Guest Post By Leischen Stelter, editor, In Public Safety
It’s one of the cardinal rules of writing, but it’s easy to forget that writing to (and reaching) a target audience is more important than the number of people you reach.
As the editor of the blog In Public Safety, all content is focused on reaching those working in (or aspiring to work in) a public safety field—specifically law enforcement, the fire services, and emergency management. These professionals are our desired readers, so we don’t really care (or expect) those in the general population to view our content. Frankly, the average person isn’t likely to be interested in our topics so our articles won’t resonate with them. And that’s okay. It isn’t created for them.
Even knowing that, it’s often hard for content creators to look beyond page views as their primary objective. After all, it influences Google page ranking. But in order to build the desired readership and reach your target audience, content creators must put just as much, or even more, weight on other metrics.
Time on Page
Looking at your “time on page” metrics can tell you when your content is resonating with readers—the higher the number, the longer people are spending reading the content. This metric is far more beneficial than someone simply clicking on an article, realizing it’s not for them, and leaving your site. You may have gotten a page view from it, but you didn’t get a reader.
Determine benchmarks for your content. For time on page, shoot for an average of one minute. The better you get at delivering desired content to your specific audience, the higher this number will grow.
This metric tells you the percent of people who come to your site, visit one page, and then leave. A high bounce rate usually means that people are not finding what they want on your site. The lower this percentage, the more readers are coming to your site, reading an article, and then clicking on other pages that may interest them.
In order to improve your bounce rate, consider embedding related articles into your content to give readers easy access to other pages that have similar information. You can also add widgets to your site that automatically generate articles with similar tags or keywords.
The Behavior tab in Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about your readers. One thing it will tell you is which articles are the most popular. By evaluating the content that has the highest views, you can work to build similar content around those topics.
However, be cautious about this strategy. Remember, it’s not just about page views, it’s about what content resonated with your audience.
When evaluating your site’s most popular articles, filter according to page views and then a secondary filter for time on page (or another metric). Doing so eliminates articles that may have had a great headline with high SEO properties so it ranked high in searches, but after readers clicked on it, they realized the article wasn’t what they expected.
Engagement: Keep the Conversation Going
Ultimately, you want readers to engage with your content. You want them to comment on it, whether on the article itself or on social media sites. You want them to share it with friends or colleagues. When articles get comments or shares from readers, you have a great opportunity to re-engage them and keep that conversation going.
For example, on In Public Safety, one of our best-performing articles is Demystifying the Background Investigation Process: What You Can Expect When Applying for a Law Enforcement Job. Again, this is content that only interests those aspiring to work in law enforcement, but it’s garnered A LOT of attention. The article currently has more than 246K page views (!), but, more importantly, it has a lot of comments: 50 Facebook comments and 348 traditional comments. Some of those comments are from the author.
Every so often, I will send him an email letting him know there are new comments and he’ll go through and respond to readers. Because of the topic of this article, readers are looking for insights or information about applying for a job in law enforcement. The author will provide guidance or information, thus furthering the conversation and re-engaging that reader.
While I love pointing to this article because of its impressive stats, the fact is that it’s an anomaly. We have way more articles that only have a few hundred views, or have high bounce rates, or very little time on page. And that’s fine. It’s expected.
Not every article will be a home run. The most important thing is that content creators understand performance metrics, develop benchmarks for the most valuable metrics, and use that information to guide them in developing and shaping content that has the best chance to reach the desired reader.