If there’s one thing that matters to us most here at Slickstream, it’s the visitor engagement data that drives everything we do. And while it’s all well and good to create shiny new objects for our publishers to put on their sites, in the end they have to actually drive clickthrough.

So when we roll out a new tool in the Engagement Suite, the first thing we do is test, test, test! And this week, our friends at DIY & Crafts were kind enough to let us publish the results on our latest addition: the content grid.

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You’ve undoubtedly seen these grids before -- think of them as the related posts at the bottom of an article, or in the sidebar when viewing on desktop. And you may have wondered, “does anybody actually click these?” In this case study, we set out to answer that very question.

Now to start, we should be totally clear: while our content grid has the benefit of our recommendation engine behind it and incorporates your visitors’ favorites into the presentation, this test was against a control group with no grid at all. The purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness of these modules as a whole, rather than ours against any particular alternative.

So in asking the question, “Do content grids work?” the data came back with a resounding “YES!”

Let’s take a look into the data from DIY & Crafts. As always, our process was to randomly divide the site’s audience into a test group (in this case with the content grid as part of the Engagement Suite) and a control (holding all else constant but without a grid). Then we compared the performance of the two groups over a long enough time window to get statistically significant data.

For DIY & Crafts, the addition of the content grid had a tangible impact on visitor behavior. Here are the primary takeaways:

  • Overall activity (the metric we’ve most closely correlated with ad revenue) went up 2.6%
  • Total intrasite clicks went up an impressive 11.4%
  • Pageviews paradoxically decreased by 1.05%, but in a fascinating and positive way

Let’s start with that pageview statistic, since it’s likely to raise a few eyebrows. While it’s true that overall pageviews decreased, this was caused by a massive redistribution from non-content pages like the home page to monetized posts. Here’s what that looked like in practice:

Non-Content        
Group Pageviews Activity (Seconds) Activity/Pageview Immediate Bounce %
Slickstream 10,559 54,679 5 77.22%
Control 19,892 49,283 2 87.80%
Impact -46.92% 10.95% 109.02% -12.05%

 

Content        
Group Pageviews Activity (Seconds) Activity/Pageview Immediate Bounce %
Slickstream 449,950 42,976,225 96 12.44%
Control 445,870 41,879,559 94 12.45%
Impact 0.92% 2.62% 1.69% -0.10%

 

As you can see, the introduction of a content grid fundamentally changed the navigation patterns, redistributing pageviews from low-value interstitial pages (like the home page or category pages) to high-value content pages. We dug even deeper here by device type, and the data suggest that this difference is primarily from browser actions on desktop. So instead of using the back button to the home page and finding a new link, an engaged visitor would just click on the grid instead.

By Device Pageviews / User Activity / User Clicks / User
Desktop -3.23% 1.33% 5.13%
Phone 1.19% 4.42% 17.80%
Tablet 5.09% 3.17% 51.52%
All -1.05% 2.60% 11.40%

Again, the only difference between the test and control groups was the introduction of a related content module at the bottom of each post -- everything else stayed completely the same!

To be honest, these results completely floored us. While anything that has an adverse effect on net pageviews needs to be treated with caution, the distribution of those pageviews and the large bump in monetizable activity certainly turned this into a major positive for DIY & Crafts.

Every site is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But if you’ve been skeptical about including a content grid at the bottom of your posts, it may be time to take a fresh look. And if you’re a Slickstream user, our version is included with your Engagement Suite subscription -- you can learn more here!

Topics: Engagement Suite, Analytics

John Greely

Written by John Greely

Hi, I'm John! I run marketing for Slickstream. In a past life I was an early employee at Bleacher Report, and I'm both a Gaucho and a Longhorn.

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