become a content creator and publisher.

Content is broadly defined as “the stuff on your website”. This may include documents, data, applications, e-services, images, audio and video files, personal Web pages, archived e-mail messages, and more.

Web 2.0 technologies and publishing models have set the stage for fast, highly interactive sites to deliver user-requested content.

It is important to understand what content would engage visitors. The new metric for websites is not how many people visit your website, but how many view and interact with the content.

Content engagement metrics are complex and are evolving to include all the different facets of visitor interaction. They are not only based on the number of visits or time visitors spent on the web page, but also the frequency of returns to a site, the amount of time spent and page views per visit, and the number of actions performed on the page.

PostRank (www.postrank.com) provides a web analytics tool to rank all types of online content by analysing the types and frequency of an audience’s interaction through the “5 Cs” of engagement: Creating, Critiquing, Chatting, Collecting and Clicking.

Is it any wonder that Nielsen Online finds that Facebook reigns supreme in the amount of time spent by users — a whopping 4.5 hours per person, on average per month and growing, followed by Google, Yahoo, AOL and eBay.

Engage visitors

It is often said that actions speak louder than words. This is particularly true in thinking about how visitors engage with websites. Start with your readership in mind instead of the search engine robots, and you will not only end up ranking well but also help some people along the way.

Engagement can be defined as an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals for that website.

Determining whether content is appropriate to visitor needs and to business goals is a complex problem. Your website must be functional and relevant. If not, visitors will leave to search for quality information.

Provide accurate and accessible information: update your services regularly to encourage repeat visits and greater interaction.

Make an assessment of your content by focusing on objectives and specifying the type of each objective, characteristics and an accurate description. Think about who will perform the tasks related to various aspects of the website.

Keys to success

The two critical elements to building a successful site are a search engine-friendly website and an effective and solid call to action that gets visitors to take action and respond. One without the other will not have the same impact at all.

Remember to focus on creating content that satisfies the reason why the user performed a search in the first place. An integrated content strategy isn’t easy, but it is imperative to growing and sustaining a website online.

This can be in the form of feedback or forums, where people interact with each other and discuss the various issues related with a product or website.

Another technique for increasing engagement on websites is the use of website reviews. User generated reviews lend credibility to a website while making the user feel he is part of the story.

So how can people compete and keep the users on their sites? The best ways to capture a user’s attention and keep him coming back are to strategise your content, leverage technology to assist in the effort and incorporate the user’s voice.

As published in the Straits Times, Singapore

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