Is Discovery the Key to Keeping Users Engaged?

Discovery. It’s one of those Internet buzzwords that gets tossed around without a lot of explanation – everybody wants to be part of it, but what does it really mean? The jury’s still out on any hard-and-fast rules, but as far as I’m concerned, discovery on the Web is what happens when you stumble upon something that both surprises and intrigues you. You probably didn’t know you wanted it, but now that you’ve seen it, whatever it is, you want to know more. It’s serendipitous and unexpected – much different than going to Google in search of something specific. It’s the phenomenon that happens when I see a fun new hair trend on Pinterest and 30 minutes (and many clicks) later have an entire Pinboard dedicated to hair chalking. I spontaneously discover something interesting and fresh, and all I want to do is keep clicking and learning more. Therein lies the importance of discovery.

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone reading this on more than one occasion. You’re perusing one of your favorite websites (or social networks) and you see a photo, video, or article that catches your eye. If it’s something that truly interests you, you’ll click on other similar content if it’s presented to you on that website. Eventually you’re 12 clicks deep and have been on that website for 25 minutes. As a content marketer, that is a dream situation. Yes, it’s important to get people to initially come to your website, but what is arguably even more important is getting them to stay there. And in the digital age, where consumers are pulled in a thousand different directions every time they open their laptops or check their smartphones, it’s no easy task.

Some people will say that flashy headlines or just putting your links out there on social networks will get readers to your website. And maybe it will, but will it make them stay there? I would venture to say no, unless those readers are also discovering new and interesting content that relates to their interests after they make that first click. Like a lot of other people I know, I’m guilty of some digital ADD. I usually have about 18 Google Chrome tabs open at once, and often click in and out and back and forth way more than I’d care to admit. It’s pretty rare that I stay on a single website for more than 10 minutes, but when I do, it’s when that website has tapped into a specific interest, is showing me more and more interesting content, or is offering something I’ve never seen before.

In the hair chalking example (see photo above), I didn’t know about this crazy trend until I happened upon it while browsing Pinterest. I stayed on Pinterest because I was interested in this new discovery and the website kept showing me more of what had pulled me in in the first place. Each click led me to something else of value, so I kept clicking. If all websites could do the same thing, we would have a lot less digital ADD going on. The mistake websites make is putting too much emphasis on that first reader click and not enough on what happens after. Without presenting that user with more valuable information related to what they are interested in, that click will be gone in a minute, or maybe less. And while having a lot of clicks on your website is good, having users who actually stay there (because they feel they are discovering something new) is even better.


Leave a Reply