The Broken User Experience: Content-Driven Fixes to Audience Disengagement

The User Experience & Disengagement: How to Save the User Journey from Crashing

As content marketers, we spend a lot of time talking about how to attract new audiences and engage our current readers. The user experience doesn’t end the first time our content is consumed. That’s just the beginning. It’s our job to continuously nurture our audience, which is why so much effort goes into planning editorial calendars that speak to different levels of expertise, e-books for a deeper understanding of complex topics, and a focus on storytelling as a means to build connection.

But what we don’t often talk about are the places where the user experience falls apart, and content consumers who were once excited to connect with us disengage—or perhaps never have an opening to become engaged in the first place.

I worked in human resources for over a decade, and I’ve spent a lot of time writing about employee engagement—how to keep staff inspired and what to do if their motivation tanks. While there are many reasons why employees become withdrawn, employers often could have done more to reignite their staff before they became completely disinterested in their work. The same goes for content marketing. There are many reasons an engaged audience loses interest, but there are just as many opportunities for us to get them excited about our content once again.

The key is identifying where in the digital experience disengagement happens so we can strengthen our content efforts and create a user journey with no space for them to veer off the path. Here are four opportunities to use content to draw your audience back in.

a disgruntled looking girl wearing oversized glasses

Image attribution: Frank McKenna

Misunderstanding Audience Intent

Understanding and matching your audience’s intent is where I see so many brands and businesses failing in their content marketing efforts. The first promise you make to your audience very often happens before they ever reach your website. Whether someone comes across your content through organic search or by clicking on a paid advertisement, the content that exists elsewhere dictates what the user expects when they get to your website. The headline and description either confirm that they’re headed to the right place or convince them to click on something else. If they make the decision to trust your link instead of their other choices, you need to make sure the content matches what was promised to them.

This afternoon, I clicked from a social media post to read an article about what time of year to find the best discounts on baby clothing and gear. (Those little buggers are expensive!) What I expected to find was an article that would break down by month—or at least season—the best time to purchase different types of baby products.

Instead, the article I clicked on covered multiple ways to buy baby items at discounts, like Black Friday sales, consignment store shopping, and using gift cards given to you at a baby shower (no, I’m not joking about that last point). I knew after reading the introduction that the rest of the article wasn’t what I was looking for, and I clicked off that page in under 30 seconds. For whatever reason, this article’s headline didn’t quite match its content, and because I was expecting something else, they missed an opportunity to engage me.

Similarly, having a clearly defined persona in mind while writing an article also helps to avoid misunderstanding user intent. If you’re writing a how-to guide on DIY marketing, you most certainly wouldn’t attract a chief marketing officer at a large brand. Now, if that person is someone you want to read your content, you’ll need to adjust your delivery. Your content needs to speak directly to their needs and pain points, and the title needs to be appealing to them specifically, not a general audience.

There’s an easy way to ensure that your content doesn’t get rejected because it doesn’t match what an end user expects to find—be clear and detailed. This means crafting a direct, easy-to-understand headline and quick snippet for anyone who comes in from a search page. It also means being specific, and not misleading, in your social media posts. All traffic is not necessarily good traffic. Build trust with your content.

road side reading

Image attribution: Matt Botsford

Webpage Dead Ends

The ultimate crash and burn of the online experience, 404 pages cause content consumers to come to a screeching halt on their user journey. In basic terms, a 404 error means that the server cannot find the original page it was requested to pull up. So if a SERP pulls up a broken link, anyone who clicked that link would find themselves somewhere else—most often a blank and boring page that states little more than “Not Found.”

Even if this person was primed for engagement, they’re now at a dead end, and most end users are going to “X” right out of that tab rather than attempting to find the content they’re searching for.

How can you utilize content when your audience has nowhere else to go? Neil Patel offers a few suggestions on utilizing 404 pages to make a lasting impression on end users. First, consider adding a search bar to your 404 page, or at the very least navigation. Your audience already knows what content they were seeking in the first place. A search bar allows them to find what they’re looking for while the topic is fresh in their mind. Another option is to turn your 404 page into a resource library of sorts. Do you regularly produce e-books as part of your content strategy? Turn your error page into a landing page that lists top titles. These content upgrades offer great value to your end users, but they also serve as a potential opportunity to grow your email subscriber list, too.

bored-looking young woman sits on the side of the road, phone in hand

Image attribution: David Preston

Disengaged Email Subscribers

Marketers expect low open rates on their email campaigns. It’s the nature of the beast. They understand that they only have a subject line and maybe one line of content to capture their recipient’s attention, and because of that, a huge majority of their email list may not even open up their email. But that doesn’t mean that we should sit by idly hoping our subscribers suddenly realize how much they miss us and decide to start opening our emails again.

The first and most important step to creating a more engaging user experience starts with crafting better subject lines. And by “better,” I most definitely do not mean “more salesy.” Your audience is intelligent, and they know when you’re trying to sell to them. Even if you are sending sales content most of the time, your language can still be conversational and welcoming without coming across as an ad.

The next step includes creating a retargeting campaign to win back your less interested audience. Now, this email series can be about anything, but the best content to include is simpler than you may think:

  • A reminder of who you are and what you stand for in business
  • An explanation of what value you bring to the relationship
  • A note driving home their pain points, explaining why they need you
  • A significant perk that is personalized to this audience

You may also want to consider cutting back on the sales pitches while working on retargeting these potentially disengaged subscribers. Give them content that rebuilds your relationship, and once you get people clicking your emails again, analyze what lost them in the first place.

bored-looking young man leans his chin in his hand

Image attribution: Julian Howard

Thin, Boring Content

One of the best ways to measure user experience is to keep a close eye on your website analytics. Do you know what your average time on page or bounce rate is? What pages have high exit rates? Have you ever used a heat map or scroll depth tools to determine what users are paying attention to on the page? Think of these analytics and tools as if you were taking an open-book test in school. You have all the answers directly in front of you, and now you just need to know where to look for them and how to analyze them to find your answers.

Examine the pages that perform poorly. Are people exiting your site there because the content is too thin or in need of updates? If so, that’s a straightforward, through potentially time-consuming, fix. Onboard a content strategist to create an action plan for ways these articles can be brought back to life. Simple changes may be all you need—include updated statistics, write a few supplementary points, or link to other pages on your website for a better user experience.

Do the heatmaps or scroll depth show that your audience is dropping off at a particular point in most articles? Breaking up the text with more subheads and shorter paragraphs may be all that’s needed. Or you might want to consider including multimedia options, such as graphics and videos, as a welcome distraction from the blocks of text on the page.

Knowing what’s potentially turning off your audience is the first step in making the changes necessary to grow—and keep—a loyal, engaged audience. Bonus: The user’s experience improves, causing them to come back for more, more, more.

For more stories like this, subscribe to the Content Standard newsletter.

Subscribe to the Content Standard

Featured image attribution: Andrey Larin

The post The Broken User Experience: Content-Driven Fixes to Audience Disengagement appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

About the Author


More Content by Erin Ollila
Previous Article
Why Marketing Can’t Slow Down After the Sale
Why Marketing Can’t Slow Down After the Sale

Don't limit your concept of marketing to awareness and acquisition. If you're not marketing to your custome...

Next Article
How LeBron James Uses Smart Business Partnerships to Write His Own Brand Story
How LeBron James Uses Smart Business Partnerships to Write His Own Brand Story

LeBron James strengthened his own brand story by seeking out strategic partnerships that deepen his connect...