High retention is one of the most important signs of a healthy digital publisher. Discover how to effectively improve it now.
November 13, 2023
High retention is one of the most important signs of a healthy digital publisher (or almost any other business that depends on its website for growth). When retention is high, there’s less stress to replenish your audience constantly. In other words, your audience-building efforts start to compound like money in a savings account!
Declining or low retention of users on a website is an early warning indicator that your business is in serious trouble. To find out the state of your retention, open Google Analytics (or your preferred analytics solution) and dig into the data.
Like many other success factors, determining retention success is best viewed through multiple metrics over time. Start with these four metrics.
Look at your website analytics for the past month (or better, the last 90 days) and see how your audience breaks down between new vs returning users. You always want a combination of both types of users. However, the critical measurement is the percentage of returning users over time. If returning users are falling as a share of your total audience, it means your audience is losing interest.
This data point can only be understood if you consider your broader strategy and the other measures below. For example, building your sports audience may take some time if you recently changed your strategy to emphasize sports coverage over politics. Your returning audience share will fall during that phase, and your new visitors will increase.
Viewing your online audience as a single aggregate has its limitations. That’s why we recommend applying segmentation. For example, Google Analytics lets you track “Audience by Cohort” on a time basis. For example, you can compare the behavior of people who first discovered your website in January vs those who discovered your website in July.
Analyzing audience cohorts by start date is helpful because it can tell you which marketing strategies work best. In one month, you might offer a series of live chat experiences with special guests and pull in a large audience of new visitors. Cohort analysis makes it possible to track the subsequent behavior of those new people. You might find that this live chat-related audience is most interested in live events on your website, so you’ll need to keep offering those experiences to keep them engaged.
Engagement measures like - time on page, bounce rate, and number of pages viewed per user - also contribute to retention. Keeping a close eye on these engagement metrics matters because they signal a good match between your content and audience interests. Let’s consider each of these engagement metrics in greater detail.
Bounce rate is the percentage of users who immediately leave your website after arriving. Generally, a high bounce rate is a cause for concern. For example, you might have used aggressive search engine optimization techniques to get a specific page ranking high in Google. However, if that page fails to satisfy users and many leave in seconds - you have a high bounce rate. In that case, search engines will likely view that page negatively, and your traffic will likely suffer.
Attention lies at the heart of online success whether you are a digital news publisher looking to generate leads for a business or make sales. If time on the page is very short (i.e., under 30-60 seconds), that is an early warning sign that your website needs to make a better first impression.
Improving time-on-page performance requires both technical and editorial improvements. From a technical point of view, use tools like PageSpeed Insights to evaluate your website. Using a content delivery network (CDN) may help improve speed. Evaluating the speed of applications and services running on your website is vital. Arena Live Chat, for example, is designed to be a lightweight application that runs fast. Editorial improvements may include writing more SEO-friendly headlines and making your content more accessible to scan.
Users who view multiple pages are highly likely to be engaged. Since these users are seeing more of your content, there is a higher chance that they will convert to paying subscribers, join your email list, or convert in another valuable way.
Arena Live Blog is a powerful way to lift your page views per user because of the way it presents content. In publishing, a live blog often provides breaking news updates on a new story. For example, post updates at the end of each inning of a baseball game. Once someone reads your updates for the first or second inning, they’ll likely keep returning to your website as the game progresses.
Increased customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is one of the ultimate measures of successful retention. Unlike the other measures reviewed above, CLV is a lagging indicator. That means your efforts to improve retention may take weeks or months to translate into higher customer lifetime value.
Your customer lifetime value will likely hold steady or improve if built on a solid engagement foundation. That said, drawing a straight line between a specific page and a purchase can be difficult. After all, many people may not be ready to buy a subscription after they land on your website. It may take multiple visits over weeks before a person fully appreciates your brand and decides to buy.
Improving user retention - which ultimately contributed to higher customer lifetime value - takes several strategies. Put the following options into action, and you’ll quickly turn around your retention numbers.
There’s almost always something that is working well on a website. Start by looking at your top pages - those URLs that have received the highest number of pageviews and highest average time on site. Identify the patterns in those pages and do more of what’s working!
Staring at analytics data will give you some helpful clues, but there’s a danger with relying too much on numbers. You may lose focus on the fact that your online efforts are ultimately aimed at connecting with people! On the other hand, life is short, so it’s not practical to reach out and talk to everyone.
The compromise solution is to contact your super fans. It’s easy to find these fans. Check your social media and email marketing service to find people who have engaged the most with your content over the past month or two. Set up a call with 5 of these super fans. Ask them what they like most about your website (get specifics!) and what they would change.
Presenting content in a novel way is an underrated way to lift audience engagement. For example, create an online event where you discuss current affairs with a few panelists. This could include offering in-depth coverage of a war or election with experts. Arena Live Chat makes it easy to create a live chat experience on your website quickly.
Arena is the secret weapon major online publishers like Globo, Fox Sports, and the Japan Times use to lift engagement. Discover Arena's solutions for media and publishers.