Hurting with eyeballs? Here's how to increase engagement and keep your readers' attention

Google ‘how to increase engagement on website’ and you’ll receive 32 pages of results that, at a quick glance, pretty much repeat the same thing. From actionable tips like improving the site’s load time and having a practical layout to unusable advice like “make great content“ (a huge topic on its own) and everything in between, the answer is seemingly there, tucked in pages of information.

Yet, I see one major flaw in almost all of the cases: very few people are thinking from a different angle – an aural experience. In a way, that makes sense considering the principal use of visual content and the way people link it to engagement. Yet, historically speaking, audio is one of the most traditional and popular multimedia on the Internet for various reasons I’m about to explain. As such, it can be the solution to keeping your readers’ attention.

Being audio-oriented

Since I finally sorted my news feeds from a variety of online sources into one, a lot of different and interesting stuff comes my way. So, I’m prone to consuming content from websites I don’t usually give a passing glance, like GQ in this particular case.

A few days ago, an article about voice memos on dating apps came up. It’s a glorious story of how young people are increasingly using voice to get their message across (both literally and figuratively), and the underlying anxiety, awkwardness, and discomfort of talking (didn’t know that was a “thing”), whether it’s directly to each other or by recording voice notes.

It got me thinking how far audio and voice technology have come: to be a novel feature in the dating scene. In a website environment, audio content is the same as date-oriented voice messages: a more intimate and personal way to get to know someone.

Woman eavesdropping

The focus on written word online is understandable for numerous reasons, one being the predominant way to make websites indexable for people to find them through search engines. I can hypothesize it’s because of the fear that all the hard work that goes into a website (from the design to ad copy) will go unseen.

The fact is, we all absorb information in different ways and nowhere is that more evident than with growing consumption of audio content. By giving people audio as an additional/different way of engaging with your content, you are delivering wherever your readers are hurting with eyeballs and relying on their eardrums instead, at a time and device that make sense for them. In short, you are adapting to their changing needs.

Engage your readers where they already are

Much of the credit goes to realistic text to speech, which has played an integral role in acclimatizing our ears to (still slightly) synthetic voices to the point where they are just natural enough to not bother us. All it takes is to insert a simple code into your website and in a matter of minutes, you get an audio version of your existing content ready for playback.

A huge boon for audio content is its passive nature compared to formats like video and text. In today’s age of efficiency that propagates multitasking more than ever before, there’s no need to sit still and read or watch. Heck, more often than not – there isn’t even time or patience for it. Audio enables content consumption whenever and wherever, whether it’s while working out in the gym or making dinner behind a kitchen counter.

That very premise of engaging with content while managing other activities makes audio extremely appealing to consume throughout the day, compared to written and video content that calls for full attention in place.

At the same moment, those looking to increase engagement and improve user experience get a channel that’s easy to interact with. Most of all, it unlocks a whole new level of opportunity for any business (especially one without a legacy in audio) to easily connect to its audience in new ways. With audio, there’s a keen sense of familiarity, and there is something addictive about that both in terms of content consumption and informal situations like dating.

A new way to monetize

Another reason why audio is great: monetization. Once again, thanks to my fiddling with Feedly, I’ve come across a study that shows audio listeners are 35% more receptive to advertising when they’re relaxed and focused, and have fairly even receptivity levels across different scenarios. Said openness is also consistent among different formats like music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Even Generation X, typically touted as generally elusive to advertising, has a 32% higher receptivity to audio ads than other age groups.

Add to the fact that the Podcast Revenue Report by IAB and PwC confirms increasing growth in the US podcast advertising marketplace. $479 million was spent on advertising on podcasts in the US, an increase of 53% from the $314 million spent in 2017. What’s more, the number is projected to grow over $1 billion by 2021 as podcasting gets even bigger and audiences become more targeted.

Podcast advertising revenue forecast for 2021

As the audio’s blockbuster star, the increase in podcast listenership and advertising bodes well for the medium. However, there’s another side to it as it also shows there’s a significant opportunity for publishers, brands, and content creators to target their audiences at the most advantageous moments when consuming different media, most notably audio.

The age of audio content is upon us

It’s not just about transforming your written content to an audio version (although it’s a major step). Publishers are increasingly putting their eggs into the voice basket as people grow more and more comfortable interacting with voice-activated devices.

Along with the cheap cost of entry, content technology (contech) will further expand voice capabilities driven by the rise in usage of smart speakers and other voice-powered devices. All these factors combined make it fairly easy and painless to engage readers with audio content and incorporate it into daily operations.

Much like with its dating ties, audio is becoming a mainstream content norm, soon a completely unavoidable one to entice readers and create a new revenue stream while at it. As the age of audio continues full speed ahead, there’s never been a more opportune time to take full advantage of it than now. The exciting thing is there’s plenty of room for experimentation and adjustment to realize its full potential.

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