If you run an ad-funded website, you don’t need us to tell you the importance of increasing your average pageviews per session – more pageviews, more ad views, more revenue.
But you might need us to tell you how to get more pageviews – so here we go:
Firstly, we’re going to assume that your content is already top-notch and that your traffic-driving activity is targeting the right people in the right places at the right time. If any of those things aren’t true, you might want to start there first because we’re going to focus on what happens once those people hit your website. Let’s start with a few cornerstones:
- Websites are not a “technology”, they are a means of interacting with other humans on a grand scale
The biggest mistake you can make is to forget that on the other side of that screen, there is a human being. Business, of any kind, is conducted by human beings, with other human beings, for the benefit of human beings and only by considering, evaluating and reacting to human nature will you be successful.
- A human being’s default answer is “No”
Building on #1, if you ask a human being to do something without providing any context or promise of value, they are likely to decline. This is perfectly normal human nature and will become immediately evident if you walk into the street and ask a series of strangers to do you a favour without providing any information as to what it is – and if you don’t believe us, feel free to try it! Successfully influencing human beings relies on our ability to provide reason and rationale, be it logical or emotional.
- Your visitors came to read that specific post, not another post
Unlike transactional websites, the visitors you receive aren’t looking to proceed through a process or perform multiple searches to find the right product. They saw an article that might be able to help them solve a specific problem, or inform them about a specific topic, and that’s what they are there for. And so to encourage them to read something else is essentially asking them to do something they had never intended to do and bearing in mind what we learned from #2, this is no an easy challenge to overcome. So it’s important not to lose sight of this when assessing your success rates with some of the tactics below.
With those cornerstones now set, we can start to consider the options that might actually help you to increase your pageviews per session, and therefore your revenue:
A good headline is not enough
In a content-heavy world, headlines bear a significant weight in attracting visitors to your site. But knowing that that headline was enough to get them to read the current post they are on does not mean that splashing other headlines around the page will encourage them to read something else – don’t forget that they came to solve one specific problem, not to gather all of the knowledge that your site contains! Their focus is entirely on that problem and therefore the current post they are reading, so passively trying to attract their attention elsewhere is unlikely to provide a significant success rate.So if you want to get a visitor to do something else, you are substantially more likely to succeed if you proactively prompt them to do so. Tests that we’ve run with content-focused sites have shown an increase of 80-430% in interaction with elements that are proactively triggered to a visitor vs. just displaying those elements on a page and hoping a visitor will notice them.
Utilising post scroll-depth can give you a strong idea of the volume of post content that has already been consumed, and enable to you to trigger suggested next reads before a visitor has fully completed a post. This is essential, as once they have fully completed their read, there is a high likelihood that this will be the end of their session with you.
Triggering prompts for action using scroll depth as an indicator for engagement/appreciation of content
Talk to all visitors specifically, not just to all visitors
Thinking back to our cornerstones, this concept is built on the knowledge that your website offers you the opportunity to interact with human beings on a wide scale. But to increase the likelihood of each of them consuming more content, it is paramount to talk to each individual as an individual, and not just as part of the whole.When looking to influence visitor behaviour, you can take one of two approaches:
- Recognise & reflect their existing behaviour, making it easier to achieve what they already want to – this is generally an easier option, but with less significant potential gains
- Or, change their existing behaviour by presenting something that they had not yet considered – this is generally a tougher option to succeed with, but with more significant potential gains
In this scenario, you would be attempting the former by storing the details of the content that each individual has accessed over a given period, and prioritising similar content accordingly. And if you take an option like this, make sure you are overt in explaining to your visitors why this content is for them which if selected correctly, should instil it with additional value.
Track, store & react to the content each visitor consumes, and use that to narrow down their interests – this makes the site their site, not yours
“Why should I bother…?”
Regardless of your content niche, there is always a value of some kind to each reader. But a common omission from many content sites is the overt explanation of that value and therefore a presumption from the content producer that that value is obvious already. Each time a visitor consumes your content, they are engaging in the most basic of trades with you – their time for your knowledge. And they make that trade because they believe it to be appropriately balanced – the cost of their time is worthy for the value that your content will bring them, sometimes immediately, but more likely further in the future.With this in mind, to encourage visitors to consume more content and especially on a secondary post that they did not originally visit you for, they have to be able to see that value and weigh up whether it is worth the extra investment of their time. This will be significantly more difficult than on the first pageview, as the time they will now be investing was time they had not previously planned for, thereby making it more valuable in their eyes and thus the value of the secondary content must also increase to match it and balance that trade out again. As an example, make it clear to your visitors that by reading Post X, they will be able to save time, money or effort further down the line – after all, these three things tend to be their principal currency!
