Optimize ‘Suggested Articles’ for 233.6% Improvement

We all know the feeling of going down a rabbit hole of internet articles. Innocently you begin reading something a friend sends you on Buzzfeed, or browsing a Wikipedia page of world events that happened on your birthday. But then you begin to click from one article to the next, and after what seems like an endless abyss of content you find yourself brushing up on dinosaurs of the late Jurassic Period or taking a quiz called, “Which Possible Illuminati Member Are You?”

For most people, this experience is explained by human curiosity coupled with some free time and a good internet connection. However, these experiences are far more orchestrated. The best performing websites capture an audience’s attention from page to page through robust experience optimization. The placement and treatment of suggested content that transports a user from one article to the next is not carelessly added to a sidebar with little intention.

Kaizen Platform recently optimized the suggested content section for our client SitePoint, a leading technical resource provider for web professionals. From copy, icons, design, and placement Kaizen Platform was able to find the best performing experience to keep users engaged and reading.  Here’s what we learned from the experiment…

 

  1. Place recommended articles at the bottom of the page beneath the comments and the ‘next article’ CTA.

Users expect recommended articles to be at the bottom of the page. The natural flow is to read the article, browse some comments, and then continue to recommended articles if the user has not already found what they are looking for. If the recommended articles are on the side, then by the time the reader is halfway down the page they’re no longer visible. Alternatively, if the recommended articles are in a fixed position it’s too distracting and takes up too much space on the screen.

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Place suggested content at the bottom of the page

  1. Design to stand out, not distract.

In our experiments we found that bold brand colors are best to accentuate the section. Also, using icons next to the headline, such as a group of people or a coffee cup connected better with readers. The goal is to have users know it’s there and pique their interest.

SitePoint’s Winning Variation

  1. Use punchier language.

Kaizen Platform experimented with a few headline variations that ranged from the standard, “Recommended for you” to the more emotional “What others are reading.” The latter of the two performed best because it plays off the emotional desire to be included. It’s a general rule of thumb in copywriting to find the emotional hook with an audience. A copywriting mentor of mine once said, “Fear, greed, exclusivity, or sex—choose one.” The lesson: emotional connections are always the most likely to result in action.

  1. Add visuals

To accentuate each article add a hero image. In our experiments we found that between simple list with texts, lists with icons, and a grid of article images, images performed best. Additionally we found that the ideal number of articles to display is three as it’s not overwhelming, but still leaves room for choice.

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3 suggested articles performed best

Results:

With these changes, SitePoint had a 233.6% improvement rate in the their suggested articles section. Using Kaizen Platform’s Expert Cloud of designers and copywriters, SitePoint was able to quickly get the variations they needed to optimize the recommended articles section. Kaizen Platform managed the whole process. From ensuring brand guidelines were met, to relaying questions and feedback between SitePoint and the Expert Cloud. With Kaizen’s simple JavaScript snippet implementation, the experiment started the moment SitePoint was ready to launch. Due to SitePoint’s high amount of traffic, it took less than a week for the results to reach statistical significance.

Keep in mind that these results were based off of SitePoint’s audience segments. Experimenting with different users can lead to different results. If you’re interested in optimizing your own experiences request a demo and take advantage of our unique performance pricing. You don’t pay a cent until you see results and we guarantee 5% lift.

 

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