Simon Heseltine, Director of SEO at AOL/Huffington Post Guest Speaking at DragonSearch – Part 3
How can we increase our audience’s engagement with our blog? What can we do to help build and encourage conversation and sharing? What does our audience care about and what will make them want to leave a comment on our blog?
After sharing his extensive knowledge and experience about mobile and event marketing, Simon Heseltine, Director of SEO at AOL, talked to #usDragons about audience engagement strategies. Simon’s team works with all AOL brands on organic audience development.
Read more about other topics Simon talked about in these posts:
- Mobile Marketing; Trends, Strategies and Statistics with Simon Heseltine – Part 1
- Event Marketing Strategies with AOL’s Simon Heseltine – Part 2
Ideas for Increasing Engagement
Huffington Post, one of AOL’s brands, has a dedicated team that works hard on ensuring their readers have a great experience on the site, which not only includes outstanding content but also building community and discussion around the topics. They are constantly looking for ways to improve this experience, and increase the engagement and social shares. Simon shared some of the tactics they’ve used successfully.
Tap Into Celebrity Connections
When Huffington Post mentions a celebrity, they try to ping them to let them know so they can share the content to their followers to get more views and increase engagement. Celebrities typically have a huge numbers of followers in social media and one tweets from a celebrity can get in front of 1,000s of people building brand awareness for Huff Post.
Make Sharing Easy
When people sign into Huffington Post they can connect their social media accounts and access their comments. If you want to follow someone, you can do it from your Huffington Post dashboard. You can also take a conversation off the HuffPost site and onto Twitter or Facebook. This helps spread the conversation to their followers who might then come to the site and read the article.
Encourage Commenting with Gamification
To increase blog commenting and reader engagement, Huffington Post set-up their website so that commenters can earn badges. Depending on the level they reach, users comments will display in different colors. When they reach the community moderator level, they can delete comments.
AOL’s Case Study – Analysis of The Anatomy of the Perfect Blog Comment
On Huffington Post, 70% of the blog comments are replies to other people’s comments. In an effort to understand audience experience and their motivation to engage and participate, AOL’s Consumer Analytics and Research team conducted a study analyzing the readers’ experience with blog comments and different components of the comments.
Analyzing the Engagement
The analysis team worked conjointly to evaluate comments based on the sum of their components to sequence the DNA of the comments. They broke down the comments by:
- original article criticism
- adherence to party lines
- number of favorites/likes/fans
- super user status
- badges earned
- usage of icons/name/geographical location
- clarity of thought
- links to external sources
- fact-based comments
The survey looked at 8 different sites, including CNN, The New York Times, etc. with the goal to understand what actually got people to comment and engage with others. They tried to balance things from many different perspectives like, age, gender, geographical location, and they let readers self-select articles of interest.
They then asked readers to rate comments based on their emotional response, whether they thought it was a quality comment and how well it encouraged them to want to engage and respond.
The key findings:
- Readers turn to comments for more info and perspectives
- Readers like to associate an image with a commenter
- Facts are less important than reaction
You can find the complete study here.
So What Can You Do to Increase Audience Engagement on Your Blog?
AOL’s case study clearly demonstrates that understanding your audience and what motivates them to comment is the first step in creating a content marketing strategy for increasing their engagement. Here are some good starters to consider:
- Write unique articles that your audience will want to share and comment on.
- Instead of pushing for frequent, fluff blog articles, it’s more beneficial to you and your audience to write well-researched, valuable articles that will have to potential to be shared and referenced more.
- Understand what motivates your audience to engage and find ways to further encourage the conversation (much in the way Dino Dogan explained that we need to stir up the readers’ emotions to get them to leave a comment).
- Analyze your communities strengths and weaknesses.
- Create a social media strategy that revolves around letting people who would be interested in your content know about it.
- Ping people you mention in your article.
- Mention celebrities in your content, but only if it is relevant and make sense, and then ping them to increase the chance of them joining the conversation either by commenting on the blog or sharing your content with their followers.
- Make submitting blog comments easy for the readers
- allow them to sign in with their preferred social media account
- let their comments go live immediately
- don’t use capcha
- Make it easy for readers to connect with other commenters and take the conversation off-site to help get the conversation in front of their followers.
- Examine the comments on your site and study them compared to your competitors to see what you could do to increase the potential for improving commenting on your site.
- For example: should you have gamification? Should you get rid of anonymous commenting?
- Reply to comments in a way that will help make the commenter feel good and encourage them to continue the conversation.
- Build relationships with your industry peers and other audiences who will not only comment on your blog but will help amplify your reach.
- Constantly experiment to find ways that can help increase you audience’s engagement.
What Do You Do to Increase Engagement on Your Blog?
Now it’s your turn. What did you find worked best for you to increase reader engagement? What didn’t work? Share will us (how appropriate) in the comments below.