“There are two main reasons why news sites are reluctant to send readers away by linking to third-party content. First, you shouldn’t send people away or else they won’t come back to your site. Second, a page with links that sends people away has low engagement, which doesn’t serve advertisers well.”
Or at least, that’s how this article starts its opening paragraph, but Publishing2.com goes on to discuss the latest Nielson figures on news site engagement in the US in May and June 2007. At the top of the table, The Drudge Report is a conservative, U.S.-based news aggregation website run by Matt Drudge. The site consists mainly of links to stories from the US and international mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events as well as links to many columnists.
In both “sessions per person” and “time spent on site” The Drudge Report wins hands down (source: Nielson’s Top 30 news sites for May 2008 and top news sites for June 2008. What’s odd about this is the fact that The Drudge Report is all outbound links! In fact the site is the biggest traffic generator to the US news industry. Another really good example of the outbound links format is Techmeme. I wonder how the metrics compare?
What’s the lesson for a blogger like me? I’ve spent my fair share of time trying to decrease the bounce rate of my site and trying to keep visitors hanging around long enough to read all of my content. But, perhaps there’s a special value in providing lots of outbound links to valuable resources. It’s fair to assume that the perception of your blog can either be a useful library of resources or a useful library of external resources. Perhaps the real return value is providing both. Not “squandering your pagerank” and being a good internet citizen by promoting genuinely useful links to content is still the way to go!
From now on there’s a few improvements I’m going to make to the production of content on my site – it will be really interesting to see how my engagement metrics are impacted, if at all:
1) Continue to produce my own useful posts whenever I can, but link out and reference a lot more often
2) Review my existing posts and add a few extra outbound links where possible
3) I read a lot of blogs on a weekly basis but I never summarise what I read / liked – Raven SEO does an excellent job of this, and I think there’s value in doing the same on SEOgadget
4) I’ve not talked about Ubuntu enough lately so I’m going to get back on the subject as soon as possible!
Food for thought then, trying to keep your users on your website may not nessecarily be a good long term strategy for repeat visits and time spent on site!