Your Website Audience – Readers, Subscribers & Users
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…
William Shakespeare -
All the world’s a stage (from As You Like It 2/7)
What is a website? That is, we know what it is, but to help us conceptualize and focus our own website, lets just examine a few perspectives.
First and foremost a website is a way of publishing “content”. In this view, it is most similar to a newspaper or magazine and consists of articles, images and contact information – and often may include advertising.
This isn’t something that lands on the lawn or can be read in a doctors surgery however. So secondly, a website is a group of electronic documents that can only be accessed inside a browser program on an electronic device that is connected to the internet. It is hyper linked enabling people to “turn a page” to look at something new.
Thirdly unlike printed media like books and magazines, a website can display video and audio content. So it is – or has the potential to be – a performance or a moving slide show, with both galleries of moving pictures and a soundtrack of music or voice over.
Fourth and last – but not least – with various different applications (that are often described as being Web 2.0) – a website is a Performance Stage that can invite the audience to take part. From conference software where websites can display live events with instant question and answer sessions, to more passive applications such as comment threads where questions and answers are dependent on attention for replies, the reader can participate in a discussion with the writer and with other readers.
Blogging is a Performance Art!
I have used the word website throughout this website, because it is a word that the majority of people know and understand but many others ask – “What is a blog?” if blog or blogging is used.
The definition of a blog usually relates to the software being a CMS (like WordPress). However to me the main difference between a website, and said website being specifically a blog, is a constantly updating feed of news.
Each new post is similar to a narrator moving the story forward. So…
You can be the person on stage who lets people sleep – or you can wake up your audience.
To get to the point - a website is NOT a “passive” medium. Although there are many static websites – and maybe your website is one – whether your site is static or dynamic, a website is there for one purpose only.
It has something to “say” to a reader… So make it count!
And if a website’s reason for being is the reader (not the writer) it’s time to think about how you can optimize people’s experience of your website for its users.
Much will depend on the type of content on your website, but even a simple brochure website should be making it super simple for people to call or email the owner. A website looking to build their readership should be publishing regularly ( minimum 1 post a week). It should be using images, videos and audio – and asking their readers what they want and giving it to them.
In return ask your readers TO DO what you want them to. Probably the main thing you’d like from them is their email. Because then you can contact them and keep in touch with them and tell them when you have something new or have news.
Because then, suddenly – you are no longer just a static throwaway website – you are a community.
What can readers DO on your website?
By using WordPress, the options for readers to interact with your website increase dramatically. There are multiple levels of interaction available that you can set according to what you want to achieve.
Without joining you can enable people to start using maps to get directions and contact forms to send an email or ask for a quote. With other web applications they can play games, do polls, enter a discussion by leaving a comment, participate in a webinar, watch a teleseminar, listen to a podcast, go through a slideshow, browse a picture gallery, and listen to some music.
By joining your website they can do even more, such as add a profile, a link or an article or more to your site and pages that are “unique to them”, such as a download page. This is done by the CMS and you can use it by understanding Users, their roles and their capabilities.
I’ll start at the most passive and work my way up to you on the “admin” level.
Readers Can Comment
The most basic level of interaction is when a visitor stops by and reads an article. Starting on whichever “landing” page they arrive at via a SERP or on the home page from typing in your url, they can read an article and are presented with navigation links to other content.
As a reader they may be able to comment on an article if your settings allow then to. They cannot do this from a “feed” page and will need to leave an email with their comment. To comment they should click on the page title linking to the single page for the article or on a comment link, and the comment box will appear at the bottom.
As the website owner you can decide whether comments are published immediately, set aside for moderation, or disabled altogether. This is done under Settings>Discussion in the dashboard.
You can moderate comments under Comments at the top of the dashboard. Unfortunately due to the ability of software to spam websites, 99% of your first comments will be spam looking for a free link. Enable Akismet in order to keep these to a minimum – to do so you must get an API key to use Akismet via a WordPress.com account.
