Turn Drive-By Users to A Loyal Audience: How To Keep Users Coming Back Via Computer Algorithms

By Shantanu Mohan

In this new age of digital, everything has changed – including the way we process the information. User engagement is what every company wants, but what is the best way to really accomplish this?

To really think about this question critically, we might need to go back in time a little (as counter-intuitive as it might sound). Consider reading a newspaper and think about the last time you read one. Growing up, the newspaper was everyone’s main source, and it was read all the way from the first page to the last page. Your eyes would carefully scan through the pages, the size of half your desk really, to ensure that you did not miss the interesting stories. The analog age boasted a loyal audience, and it was for good reason.

The problem

The digital equivalent of this audience is a user who goes to the homepage of a news site. Their journey is a little more complicated now because they would need to scan the stories one by one on the homepage. Once they finish, they must repeat the same process by clicking through each category present in the navigation bar.

Unfortunately, that audience paradigm no longer exists and there is no starting from page one anymore. Users and audiences are likely finding content through social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, and no longer really peruse a website the way they would analog content.

These audiences are known as drive-by users and for good reason. They pop into your site quickly, and exit just as quickly – before your web analytics tools can really glean any valuable data. Before it even spots them, they have vanished and likely forever.

So what is that tangible step you can take to convince these users to slow down, step out of their digital vehicle and wander around a bit?

The simple answer: User engagement

The answer

There are many angles to consider when thinking about user engagement and how that will fit for your business model. You could do it by creating consistent, engaging and interesting content and developing a top-notch user experience.

However, both those methods require a significant amount of investment in both time and resources, so it is easier said than done. To really accomplish this requires a great deal of upfront investment. There is, however, a shortcut.

A feasible shortcut to user engagement is to repurpose your older content and incorporate a “content recommendation” section to your website. This allows you to easily repurpose existing content as hooks that might interest users and allows them to find a related second, third, or even fourth story.

And if you are able to recommend the right content, and just the right stories, that is a great return on investment. Those drive-by users may remember your site and return voluntarily next time, through a proper channel such as your homepage.

In contrast to writing and UX enhancements, the content recommendation does not require any upfront investment. Instead, it will allow computer algorithms automatically group together stories of similar subjects together – thereby doing a lot of the work for you.

Once a user reads an article on the site, they have already expressed an initial interest in your content and have shown you what drew them to your site. The logical next step is to show them other stories on that same subject or trip, and keep their attention.

The recommendation algorithms consist of many different elements. It requires some math and various similarity algorithms that detect if two articles might be semantically related. Natural Language Process (NLP) technology is often to used to improve the relevance of recommendations.

Some of the best recommendation algorithms are provided by companies such as Queryly, which offers high-performance search and content recommendations for websites. Queryly boasts an impressive roster of clients in the media space, and it powers recommendations for top sites including Post and Courier, Bankrate and MIT Sloan Management Review.

The content recommendations work best when it is purely algorithmic and fully automated. For growing businesses, it is a great way to boost user engagement without needing too much an investment. With a single switch, you are able to greatly increase user acquisition. It is definitely worthwhile to research this topic and see if it could deliver the right results for your website.

Turning users into loyal audiences requires a fair amount of strategy and patience, but the rewards are definitely worth it.

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