5 Ways to Gamify Your Website and Increase Reader Engagement
Increasing reader engagement is a top goal among digital publishers for many reasons. Google is known to rely on engagement factors such as time spent on site and bounce/click-through rates for its search result pages, but high engagement helps publishers in plenty of other ways, including:
- Stronger brand recognition
- Decreased advertisement costs thanks to high click-through rates
- Higher number of page views per user session
- More returning visitors
- A larger following across social channels and email
- Higher revenue formed by all factors
Inventing "sticky" features around top quality content can get your readers to stay on your site longer – and should be part of your engagement strategy in 2020. Below are five creative ways to gamify your platform and make your readers even happier.
Quizzes are one of the most engaging features that my team and I have been building and refining for our publishing portfolio.
Gallery-like posts or listicles such as “The top 10 smartphones of 2020” have been around for ages, but sparking engagement through non-personalized content is a challenging endeavor. Instead, consider an interactive story like “Can you guess which brand introduced this smartphone feature first?” or “Answer these questions and find out what smartphone fits you best!”
Quizzes are the closest (and simplest) form of gaming for traditional publishers. Engaging quizzes can skyrocket your page views per session, bring referral traffic in from readers sharing a quiz with their friends or colleagues, and boost your social ranking signals for the same reason.
The beauty of quizzes is that they can suit any audience or purpose, whether testing a reader’s knowledge of Marvel movies or helping a business owner assess their financial analytics skills.
2. Registered Users Program
Digital publishers have experimented with badges, leaderboards, “top commenter” programs, and other sticky features to reward their loyal readers.
Ranking programs for signed-up users can be tricky to design. Successful programs combine the emotional and competitive spirit of readers with additional perks loyal users can unlock after interacting with your site for a while.
Garrett Goodman covers some interesting gamification concepts in his article “Rethinking Gamification for Quality News.” The concept of exclusivity, aligned with the fundamental reader objective (depending on the category of publishing site) can grow user engagement and deliver more with the same number of monthly users interacting with the site.
Goodman also suggests a user-tracking feature that reveals how far a reader’s gone over the weekly quota of articles, applauding them for the engagement, showcasing how active they are, and sending them some lesser-known relevant resources only shared with loyal readers.
Following the same train of thought, consider how you can convert more of your one-off readers into regular readers, and the regular ones into loyal ambassadors of your website. When analyzing a sports news site we work with, we identified that over 70% of the revenue is generated by 11% of the users, representing the loyal audience following the latest stories, Twitter updates, Facebook posts, and other resources that the editorial team creates for them.
3. Social Polls
You can run voting polls on your own website, but social networks like Facebook and Twitter let you run native polls and engage your followers and fans further.
Reaching out to your readers can be beneficial in multiple ways.
First, it’s a clear sign of user interest and participation. Lower engagement on your polls likely means that topic won’t resonate with most of your readers, which can influence your headlines and content planning.
Second, polls can reach a broader audience. Contradictory or complex surveys will spark conversations and lead to more shares and retweets. Receiving external opinions from infrequent readers or fans of other communities can shed some light on conversations you haven’t thought through for your own site.
Reporting on poll results in your content also tends to increase participation on your polls over time. Once your readers recognize that polls are actively used and reported, they will be inclined to vote more often since they now recognize how their votes matter in the grand scheme of things.
Polls can even be used for internal product management planning and create new content opportunities for your staff. Ask users: “What content types do you consume most often?” (i.e., galleries, images, or video) or “Which expert would you elect as the top space leader for 2020?” (placing Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos side-by-side).
If you haven’t used polls so far, consider experimenting with them this year.
4. "Shareable" Content Gates
Content gates have a negative connotation, but the ongoing shift from advertising to subscriptions brought in a myriad of locked-in content walls across many of the leading publications online.
Consider producing an industry report or an infographic that can be unlocked by readers when they share on social networks or sign up for an email newsletter. Valuable content is worth their effort, especially because it’s still free for them to access.
You can get creative with content gates, too. For instance, write a story and record a video interview with a leading expert. Embed the video but unlock it only upon a reaction by readers interested in watching the full interview.
This technique can lead to more sign-ups if your gate is only presented to guest users. Moreover, you can gauge which videos are deemed valuable enough to watch or share and then dive into the new stats.
And of course, giveaways are extremely effective when bundled with a share gate. Several online tools allow you to embed a participation snippet that lets users participate in several ways: following your page or Instagram profile, tweeting, signing up for your newsletter. Each action grants them a few extra points (seats) during a raffle.
5. User-Submitted Content
User-generated content is a traditional technique but still undervalued by tons of publishers. Guest blogging has been on the rise and marketing agencies are repetitively blasting smaller magazines for publishing opportunities. Larger media are known to ignore such requests (unless they look for columnists), but it doesn’t have to be an either-or choice.
Consider a separate column for reports or opinions. TV stations often welcome user content for breaking news reports on hurricanes, crimes, and other groundbreaking stories where locality matters. This enables regular users to participate actively as engaged citizens and supporters of the media.
Gamifying user-generated content is easy as well – another reason to reconsider this approach. A leaderboard with top contributors can be placed in a prominent spot on your site. Reporting top contributors on a quarterly basis and occasionally mentioning them on social media (or spotlighting them through interviews) will eventually bring more quality writers to your site. Brand building is integral to running a successful digital venture, so why not generate more content in the process?
Gamification is still an underappreciated capability of generating engagement, growing traffic, and increasing the reader’s loyalty for a publisher. Fact is, it requires creativity, patience, and some technical know-how to launch a successful program over time.
But soon enough, freemium solutions will launch that enable bloggers and small publishers to launch their own campaigns with little to no effort. Better get in before it’s too late, build your audience, and work closely with them on shaping the content future of your publishing business.
Related story: 5 WordPress Trends Publishers Should Keep in Mind for 2020
Mario Peshev is the CEO of DevriX, a global WordPress agency serving industries from publishing to automotive and airline. Peshev focuses the majority of his time on running his business and leading distributed tech teams at DevriX of 50+ people crafting high-scale WordPress solutions optimized for revenue. Mario started with development as a hobby and built his first website in 1999. Since 2015, DevriX has consistently ranked among the top 20 WordPress consultancies worldwide, scaling both world-known enterprise brands and high-traffic publishers with 100M to 600M monthly page views on top of WordPress.
In addition to leading DevriX, Peshev also advises up and coming web developers and tech entrepreneurs, attracting over 2.5 million views to his transparent Quora discussions on his experience of entrepreneurship and IT work life and he recently authored the book 126 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneurship Fad and the Dark Side of Going Solo.