With plugins readers can add rich content to comments if you choose, even embed a video. The reader who enjoys what you have to say and comments is a gift. It is as rude to ignore a comment as it is to ignore someone who talks to you. Even if they never see your reply take the time to answer questions if asked and to acknowledge comments in active discussions. If this becomes too hard turn comments off on all but new posts.
Subscribers Can Read Emailed Summaries and See More.
It is a misconception that you need to subscribe to read blogs. It is true however that subscribers can often see more! When you write a post – in the editor is a split page icon to insert the Read More tag. If this tag is inserted on a post or page, in settings it can be made to use the first part (above the tag) as an excerpt and anything below the tag has further options.
Some people set this so that only subscribers can read the full content when logged in, and other website owners set it so that the full article is only available on the permalink single page (which means they are presented with the comment box after they finish reading). Both of these publishing techniques aim to engage the reader more fully, although occasionally they backfire and mean that only first paragraphs get read!
With the use of the Subscribe2 plugin, or by joining Feedburner, people who subscribe can receive emailed updates either when you write a new post, or as a weekly summary of new posts. You can also email updates by using an autoresponder like Aweber, if you offer a free report or newsletter as an incentive to subscribe. These strategies make it possible to gain your readers email and add it to your mailing list.
This is another means to engage with readers, and your best way to stay in touch with people who have visited your website and want to read more when you publish it.
Users can have their own back office area
The next step after subscriber is User. WordPress has several levels of user starting at subscriber, and moving up to full privileges as administrator. With different plugins you can change the default user privileges if you wish and redirect these users to specific areas of your websites back office according to the users level of membership.
User Roles & Capabilities
- Super Admin – YOU! Or someone with access to the WordPress CMA administration features controlling the entire back office.
- Administrator – Someone else to whom you have given access to all the administration features
- Editor – Somebody at a trusted managerial level who can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users’ posts, and who can enable plugins and do updates and other maintenance tasks.
- Author – Somebody who can publish an article and manage only what they publish
- Contributor - Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them, they must wait for a moderator to approve things.
- Subscriber – Somebody who can only manage their own profile page and receive updates
A member by any other name would smell as sweet…
Member sites all use this USER role and capability framework, but adapt it for specific purposes.
Much has been made of membership plugins and store plugins that have been built on the WordPress framework. It is often worth taking a premium option for a specific usage simply to save time and get support. You may well be able to achieve something similar with free plugins but how many hours in the day do you have to spare. Do you really want to re-invent the wheel?
Premium shop and membership site plugins set up templates and hooks and filters and make everything happen smoothly so you can into your back office and add a product page and a download page and check sales and users. If there is a snag, you can get support. When you need to look professional then it’s preferable to not lose the confidence of members by attempting to diy and failing. DIY on a test blog by all means but don’t waste your readers time.
Who Is Your Audience?
Reading Your Website Statistics
Referring Back to Target Readers – Step 1
When you started your website you probably had very little idea of who might visit your site, where they hailed from and what they came to read. When you start a website therefore you want to enable some form of Statistic program. These keep track of hits, keep a record of keywords and backlinks and generally measure how well your website is performing for your readers.
Stats help you figure out what you can do to get more readers. The most common Stats programs used are Google Analytics and CPanel Statistic programs like Webalizer and these both need to be set up or enabled.
After a few months you will have graphs and figures to look at and can start to see where people are landing and which pages hold their interest. Reading these statistics can be fascinating for some people and incomprehensible to others, but either way you should look at your stats at least once a month, such as when you are doing your maintenance.
If there is a specific audience you are not reaching (eg a local one) then you will see it in your stats and can start to look for ways to get more local visitors. If you discover that search engines are sending you traffic for a specific keyword and this is relevant to you, expand on this type of content in order to reward visitors and use this content to ask for your required actions.
The more you learn about making a website, the more your own website stats will mean and the better you will get at optimizing your content for the search engines and for your readers.
- Highlighter lets readers comment and link to specific sections of an article (thenextweb.com)
- Three Great Stat Plugins For WordPress (johnchow.com)