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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Who Drives Traffic To Your Content?

Most of us now understand that content is king; the interesting point is how are people finding what you have produced?

A new study from Outbrain sets out to find how people discover and engage with content on the web.

Traffic patterns  from 100 million sessions ( a 'session' is defined as a series of page views with no more than 30 minutes between one and the next.) across more than 100 premium publishers that used their publishing platform was analysed platform to see how readers were accessing content, just where they’re finding it and how they were engaging with that content.

The key finding from the study were:
  • Search remains the primary source of directing traffic to content pages (41%)) but  social is catching up at 11%.
  • Stories in the news, entertainment and lifestyle categories are the most likely to receive traffic from social sources.
  • Traffic coming from social media sources has the highest tendency to bounce.
  • Readers who go from one content site to another are most likely to be engaged in what they’re reading, presumably because they are already in content consumption mode.
  • Facebook delivers a more diverse audience than Twitter.

Google, AOL and Yahoo are the the top three sources of traffic to content pages whereas Facebook and Twitter came in 4th and 8th, respectively. Digg rounded out the top 20.

And what kind of content are people sharing on social media?  According to the Outbrain study, news stories were the most likely to receive traffic from social sites, followed by entertainment stories and lifestyle.
Hyper-engagement is defined as those so access five or more pages per session.  Reader engagement is highest when they come from search or other content rich sites.  By contrast, social sites referral readers are not particularly hyper-engaged.

Finally the study commented on the differences between Facebook and Twitter readers:

"Given the popularity of both Facebook and Twitter, we thought it was worth comparing their relative traffic quality to see what differences exist. Surprisingly, the two sites drive similarly engaged audiences in terms of page views per session, bounce rates and hyper-engaged reader sessions. 
The one key difference is in their relative reach, which we define as the number of unique visitors per 1,000 sessions. Specifically, we found about 72% of sessions originating from Facebook were from a unique visitor, versus only 52% in the case of Twitter, suggesting that Twitter’s audience is more likely to be made up of repeat visitors."

You can download the full study from Outbrain’s blog.

A couple of pointers on how to write content that people will want to actively engage in, and discover through search.
    Content Strategy for the Web
  1. Devise a content strategy that ensures that what you produce is of use to your readers / business consumers.  That way you will get attention and people will be inclined to share. Vacuous drivel goes nowhere!
  2. Don't start from the rigid belief that your content has to be published on your site.  It may be better on a third party site for greater exposure.
  3. Content most in demand is ‘smart’ (capable of being re-used and repackaged in many ways) and ‘evergreen’ (long lasting).  It should also motivate users to download, embed or share it and you need to provide the tools so they can do so.
  4. Make sure your content contains the key words both in the title and body text.  That way it has a better chance of showing up in search.
  5. Write better headlines encourage reader curiosity.
  6. As articles with visual content get a 27% increase in click engagement and content discovery, make sure you at least include a thumbnail image or two.
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