No Story is an Island: Building Bridges to Better Engagement
Everything on a school campus is related. If a student wins an award, it’s likely there is an inspirational teacher encouraging them. When a football team wins a championship, it’s always at the end of a string of exciting victories. Building bridges to more media will allow readers to discover your content island is really a continent of excellence.
The tools at your disposal are numerous and their use is limited only by creativity and the time you have lace them into the content. If you’re like most folks in the content game, posting a story is one of hundreds of tasks you might need to complete in a given week. With respect to all of the run-and-gun content creators out there, I’ve assembled three basic methods which can be implemented easily with minimal impact on work flow.
Embedding is the Cadillac of content sharing. It places visually stimulating related content directly in the path of the reader’s consumption and often connects them to larger strategic elements like Twitter feeds and Flickr channels. Twitter allows embedding of both widgets (showing a real-time flow of tweets) and individual tweets. If a reader is excited by what they are reading, more often than not they’ll ask for more by subscribing to the source of the embedded content.
Cross linking to a related story is the fastest, cheapest, and oldest trick in the book. But it works, that’s why it’s in the book! The only danger here is of over use.
Some content creators get excited when they see click-through rates jump and start pouring on the cross links. This has two major drawbacks. First, readers won’t believe all of the links could be relevant, and can’t handle the idea of clicking them all, so they won’t click any. Also, Google punishes excessive cross-linking which can have a negative impact on search engine optimization.
Use cross links like Tabasco sauce. If you place more than one, make sure they lead to very different locations.
3. Related Stories List (Movin’ on up!*)
The antidote to over use of cross-linking is to create a cluster of three to five related stories. With the links in a cluster, readers can choose to see more and don’t suffer a harsh interruption reading over a bunch of highlighted text.
*The new development in the old trend of related stories lists is the big dogs are moving the cluster up to the top of the story. Sidebars and link boxes high up on the page are becoming more common as media outlets realize readers usually don’t read all the way to the bottom of a story despite wanting to read more. The rule of thumb is to use the placement that looks the best with your current page design. More advanced users might try a new placement and compare click-through rates.
The methods described in this post are by no means the end of the road on cross-linking. They can be combined and adapted ad infinitum and may lead you to new ideas on how to lead readers to more content. If you discover something new or think I left something out, please let us know in comments.
Image courtesy TravelandLeisure.com — http://bit.ly/hXLErT