Content Strategy For News Websites & Blogs: Focusing On Reader Retention

How can blogs and news websites benefit from developing a content strategy, and why nurturing loyal readers is now the only way to build sustainable growth?

Millions of people out there. They open their eyes in the morning, reach out for their smartphones, scroll news headlines, open messengers to see whether someone texted them. 

They skip a whole lot of irrelevant or uninteresting information to cut to the chase and invest their time in educational or entertaining content that truly appeals to them. 

What happens next? They say “goodbye” to every resource that they consider trash, and fall in love with websites they find interesting. 

What is loyal audience?

In the digital marketing world, falling in love with a website’s content means to become a subscriber. Which means readers give their email addresses or money in exchange for your company’s updates or gated content. 

In terms of profits, by building loyal audience, your website earns from paid subscriptions (paywalls), and maintains sustainable traffic. By finding keys to the heart of an existing loyal audience, you receive deeper sessions on pages. Google thinks your site is worthwhile and bump you up on higher positions in SERP.

By choosing the strategy of building and nurturing the loyal audience, any news aggregator, corporate blog, or publishing company has a much greater chance to become a leading industry source, doubling its benefits.

Let’s see why. 

Content strategy for news websites & blogs: the funnel framework

Giving an email address in the world that is soaked in information equals handing over the most valuable that you have — your attention.


When a reader decides to subscribe to your newsletter or pay for content, he becomes a brand lover.


Audience segmentation for news websites by Google Insights

So, according to this graph, you have three stages of relationships with your audience. 

  1. You acquire. At this stage, the main job for you to do is to build hypotheses around who your reader is. Once you understand that, there is a point to move further. 

Remember?

By targeting everyone, you target no one.

Neil Patel

Learn how a publishing company can define target audience

The second, no less important thing is to figure the acquisition channels (organic, paid ad, email marketing, affiliate links, sales, etc.) for capturing your audience. 

The third thing is to build your brand image, which means, you should develop an aligned picture to make your digital presence consistent. Depending on what acquisition channels you place bets on, you should think about what strategy will work for you. In most cases, this is the point where you release your creativity to make your brand recognizable by your audience. 


To acquire means to stir up interest.


2. You create an emotional bond with those who developed interest. A loyal reader is the visitor who repeatedly visits your website over a period of time. Why would they do it? 

  • You’ve tailored your content to their interests (you’ve made a research and defined topics that are of interest to your targets) You’re doing your best to include successful content ingredients for building loyal audience.
  • You’ve managed to arrange the navigation on your site in the most convenient way possible (you’ve run numerous A/B tests to implement things that make user’s experience pleasant and joyful).
  • You’re consistent and strategic in your marketing efforts, meaning you’ve developed your retention strategy and follow it. 
  • You spend a great deal of time learning about your audience. You have installed a first-in-class analytics tool to let you track their interactions with your materials. Based on received data, you get a clear picture of what type of content appeals to them better, and create new content in line with their expectations. You learn about their preferences and make your website a place where they find what they want. 
  • You love to experiment and spend at least 10% of marketing budget on experiments.
  • You follow updates from other publishers and companies to learn about techniques they use to retain readers.

Loyal readers already trust your website and get engaged with content deeper

3. You retain (or nurture). All loyal readers at some point are ready for the next step of your relationships. A paid one. 

However, even brand lovers may get lost one day if you don’t pay any attention to them. Time goes by, their preferences change, technologies evolve, disruption rises, competitors don’t sleep. 

By exploring brand lovers’ preferences on a regular basis, and meeting their interests faster than competitors, you get yourself a devoted audience that truly loves your brand and wants to pay for your product or content. In a way, you grow together. 

Why reader retention is your high priority 

For any news website, any publisher, or blog, investing in enhancing loyal reader’s experience is a much smarter move than focusing on finding new traffic sources. 

1. Loyal audiences improves your rankings

Since they are interested in your materials, your bounce rate is lower, which helps your rankings. Vice versa, people who click on your pages and leave shortly after because of irrelevant information or hard navigation — hurt your rankings.

2. Loyal audiences cost less

If you earn from placing ads and need traffic to stay high, you can either pay each time to acquire new visitors (who bounce at some point) or grow sticky readers who will stay with you. In the second case, you roll the snowball that won’t need your push to become bigger. 

People have a hard time abandoning their habits. Once they establish a connection, it will be hard for you to make them leave unless you decide to turn away from your brand strategy and do something else.

3. You switch to more quality content 

Loyal audiences visit your homepage and decide what will be their next destination among your materials. It means you eventually slow down on publishing SEO-stuffed articles to acquire new readers but focus on creating materials that match your loyal audience’s interests.

4. Loyal audiences are more likely to convert or subscribe than random readers

Research by Grzegorz Piechota, INMA

It’s just the fact. How often do you subscribe to the resource after your first session? If it’s a bad first experience — never. However, if the article catches your eye, and you read it till the end, and maybe jump over to the related one, you’ll either bookmark the site, or memorize its name. 

If it’s a blog that offers free subscription — you may drop your email to keep being updated.

Read more: First session is bedrock in retaining readers (coming soon)

If it’s a news website with a paywall business model, you’ll probably leave after the first session, but next time it gets into your way and you receive the same high quality as before, you’ll be more willing to trade your money for the paid content. 

5. Loyal audience is your word of mouth

Interested readers will voluntarily spread the word about you given they consistently get great experience. 

