Creating and posting content online can be lonely work.
If you’ve got a website, blog, Facebook Page, or some other hub for your business, of course you’ll want to know whether people are reading (and enjoying!) what you post.
But aside from the raw data that analytics tools provide, there’s really no way to tell whether your audience is truly engaging with your content—and that can get mighty discouraging.
That’s why adding user interaction to your website is such a great idea.
Interactivity engages your readers, keeping your content relevant to their interests by involving them directly in the process. Not to be cynical, but your audience’s number-one interest is, by and large, themselves.
That’s why reviews and opinion surveys are forever popular—they ask your users to consider what they think and they like and they prefer.
Not to mention, interactive features give you real-world insight into how your audience is responding to your content. Analytics can only tell you so much, but surveys, comments sections, quizzes, and ratings paint a much more human picture of reader response than numbers and graphs.
How to Create Interactive Content on Your Website
As great as online audience interaction is, it won’t happen on its own. You need to create content with an eye toward cultivating an engaged community of viewers. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep readers engaged and encourage them to interact with the content you post.
1. Link Back to Yourself
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book for Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Read just a few other TCK Publishing blog articles, and you’ll notice that we use a lot of blue text.
We include links to scholarly articles, news sites, and other blogs in our text—but most often, we link back to our own content, directing readers to other articles we’ve written on similar or related subjects to the one they’re currently reading about.
Not only does this practice boost credibility, it keeps your audience engaged in one important way: more links means more clicks. And more clicks means higher engagement.
Plus, “seeding” your articles with links is a great way to drive more traffic to your site. That’s not a trade secret—that’s just good SEO.
2. Ask for Feedback
Asking for audience responses, whether through a ratings system or a comments section, is a wonderful first step towards encouraging interactivity and engagement with your content.
And while soliciting feedback in such a direct manner can seem awfully forward, this is something most sites do—but as always, some methods are better received than others.
For instance, the usual popup ads asking for a starred or numbered rating still come off as pretty obnoxious, even if folks are used to them. They’re startling, and they disrupt the flow of what should be a seamless user experience.
Consider experimenting with positioning your ratings “ask” at the end of your content instead of as a popup, even eschewing the usual starred system for the emoji-based system Facebook uses. Icons like this are so embedded in our online language that users might find choosing an emoji more engaging than simply hitting a “like” button—or picking a number of stars.
Asking for comments is another common and effective source of quality feedback. But because writing a comment or response is much more work than just clicking “like,” you’ll have to be a bit craftier with how you go about asking.
Specifically, end your content with a strong call to action. Don’t ask for a blanket response to what you’ve written or posted—ask specific questions that will encourage readers to think about what they’ve just read.
For instance, if you’ve posted a movie review, ask your viewers if they saw the movie and if they agree with your assessment. Or if you’ve written a numbered list or countdown of some kind, ask readers to add their choices to your list.
Encourage debate and conversation in your comments section. The livelier your comments are, the more likely new audience members will be to engage with your content. Not to mention, an active comments section is great for your SEO, as it naturally adds new and unique keywords to your articles to help boost your search rankings.
3. Include Social Media Tabs
Your content is valuable—you ought to know, you created it. That valuable information should be shared with as many people as possible.
Because one of the best ways to spread information online is by word of mouth, every bit of content you post should be easily shareable. Sites like Addthis.com and Sharethis.com will give you the tools to install social media share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels.
These buttons should always be placed in easy-to-see locations—like the top, bottom, or sidebar of your site—but never somewhere that obstructs your actual content. You can even take it a step further and creatively integrate the social media tabs into the design of your website; well-designed social media buttons should make for a seamless user experience.
Sharing your content with others should seem like a natural extension of the reading experience. Study some of your favorite sites, and you’ll find great examples of well-integrated social media buttons. Never be afraid to learn from others!
4. Post User-Generated Content
Your regular viewers know how awesome your content is.
But do you know what would make it even more awesome? If some of your content came from them.
Incorporating user-generated content is a great way to make your audience feel the love—it signals to them that you value their engagement and feedback, encouraging them to engage even more.
Try writing articles or response videos that specifically address top-rated comments you’ve received in the past, or hold an “Ask Me Anything” session where you answer 20 or so questions posted on a specific article; you can even hold a session like this on Goodreads for more engagement.
Directly quote the users who made the comment—the chance to hear their names and words incorporated into your content will make your viewers far more eager to engage and interact with what you post.
Think of it this way: folks love to see their names and faces in the newspaper, even for minor things—and if your content spotlights them even in just a small way, they’ll share it all over the internet.
Additionally, if your content structure allows for it, consider hosting guest content every once in a while. TCK Publishing regularly posts guest interviews and articles from followers of the site. Request guest articles or blog posts on certain topics, or reward loyal followers by including them on an episode of your podcast. They’ll respond in kind, sharing your post with everyone they know—because it’s theirs as well!
5. Use Surveys and Quizzes
Remember the era of the Facebook quiz? “Answer these six questions to find out what brand of potato chip you are…” and the like.
Well, silly as they might have seemed, they were wildly successful—and instrumental in teaching new users to interact with Facebook’s systems. In fact, personality quizzes are still being used by sites like Buzzfeed for largely the same purpose.
Simply put: Surveys are fun. Quizzes are fun. They’re an enjoyable way of encouraging your audience to interact with your content…and they can be a sneaky way of gathering information about your readership. Understanding your audience demographics can be invaluable for tailoring your content to what your viewers want to see most, after all.
If you’re thinking about including a survey in your next blog post or article, we’ve got your back: these are 5 of our favorite free online survey tools.
- SurveyMonkey: Enormously popular for its sheer ease of use, SurveyMonkey offers a streamlined user experience, allowing you to create a 10-question survey and post it in mere minutes. However, the free version of this tool is limited to 10 questions and 100 or fewer respondents—if you want unlimited access, plans start at $26 a month.
- Google Forms: Like Google’s myriad other tools, Forms is completely free and gives you unlimited access to all its functions right off the bat—unlimited surveys, questions, and respondents, as well as customizable design options if you’re feeling creative. Plus, you can export the data you collect from your survey to Google Sheets for online access and easy sharing.
- SurveyAnyplace: A relative newcomer to the online survey game, SurveyAnyplace bills itself as “saving the world from boring surveys”—and backs up its claims with an impressive array of features. SurveyAnyplace allows users to do more than simply include their brand logo in the design of the survey; a few clicks can add unique images, videos, and even animations that punch up your survey’s look and encourage interaction. However, while the free version of the tool does permit unlimited surveys, you are limited to 20 monthly responses unless you upgrade. Plans start at $29 a month.
- Apester: Another useful survey platform that allows you to incorporate a certain degree of visual storytelling as well as polls and quizzes. Apester’s tools are designed specifically for publishers and advertisers, though average content creators will find a lot to love as well. And while Apester does require user membership to use its many systems, there’s no upgraded version—everything’s available absolutely free.
- Polldaddy: Offers unlimited surveys with unlimited questions and respondents, and integrates quite seamlessly into a WordPress blog. However, the tool uses rather intrusive company branding, which can distract some users. If you want to remove Polldaddy’s logos—as well as get the ability to add custom CSS or export data—you’ll need to upgrade to one of the site’s $200 a year plans.
Content creators—what have you tried in the past to boost reader engagement? What’s worked…and what hasn’t gone as planned? Share your stunning victories with us, and join the discussion in the comments section below.
And as a side note—why are so many survey tools named after primates?
If you’re looking for more advice on engaging with your audience and the public at large, you’ve come to the right publishing blog: