People like to link to content that shows signs of life. If you have an active community, people are more likely to return often — and that increases the chances that when they need to link to something, it might be to you.
In this era where we’re all terrified about who’s linking to us, having relevant users who are your true audience linking to you seems like it would be a good thing, doesn’t it?
We talk a lot about creating good, useful content. We talk about socializing it. What we don’t talk about as much is user engagement with that content. So, let’s dive into that and see how it relates to (hopefully!) helping you generate more amazing and relevant content and links.
Typically, people discuss articles on Search Engine Land. These conversations occur on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, as well as in the comments section of the article itself.
What I like about the above 2 examples is that the author is asking for help. What do you think? What can you add to this? That’s a great way to actually get that information. Of course, people don’t always wait to be asked for their input, but actively stating that you welcome it surely has to carry some weight.
We’re all busy people. If I read an article and no one asks for feedback, I might not think to give it. If I read one where someone specifically asks, “Do you have any other suggestions for x?,” then I’ll be much more likely to contribute.
What do you do if no one is participating? Ask them to! Send them an email, tweet to them, etc. Start it off yourself. I’m not saying that every time you write something you should spam everyone to let them know — but, I do think that people are busier than ever, and it’s easy for people to miss your newest content. If you think they would want to see it, do reach out and show it to them. Just don’t go crazy with this.
I use surveys at work because usually it’s quicker and easier for everyone to fill out a 10-question survey than it is to find the time to come and talk to me about something. Asking their opinions shows that I value their input and using a quick survey shows that I value their time.
My employees aren’t going to link to me because of this, of course. But they will know that I want to hear what they have to say, so they’ll be more likely to stay engaged in the business. If a big problem happens, they’ll tell me instead of thinking that I won’t care.
I do surveys for lots of different reasons, but they’re most useful (for our purposes) when things are slowing down, and I’m trying to figure out what’s causing the problem. They’re a great way to get a good overview of a topic.
Here’s an example: a little over a year ago, we started having a big internal fight about music in the office. I was being told that lots of people were complaining, yet no one had mentioned having a problem with it to me, so I did a quick survey.
Turns out that some of the people having trouble concentrating with the loud music on were worried about upsetting their coworkers by asking them to turn it down.
However, after presenting the results of the survey (without having to put anyone on the spot), everyone started to be more aware of how their music might bother someone else, and that was the last time we had a problem with it. Trivial example, sure, but it shows you how presenting real numbers can be a lot easier than having a major discussion.
While I do try to learn from my mistakes, I don’t often formalize that process. When someone else does, I take notice and feel guilty because it’s a really simple thing to do. What could I have done better? What would have been a better way to deal with such and such? How could we have prevented this problem?
Feedback is great when it’s positive, but sometimes it can be more valuable when it’s coming about from a negative experience.
You know those “Why are you leaving?” questions you get when you try to unsubscribe from an email list, for example? While they may be kind of irritating, I do appreciate that they’re providing valuable information to the business.
If you have 100 unsubscribers who want out of your mailing list because they say they’re “overwhelmed by being emailed every single day,” then that’s a lesson: maybe you should drastically reduce the amount of email you send. If you didn’t ask them why, you might keep inundating everyone every day, thinking the problem lies in not having enough content or something else.
If you’re doing something that turns people off, why not figure it out and try to fix it? If you’ve just changed the focus of your content and suddenly no one’s commenting on your posts anymore, ask previous users why they’ve become silent. If you usually get loads of social love on your articles and you spend ages writing something new and it falls flat, ask a few trusted people about why they think that happened.
The goal of feedback is to get enough information to make what you’re doing more valuable, after all.
It’s tricky to use social for increasing user engagement simply because it’s so public. People don’t want to be accused of ignoring anyone’s tweets, but it does happen, no matter how many followers you have or how busy you are. There are times when someone tweets to me to ask for my opinion on something, and I usually appreciate this because it draws my attention to something I may’ve missed but should’ve seen.
However, you can easily overdo this. I’ve seen people write an article and tweet directly to twenty different SEOs asking them to comment on the piece, and that becomes obnoxious. If you’re going to use social for this purpose, choose the content and your intended targets very wisely. Don’t directly tweet to the same person every time you write a new post if you write ten a week, for example.
Just search for something like “would love your opinion” on Twitter, and you’ll see good and bad examples of this. Some people just ask their entire audience, and some ask specific people.
While I’d never deny that links get built for the purposes of improving rankings, you should still be concerned with them actually being clicked on and sending you traffic. The best way to ensure that your inbound links bring you traffic is to develop them on relevant sites and not just slap them up wherever someone will accept them.
Obviously, you can’t completely control this, especially if you’re generating them totally organically. But for those links you pursue intentionally, make sure they’re going to be ones that are good for users.
Erin Everhart wrote a great piece on ways to make sure your links look good for users. This is definitely something to consider — if no one can tell that your link is a link, you’re automatically going to lose clicks.
You can certainly ask for changes to links that were acquired organically, but then you run the risk of annoying a webmaster enough to take the link down altogether.
If it makes sense to link to another page of your site, do it. Otherwise, users might not find that content easily. To again reference what Search Engine Land does, take a look at their Related Entries and Related Topics, which are found at the bottom of most articles:
I love these when I come across them on any site, as when I’m digging into something, it’s nice to be led to related content without having to do anything. Also, if you’re keeping a user on your site and he or she is moving around to other pages, that’s a good sign that your site is engaging, and engaging sites tend to see more return traffic, and all that, hopefully, leads to the chance for more socialization and more links.
Quick Note About Bing: Duane Forester just talked about this here with Eric Enge, so if you’ve been ignoring what will help you in Bing, it’s time to get your head out of the sand.
If any of you have some ideas for other ways to increase engagement of your content, I’d love to hear about them!