If your website is ad-funded, then one of the three most important things to do to maximise your revenue is to maximise page views per user. (The other two most important things are increasing Page RPM and growing your audience).
By increasing the number of pages that each visitor to your site sees, you are multiplying the number of ads that get loaded, and therefore your potential revenue.
It’s not quite as simple as jamming loads of ads in someone’s face as soon as they visit though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
By focusing on making your site the best it can possibly be you can increase the number of pages people go to, and therefore the amount of money you make.
If you have a website with real long-term potential and want to earn from it, keep reading.
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Keep Cookie Banners Simple and Honest
Because of various regulations around the world, cookie banners are a must for websites that have any type of tracking – which is almost every website.
They don’t have to be super annoying though. Some websites try to make them fun, but frankly, that can be a legal and technical problem to manage. Other websites try to make them a trap by giving no way to opt-out or make them so complex that people don’t know what to do.
Neither approach is a good idea for the majority of websites. Getting an off-the-shelf cookie banner solution which complies with the law is easy and will stop people from batting an eyelid about it coming up.
By providing a simple and honest cookie banner experience you can:
- increase trust in your site
- make a good first impression
- stop people from being annoyed at you
All of these things will increase the likelihood of repeat visits and decrease the chances of people leaving immediately. And even if people have blocked your cookies, if they come to your site and like what they see maybe they’ll click yes next time the cookie banner comes up. Or maybe they’ll tell other people about your site.
Even if this is only a small improvement to return rates and pages per session, it’s worth doing as it’s so incredibly easy to do. In fact, it’s easier (and safer legally) than having a scammy cookie banner.
Don’t Use Pop Ups / Overlays
Dodgy cookie banners are annoying but not nearly as annoying as their not-legally-required cousin’s pop-ups and overlays.
If someone enters your site and then immediately has to close things blocking the content do you think they enjoy that experience?
What if they can’t close the thing that popped up for some random technical reason? How much effort do you think they will put into staying on your website?
Whether you are using pop-ups or overlays to serve ads, an exit intent banner that asks if someone wants to sign up for a newsletter, or surveys – they are super annoying. Especially when lots of them happen on the same page.
If you want people to stay on your site, then don’t barrage them with nonsense they didn’t come to your site for. Overlays can perform well for some ad formats that is true, and exit intent banners do drive more newsletter sign-ups. And of course, feedback is great to have and hard to come by.
But they all come at a cost, and that cost is annoying people and driving them off your site. Long-term repeat users are your best bet to make money from ads on your site, so driving them away is the worst thing you can do.
If you want short-term gains, then I suppose overlays are for you. If you want to boost your site’s long-term profitability then don’t use them.
Tell People What To Do Next
Amazon has “People Also Bought” recommendations. Google has its “People Also Asked” block when you search. YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ etc all recommend what to watch next.
How can your site convince people to keep engaging after they’ve done what they came for?
The answer is fairly simple – link to related content. You can do this programmatically, with many CMSs offering some sort of plugin that will generate a list of links to related pages that you can embed. Or you can do it manually, and just link to whatever you think is relevant.
You can place the links at the end, or you can signpost them within your content as relevant further reading/viewing.
Whatever you do, you should make sure that when someone finishes what they came for they always have an opportunity for more. Your top goal might be to get them to subscribe to something, but for those that are already subscribed (or not convinced yet to subscribe) you should give them what they want.
Which is generally more of roughly the same – ie closely related content. If they made it to the end of your content then they probably liked what they saw, so capitalise on that even if it’s just with a convincing CTA.
Give People A Reason to Come Back or to Delve Deeper
Lots of content is standalone. Lots of content doesn’t have to be though.
Turning a guide into an “always up-to-date guide” makes it something to bookmark, share, and return to. Making a comparison guide link to reviews of individual items turns one piece of content into a gateway.
Making an article into a series of articles on the same theme gives people a sense of continuity. A video with callbacks to previous videos can make people feel that it’s worth watching more.
Creating tools or useful-to-quote stats can make a resource indispensable. Making content evergreen (as in something that is always relevant) means it has much more long-term value.
Updating old content might make it worth another look, and more than that marking it as updated increases its relevance and trustworthiness (to both people and search engines alike).
Allowing comments and asking a relevant question at the end of the post might make people come back for a conversation. You should keep in mind that getting the conversation started can be difficult, and managing comments can be annoying.
On the other hand – the easiest way of all is to use your own unique voice when creating any type of content makes it more interesting to consume. There is a time for corporate plain-speak, and there is a time for being yourself. In many cases, your own website is that time.
Information is available everywhere, but your voice/take on it is not.
There are many reasons why people return to a website. Being likeable, useful, and interesting are some of the best.
Emails Create Loyalty
Emails are a weird thing. If someone signs up for your email list, then you are possibly sending them enough information that they don’t need to come back to your website again. Many sites sent out full articles or updates that require nothing more of the reader.
But somehow that’s not how it works. You email someone an article, and if they like it, that makes the recipient more likely to want to read more of your stuff so they are more likely to visit your site.
You send them an industry round-up and your voice becomes more authoritative to them. When they Google a topic yours becomes the link they are most likely to click on.
More than anything emails are reminding people that your site exists. With around 2 billion websites to choose from, it’s unsurprisingly easy to be forgettable.
An email newsletter list is your most loyal audience. You speak to them directly in the most distraction-free environment there is on the internet (email browsers). Your voice can truly cut through there. And that creates brand loyalty like almost nothing else.
So grow your email list, tend your email list, and don’t annoy your email list by contacting them too much. That way you can turn one visit into many.