Make it clear what the value of a post is – time or money are your best bets and are easily quantifiable.
We might be individuals, but we are also sheep
We like to think that others don’t influence our decisions, but they undoubtedly do. In virtually all cases! We want to wear clothes that other people wear, drink drinks that other people drink and go places that other people go. It is human nature to want to belong and be part of a herd and this compels us to conform to what others around us do. To help push your pageviews up, you can use this in one of two ways: Democratic Social Proof: this literally means “people like you say this is a good read” – tell them how many other people have read this post, liked this post, shared this post or had success in implementing the knowledge in this post. Your visitors won’t want to feel like they are missing out, or that other people have knowledge that they don’t and they are more likely to give it a go. Expert Social Proof: in a nutshell, “experts in this field say this is a good read” – if there are significant people of influence in your content niche, their words will almost certainly carry more weight than yours. So telling your visitors that the next post you are recommending to them contains the opinions of Person X, an expert in Field Y, is likely to increase their propensity to read it.
Industry expert opinion confers value to your content in a way your (less well-known) brand cannot.
And using the power of “other people like you do this” draws on our desire to be part of the herd and not to miss out on stuff other people know.
Don’t be afraid of dirty tactics
As producers of content, we all like to believe that the quality of what we write is enough – but if you’re struggling to increase your pageviews per session, the logical part of you likely already knows that it isn’t! You’ve already put in a lot of work to attract a visitor to your site, so if that visitor goes to leave, does it not make sense to try to keep them for just one more read? Utilising exit-intent tracking for Desktop visitors offers you one last opportunity to bring that visitor back from the precipice, and can be presented in a multitude of ways, depending on their actions so far. If they haven’t reached the mid-way point of your post, perhaps this wasn’t as relevant to them as they initially thought – so offer them the opportunity to peruse associated tags or categories to that post, or indeed the chance to search your site for what they were looking for. If they’ve read virtually all of the post but then look to leave, they’ve probably found what they were looking for – so you could then offer them more in-depth or detailed reading on the same subject, or additional reading that focuses on the same topic. Whatever you choose to present via exit-intent, just think about what that visitor’s existing onsite actions have told you about them and their interaction with the current post – and then position your new option accordingly, using the language you would as if you were stood watching that person read in front of you.
If a visitor goes to exit, think about why & present another option. Fast exit/low scroll depth suggests irrelevant content, so suggest they look for something else. Slow exit/high scroll depth suggests relevant content, so offer them something similar.
And if you can’t extend the session, provide for the return
With all the best will, content & tactics in the world, you won’t be able to extend every session to multiple pageviews. So if you can’t, think about what the next best step is – and usually, this is to give yourself the best opportunity to have that visitor return to you. This could be in the form of a subscription to your content for example – we’ve seen visitors prompted to subscribe after 40-60% content depth increase the rate of subscription by up to 5x. Or it could be to bookmark your post, particularly if it is a step-by-step guide that needs to be referred to on multiple occasions over time for it to be effective. From recipes, to spread-betting guides and mortgage advice, there are many different content types that require regular reviewing to be effective long-term. And if you can’t secure a return for that visitor, at least attempt to get them to recruit other visitors on your behalf – explaining that a social post of your content could help other people like them (and make them look like the smart people all at the same time!) is just the modern take on the well-trodden Refer a Friend. By properly tagging up those social links, you’ll even be able to thank that specific visitor for the number of people they’ve influenced too!
There’s no silver bullet to increasing your pageviews per session – it all comes from understanding the drivers and needs of your site visitors and what successfully influences them. But by accepting that all of your goals are tied to the human beings that your website serves on a daily basis, you’ve taken the first step to more pageviews, more ad views and more revenue.
Matt Scaysbrook is the Director of Optimisation at WeTeachCRO, a specialist Conversion Rate Optimisation agency. He has orchestrated the CRO programmes of global brands such as GoDaddy, Nando’s & British Airways and always with understanding human behaviour at their centre.