They will share your materials on social media, send links to their friends, and quote you in their publications. The majority of great websites we get from our friends as references. Without progressive approach to content creation, those resources wouldn’t stand a chance.


Investing in your reader’s experience pays off much greater than finding new traffic sources.


Content strategy for news websites & blogs: analytics matters most than ever

Even if you have the most talented and creative team in the world — the point is to know where to direct their energies. 

When I started my career as a content writer in a performance marketing agency, I was deeply inspired by the fact that I can apply my creative thinking and vision to craft truly unique, interesting content. 

At first, it was everything you could dream of: catchy visuals, inspiring texts and powerful brand image. Our posts gathered likes and got impressions from random people: I was satisfied with my content quality and totally embarrassed about the whole marketing process. 

In the result, posts got reach and engagement, but it ended shortly after. This was like a bright, colorful, razzle-dazzle parade that rushed past and left just a few glitches behind. Everyone is under impression, but a few minutes later grabs their things and goes back to their lives. We didn’t have a clear picture of who we’re writing for, and what message we would like to convey. We impressed people, but didn’t cater to their problems and needs. 

We impressed people, but didn’t cater to their problems and needs. 

That was the first lesson. I remembered my honest disappointment when things were taken over by a man who worked in a client’s company for many years. I truly believed that his visuals were disgusting, totally tasteless, and texts just dull, but the audience didn’t think so. 

They loved it. 

He knew the audience much better. And received better results. 

Content marketing is all about catering to your

audience’s interests and creating a place enjoyable for them to stay 

Of course, it doesn’t come down to just your materials. It’s different growth hacks, website functioning, establishing a two-way communication, enhancing buying cycle, etc.

So, how can you get acquainted with your audience for real?

Without analytics, it’s impossible to understand even a squat about your readers. What do they like? What they don’t like? Are they reading your articles from mobile phones? Or maybe something is not functioning there, so they skip your website because of poor mobile functionality?

Ted Sarandos, a chief content officer at Netflix, one of the companies that embraced big data at every level, probably knows the 203 million of Netflix’s subscribers intimately well. 

how netflix uses big data

Upon the release of the fifth season of “Breaking bad” Netflix received stats revealing that 50 millions people were binge-watching the previous season 24-hours prior the premiere.  

Imagine how much better informed the company’s content-related bets can be? With such fascinating stats, they can recommend similar series with greater confidence. 


Netflix’s business model depends on using analytics to understand its audience better than its competitors.


Adjusting content strategy for news websites & blogs with analytics software 

A content strategy is the process of defining things you’ll be focusing on while creating content for your customers/readers. 

Content analytics software is a special tool (cloud-based) that allows you to visualize the reader’s journey through your pages. It pinpoints pages that attract more attention and has deeper engagement (session depth), along with those that don’t work at all. 

IO technologies — dashboard

The tool is a breeze to install with the help of a manager. It collects data in real time and produces instant insights. Digestible visualization lets catch the main points quick and compile a picture of your readers’ interests. 

Advanced analytics, like IO technologies’ solution is irreplaceable for news websites and publishers that operate in a fast-paced environment. According to research, companies that embrace data culture, and have regular data meetings grow 1.7x faster.

The point of using automated analytics for newsrooms and publishers is to establish a system for tracking content performance. It’s a window into your readers. Based on hard data, you can be sure what direction to take, strategy-wise, and evaluate your investments.

Slides created by Research by Grzegorz Piechota, INMA

When you have accurate stats on what articles performed better in terms of crucial business metrics — at your fingertips — you can easily figure what type of articles don’t need further investments. And what to double on.

Once you get the hang of the dashboard, tracking best performing authors and improving content strategy becomes a breeze. The important thing here is to find the right tool to get the actionable insights you need, not vanity data. IO technologies is a primary tool for publishers that not only reveal habits of existing readers/customers, but provides a shortcut to converting new users into loyal readers. The tool has found takers in 1,200+ MEDIA BRANDS.

Your content production can become not only a fully automated process but a bridge between your customer’s needs and your offerings. Without data analytics, you just do guesswork that costs too much. 

Coming soon:

Five techniques to retain loyal audience


FAQs

Why is content strategy important?

Strategic approach allows you to invest into content that people read and boost engagement rate by knowing better audience’s preferences. Data helps evaluate investments. Strategy is your vision of how to achieve business goals through content creation. 

  • How to get loyal customers?

There are a handful of techniques that may help you build a loyal community. Solid, serial content and comprehensible buying cycle are basics to start from.

  • How to increase engagement?

Engagement rate is reflected in a few metrics: time spent on page, bounce rate, exit rate, and session depth. To improve engagement rate, you have to figure what content your audience likes and create materials in line with their expectations. Along with that, you should constantly monitor content performance & customer behavior through one of the analytics tools like io.technologies and improve their experiences. 

  • What is paid content?

It is the type of content that is accessible only via purchase or paid subscription. It is also referred to as a paywall. There are different types of paywalls; they differ primarily in the amount of free content available before the subscription. 

  • Why does a news website need a content strategy?

Content strategy for digital news works in just the same way as for any digital publishing company. Unique content on thousands of pages targeted to your audience, along with other marketing elements: newsletters, apps, premium content, website navigation, visuals, and much, much more — must be aligned under business goals and clear roadmap to their achievement. Growth comes from strategic thinking combined with testing, iterating, and team collaboration. But content strategy is at the heart of every growth-oriented business. Content strategy for news doesn’t differ in core from content marketing strategies of companies’ blogs.