It seems like every publisher we talk to these days tells us, “We’re in the process of redesigning our page layout”, which is wonderful. Your audience’s online behavior and expectations are continuously changing, so it’s important to continuously think of your readers and adjust your page layouts in order to maximize your audience engagement with your content.
Social Has Changed Our Reading Habits
The way people find your story has changed significantly. People are increasingly choosing to share stories via email and social media, so more and more of your traffic is landing directly on the story page rather than entering your site through the traditional homepage.
Many of these viewers are not part of your loyal fan base (yet), they simply saw your story in their newsfeed and landed on that page. You cannot and should not expect them to go to your section or home page to find more stories.
In other words, your story pages are no longer just containers for your content. They play a crucial role in driving traffic across your site. A number of tools can help you leverage them, including the Outbrain platform. We are all about driving engagement and content discovery, from the bottom of the story page to the right-hand column.
Optimize Your Footer
Once upon a time the bottom of the page was a wasteland, but now it’s the new prime real estate. Two factors are driving this trend:
1. If someone reads the story all the way through to the bottom of the page, he or she is truly engaged, has time, and is deep in consumption mode. This is the perfect time to offer her or him more articles to read or videos to watch.
2. Increasingly, readers expect to find links to more content at the bottom of the story; it’s the new standard.
Still, many publishers are afraid to have too many links on the page. Most publishers include 5-6 links at the bottom of each article.
How many is too many?
The bottom of the page is your opportunity to show people what you’ve got – or risk losing them. Treat it like a mini version of your homepage. Use thumbnails, text links, carousels, hives and other UI elements to showcase the variety of content available on your site.
Have a look at a typical article on ABC News USA. Now, scroll to the bottom of the article and examine the page layout. I count at least 7 different UI elements, all dedicated to the discovery of additional content, both on the ABC site itself and around the web. These 7 elements contain more than 30 different links to content that you might find interesting enough to engage with. Specifically, look at the highlighted area – doesn’t it strongly resemble a homepage layout?
Are they overwhelming their readers with options, potentially turning every story into a link farm? I don’t think so. They’ve simply tuned in to how traffic flows to their pages. They understand that the role of a story page is not just to serve content, it is also a way for people to discover new content. And as I scroll down the page and reach the end of the article, they do just that!
Of course, there is no guaranteed template for success, and some content creators may find this structure too cluttered. There is definitely room for flexibility and individuality when using your story page to power discovery, much like in the section or home page. A/B testing would be a great way to find the right fit for your audience. Just remember, there are multiple units and UI styles at your disposal, allowing you to essentially transform each story page on your site into a mini-homepage.
Featured image courtesy of umjanedoan via Flckr