Monday, September 20, 2010

Digital Learning Series Sum-up

“Is there any animosity in the room towards the web?” The response to this icebreaker—nervous laughter and shouts of “it’s just more work!” and “there’s too much to learn”—made it clear from the outset that there were more than a few misgivings to overcome at AMPA’s first Digital Learning Series seminar. Rhett Soveran, web editor of Westjet’s up! magazine and web presence expert, had his work cut out for him.

Information Architecture: Hierarchy and Simplicity
Soveran began the seminar with a case study, outlining the changes that he’d made to the up! website. Gone were the distractions of a scrolling marquis bar and numerous marketing awards; in their place, a design stressing simplicity and navigational hierarchy. He emphasized the need to map out a clear information architecture—a blueprint informing the hierarchical structure of the site—with minimal navigation options from the homepage (ie: fewer drop-down tabs!) and clear parent/child relations between pages. A good rule of thumb: a user should be able to go three levels into your site and easily return to the homepage.

Making Print Content Web Friendly
As for that conversion of magazine print content to an online format, keep in mind that it’s just that: a conversion, not a copy. Think of your magazine website as more than just an extension of your magazine, but rather as an entirely separate product with unique needs and goals. Your online reader has a shorter attention span and is likely scanning a page for something to catch their eye; they’re also looking for an emotional connection. Consider converting all of your articles to first person. Break up the content with headers, bulleted lists and images. 

Understanding Web Traffic
Then we got down to the serious business of brand exposure and ad sales—in other words, making the most of those web traffic statistics. For those of us who use a tracking tool such as Google Analytics, and have a limited understanding of what we’re looking at, how do we interpret the numbers? Here are just a few examples:
  • new visitors – If these numbers are too high, it means you aren’t getting enough repeat visitors (think single-issue sales vs. subscriptions)
  • look for over three pages per visit to know your visitor is engaged
  • try to keep those page views to more than 30 seconds
Putting Your Knowledge to Work
These tips are fine and dandy, but the nagging question “How?” remains. Embedded in those traffic stats are details about referring sites and traffic sources. Once you know where your visitors are being directed from (through social media, links, ads, or otherwise), ramp up the relationship with your new friend: send them event information, purchase ad space, comment on their postings with relevant links to your site). If it’s your own social media that is driving traffic to your site, maybe it’s worth devoting that extra 30 minutes per day to provide new information to your friends and followers. 

A final tip for increasing your web traffic and enhancing your brand awareness? Contests, contests, contests. Soveran let us in on a little secret: there is a whole world of professional contesters out there just itching to find visit your site, enter your contest, and win your fabulous prizes! There are even sites directing contesters to, well, contests. Find out how to send these sites information about your contests, et voila, you’re on your way to maximizing the potential of your web presence.

Stay tuned, AMPA will be announcing more Digital Learning events in the near future.

--- Rebecca Lesser
AMPA Communications & Programs Coordinator