Online marketing specialists spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get people to their client's websites, and almost as much time learning what those visitors do once they arrive. In fact, you could say a type of scientific method has developed among strategists that demands logos on a website go in once place, while contact information in another, and those very important calls to action reside somewhere else deemed entirely appropriate.
And it's not just marketers interested in the ebb and flow of internet traffic.
An interesting study released recently by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism details how news readers arrive at particular destinations, and what they do once they get there.
Although news and marketing can vary greatly, there are a few key takeaways we can all learn from.
There and back
According to the study, Google search, Google news, and other aggregators are the most common (40 percent) gateway to news sites. However, when news readers leave a website, there are three paths they take. It's that simple.
1. Subdomains. In the news space, readers tend to navigate away through subdomains within the family of properties owned by the website's parent company. For example, a reader at bnet.com (A CBS Interactive Company) will most often exit for a subdomain listed on its site such as CBS Money Watch.
According to the Pew study, this is the most common way people leave a news site.
Marketing takeaway: The tendency to navigate away from a news page through a subdomain should signal the online marketing strategist of the importance in creating a clear navigation path to a secondary field of interest. Depending on the project, this could even possibly mean adding a subdomain for the client's ancillary business interests.
2. Sharing sites: The second most prevalent place to go is a sharing site such as Facebook, or Addthis (a tool or "widget" that many sites use through which users can share content to several different sharing sites). A key to this social media aspect of navigation is that users tend to share content from the website they just recently left, or even better they leave a link. Building this type of content and developing links helps Google's algorithm determine if your site is "useful" to internet browsers.
Marketing takeaway: The social media revolution is well underway, and sharing content through this medium is just as important for the online marketer as it is for a news media outlet. The fact that news readers spot these - and then click on them - again demonstrates the importance of incorporating social options into any website.
3. Google: Google takes you in and they take you out. Although it's not the search engine, or news aggregator that sent people to the site in the first place, according to Pew. The Google component accessed in these instances is Google as service provider. Users accessing tools powered by Google such as a map attached to a piece of content or screener questions often attached to email sign-up pages. However, on 12 of the sites studied Google is the first or second departure destination, accounting for up to 7 percent of the departure links.
Marketing takeaway: Accounting for 7 percent of departure links across news sites means that Google's influence on digital media goes far beyond search and aggregation. Free tools like Google Sitemaps are designed to almost instantly place newly created pages on websites into the Google Search Index. This is a XML file uploaded to Google as new pages are added on a site - a valuable service for anyone who wants to get their information on the web quickly.
Other key crossover takeaways from the study to ponder:
- Even among the top nationally recognized news site brands, Google remains the primary entry point. The search engine accounts on average for 30 to 40 percent of the traffic to these sites at any given moment.
- Social media is emerging as a powerful news referring source. At five of the top sites, Facebook is the second or third most important driver of traffic. This is also the case for many other non-news websites.