Make Your Website Feel Trustworthy
The internet is full of scams. I know that, you know that, (almost) everyone knows that.
So when people visit a new website they have their guard up. I will often click a link and immediately fear the worst for a split second – “what if this website infects my computer with something?!”
And I’m not the only one. There’s a reason why there are reviews for almost everything on the internet – we all need to feel reassured, even if it’s by a stranger we’ve never met (the fact that fake reviews are also a massive problem is an issue for another time).
To combat that, you should give as many signals to users as possible that your website is legit and not a problem. Make sure they know they can visit you anytime and know that they are safe from harm.
This means having things like:
- A good cookie banner (as mentioned above)
- Zero pop-ups – or only one at a time (as mentioned above)
- Good web design (badly designed sites are a huge giveaway for scams)
- No dodgy ads (work with your ad network to block sensitive categories)
- No/very very few spelling mistakes
- Contact information (at least a contact us and about us page)
- A way to report problems (like dodgy ads that slip through)
- A security certificate (making your site HTTPS instead of HTTP)
- A consistent URL structure (don’t make people feel like they are switching sites)
- Link to sources when you use stats
- Author pages and bylines
- Published Dates and Updated On tags
If you sell things, this is even more important. You also need to have an explicit returns policy, shipping details, and complete details about who you are.
Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose. If your site feels untrustworthy people will likely leave quickly and come back rarely.
Focus on User Experience
All of the above go to one central idea (except the bit about emails) – make using your site a good experience. You want people to think positively about your website so try to make everything about it enjoyable.
This includes all of the above (except the bit about emails) but also things like:
Fast Loading Speeds
No one likes slow-loading webpages, and there is a limit to how slow a page can load before people leave. For eCommerce sites, it’s said that for every second over 2 seconds of loading speed, conversion rates go down sharply.
There are many ways to increase your site speed, from
- Optimising images file size (I like Optimizilla personally)
- Optimising image canvas size (there is no need for a 1028×1028 image for a space that is 300×300)
- Reducing tracking cookies and pixels to the minimum (only add tracking if it definitely benefits you)
- Reducing ads on a page to the minimum (3-5 at most per page)
- Using a CDN for your images
- Minimising your code
- Choosing a good web host (I used to like Bluehost, but I now prefer SiteGround)
There are also many ways to check your page speed, and most of them generate tips on how to improve. I think GTMetrix is the best, but Google PageSpeed Insights is also invaluable.
Core Web Vitals
While mentioning Google Page Speed insights, it makes sense to bring up Core Web Vitals, which is Google’s way of measuring page experience. It’s set a set of metrics that Google measures about your site through Google Chrome users, which it then uses as a ranking factor on search.
Core Web Vitals include measures of speed, content stability, and interactivity. While they may not be the best, they are practical to work on and easily accessible. The results can be found in Google Search Console and if you score well then it may help your site to get more organic search traffic too.
So these are definitely worth a look when you are trying to improve your user experience.
Give People What They Want
This is another tip which feels incredibly obvious to web users, but not to website owners. Put the point of a page at the top of the page.
The classic example is recipe websites where there always seems to be a long drawn-out story before they share the recipe you went to the page for. This applies to everything though.
If you have a page about a certain stat, fact, idea, video etc – put it at the top. Make the click on the link to your page immediately worthwhile. Then follow it up with further interesting stuff (if you have it).
I like to compare this idea to how press releases are written. Some publications will publish press releases word for word. Journalists are short on time, and sometimes they have a space to fill – and press releases are literally stories sent directly to them. Win-win right?
Well only because the industry has developed to make it so. Journalists may have a space to fill and a press release may have something interesting to say – but it likely won’t just slot in perfectly. Some of it will need to be cut.
So the way PR people are trained to write press releases is to put the most interesting part at the top, and then the second most interesting bit next and so on.
This means that a publication can cut the press release at 300, 500, 1200 words (or whatever) and still always be publishing the most interesting part of the story (for that amount of space).
They do this because that’s how you grab attention. They are writing for all audiences – the skim readers can always get the headlines, and the very interested can read to the end.
That is how your content should be. Write for all audiences to maximise user satisfaction and you’ll maximise the chances of repeat visits.
Give People What They Need
Many sites are so busy trying to be great that they forget how to be good – and leave out the things that make using a site easy.
For example, does every site have a fully functioning search bar? No they do not. But yours should.
The best way to find what you may have missed is to get a few people who never use your site to try and carry out tasks that you think are simple on it. Things like “find this page” or “find the returns policy”.
You will be shocked at what comes up. You may need to pay people to test your site, or a company to run the testing. It’s generally worth it though.
There are some simple things that all sites should do before you invest in user testing though. Things like:
- Putting indexes at the top of long articles
- Putting breadcrumbs at the top of each page
- Letting people zoom into images (especially on eCommerce sites)
- Making signing up for things (and cancelling things) a simple process
- Making the titles of pages match the content of those pages (someone once told me that the title of a page is a promise that the content needs to keep)
- Making things findable – through SEO, menu links, footer links, internal links, and links on social media profiles.
- And of course – having a functioning search bar.
If it’s your site, you are an expert user so you know how everything works and where everything is. Try to help other people find and use everything as easily as you do.
Frustration drives people away from anything on the internet faster than almost anything. Less frustration = more ad revenue for you.
Make a good site and people will go to more pages, leave immediately less often, and be more likely to return.
A good site is one that people:
- Immediately trust
- Don’t get annoyed by
- Want to come back to
- Want to use more of
- Find interesting
- Find easy to use
- Get what they need from.
Do all these things and you’ll maximise page views per user – and therefore your ad revenue too.