How can I improve my site's user experience?

Engaged readers are your ideal readers. By spending time on your site, they tell Google and advertisers that your site is valuable real estate! You want to set up your site in a way that encourages readers to stick around - and you definitely don’t want to have anything on your site that actively chases them away.

Check out the user experience on your site

Tip #1: Go Incognito

We recommend experiencing your site the same way a new reader would: open your site in a private browsing window (for example, Chrome’s Incognito mode) on your desktop, then do the same thing on your phone. This lets you visit your site like a brand-new visitor, without any cookies from past sessions.

Tip #2: Focus on mobile

Pay extra attention to the reader experience on mobile. You may be used to viewing your site on desktop, but many of your readers are likely interacting with your site on their phones! Minor annoyances on desktop can be major roadblocks for mobile viewers.

Tip #3: View on a few different devices

You can use Chrome’s emulator to see what your site looks like on different devices:

  1. Open a new tab in a Chrome Incognito window. Right-click somewhere on the page and click “Inspect.”

  2. Click the “device mode” button to turn it on. (Click here to see what that little toggle button looks like.)

  3. Click on the “responsive” drop-down and choose the device you’d like to emulate.

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  4. Finally, navigate to your URL to see what your site looks like on that device.

Keep an eye out for:

  1. Clutter above the fold: First impressions matter! The portion of your website that loads above the fold (before a user has to scroll down to see more content) is your first chance to grab a reader’s attention, let them know they’ve landed right where they need to be, and set the tone for your site.

    Carefully guard this above the fold real estate and make sure EVERYTHING that appears there earns its keep.

    When someone first lands on your website, they’re probably not ready to join your mailing list or pin your content yet. They need to connect with your content first and foremost — that’s what sells them on the next action they take. So deliver your valuable content right away, and then provide your call to action by placing social sharing buttons and newsletter subscription features further down on the page.

  2. Over-pagination: Having to click too many times to finish reading one post. Readers tend to drop off, and advertisers bid less for each successive pageview, so a paginated post may not earn as well as an engaging, optimized long-form post.

  3. Pop-ups: Especially if the pop-up is not easy to close (it’s good to check this on multiple mobile devices) or if there is more than one pop-up on a page. Newsletter and social media opt-ins can all count as “ads” to readers and to Google, so make sure that anything that covers content on your site conforms to the standards laid out by the Coalition for Better Ads.

    Measure engagement and conversion for pop-ups and test against more reader-friendly opt-ins.
  4. Too many ads: Affiliate banners, Amazon widgets, and newsletter subscription boxes are all different types of ads — even if they are advertising your own content. Any ad on your site should be bringing significant value to the table, so evaluate all “ad” sources to make sure they are worth the space on your site. Your AdThrive ad layout is already optimized, so we’ve got you covered there!

  5. Low-quality ads: We don’t require exclusivity for running ads on your site, but we do have a word of warning on running ads from other sources. We have the strictest quality standards and filters available to detect and block redirects and other unwanted ad types, but ads from other sources can open your site up to potential vulnerabilities and undermine your site’s reputation with advertisers.

    Even though your AdThrive ads comply with all of Google’s best practices, other ads on your site may be sabotaging those efforts.

    • From related post or content exchange widgets -- Some seriously sketchy ads can sneak in through related post or content exchange widgets (like content.ad or Taboola). Even though these types of widgets can be appealing to boost traffic or bring in extra ad income, they may actually be hurting your site in the long run if they involve sharing links to questionable sources or running objectionable, sensationalized ad content.

      We’ve seen Facebook filter links to pages containing this type of ad content from the News Feed, and we’ve seen Google refuse to run ads on the page because of suggestive content, not from the page itself, but from these types of ads. We strongly suggest removing/replacing those widgets or turning off their monetization options to avoid having these types of ads on your site.

    • From plugins -- We’ve also seen social sharing, recipe, and commenting plugins sneak their own ads onto your site and make it hard to find the setting to turn them off — free isn’t always actually “free”. Check the “advanced” or “monetization” settings within plugins to make sure you’re not unintentionally running ads from those sources.

  6. Font that’s too small or is difficult to read: Especially on mobile! We all spend a lot of time on our phones, and straining your eyes to read too-tiny font is no fun.

    Make sure your font is easy-to-read on mobile: 16px or 1 em is a good guideline. And make sure the color of your font provides enough contrast on all site elements.

  7. The wall of text: Especially on mobile! (Notice a theme?) Readers love to skim and long blocks of text aren’t skimmer-friendly. Write for the skimmers:

    • Use appropriate headings
    • Use bold or underlined text for important points 
    • Try bulleted or numbered lists
    • Break heavy paragraphs into more digestible points

    Remember: Your ads display based on HTML elements on your site. If you significantly change your post structure (for example, going from a very text-heavy post to a list format), just drop us a line so we can double-check everything for your ads.

  8. The wall of pics: We LOVE beautiful images and your readers do too — but long blocks of images (and many repetitive images) can detract from reader experience. Make sure each image serves a unique purpose and tells a story on the page. And edit that image story tightly, just like you do with your text!

Give readers a clear path

Anything that takes up valuable space on your site should be either:

  1. Providing overwhelming value to your audience;
  2. Encouraging readers to consume more content; or
  3. Directly contributing to your income.

Consider the desired user path on each page of your site. Where do you want the reader to go next? Do you want them to buy something? Subscribe to your newsletter? Visit a related page on your site? Give your readers ONE clear path to your desired outcome.

Once your site is optimized for user experience, head to our article on reader engagement and learn how to keep those users on your site!

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