By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
April 9, 2015

If you want your site visitors to be more engaged with the content you present, you may want to remember one important word: "Interactive."

That's because interactive content may help you reap some added benefits from your website. Interactive content demands that users provide some kind of input rather than just passively reading, watching or hearing the material that you've posted.

One study shows that most visitors do not convert on the first visit, but returning visitors are more likely to convert.

First-time visitors:

• 99% of them won't buy on their first visit
• 25% of those who don't buy will never return
• 75% will abandon but intend to return

Returning visitors:

• 53% won't return again within 28 days after abandoning a second time
• 47% will return, and one in four will make a purchase

So it's a good idea to encourage visitors to come back another time even if they don't convert the first time around.

Chief among the reasons visitors stay longer or return to a page is because it offers something of value. That could be interactive media that polls visitors on their opinions and needs, and visitors may want to come back and see the poll results.

In addition to increasing your conversion rate it's also important to meet certain standards if you want to receive positive search engine ranking, and these qualities include:

• well-written useful and unique content
• well-thought-out intuitive navigation
• titles that help identify relevant keyword phrases

Traditionally, many websites have the same array of elements that allow visitors to navigate the pages and perhaps convert. Buttons, links and forms are the typical items that they click on or fill out. There are often pictures, graphics, video and sound are often used to enhance the visitor's experience.

However, interactive media can go a step further and help you carry on two-way communication with your visitors.

What is Interactive Content?

A lot of content you see, such as infographics, articles, blogs and podcasts, are media that users consume passively. It may be something they read, or in the case of video and podcasts, watch and listen to. In addition to taking in information, viewers may also share content with others. But none of those kinds of content demand that the viewer or listener add anything to the material being presented. Non-interactive content also does not react or respond to the viewer in real time.

However, interactive content is designed to engage the viewer, listener or reader. Rather than passively consume the material being presented, the audience is encouraged to be a participant, offer opinions, take quizzes, play games and join in other activities that can be enlightening or simply entertaining.

Interactive content includes contests, workbooks, games, quizzes, calculators and assessment tools, among other applications. If you're looking for ideas about setting up quizzes, you might want to check out this article, "The Ultimate Guide to Using Quizzes for your Viral Content Marketing Strategy in 2015."

Some may see similarity between smartphone apps and interactive content on websites - both provide specific services or functions, and they are usually compact and easy to use. While users must download and install smartphone apps, interactive media is placed on a Web page and is ready to operate, and the content can usually be used with any kind of browser.

Establish an Identity

You may be asking yourself why you should be making use of interactive content. If you've done any marketing at all you probably understand that the first challenge is standing out from the pack. There are probably a lot of people already doing what you are doing, and they got started earlier than you did.

There's a blizzard of white papers out there. The same goes for webinars, infographics and e-books. You've probably downloaded a number of white papers and barely given them a glance. In addition, consider the number of webinars you've probably signed up for and blown off. Free material may be somewhat easier to distribute, but the problem is getting users to fully absorb your message and stay engaged to the end.

That's why you need a strategy to hook the reader or viewer and keep him or her actively engaged in the material you present. Interactive content can provide ammunition to fight the war against indifference.

There a great number of different interactive apps to consider, and if you're so inclined, you can create your own games, quizzes and other media. Not everyone can develop his or her own personalized interactive media apps. But you can purchase prefabricated interactive content that can be branded, personalized and launched without developers. You'll want to choose media that will appeal to your visitors and will keep them involved with your site over longer periods of time. Remember, return visitors are more likely to convert than are first timers.

Short Term, Long Term

Two factors to consider when deciding whether to choose interactive media for your site are improved search engine ranking and relationship building. According to an article on Moz.com, Google prefers content rich sites. So if you want your pages to be listed high in search engine results, you'll want to have rich content, including interactive media, on your pages. In addition, marketing blog Kissmetrics points out that, "interactive marketing focuses less on an immediate sale and more on building a relationship with customers by engaging them in conversation." That's a strategy that may work for you, especially if you're interested in persuading visitors to return to your site.

What makes interactive content attractive to marketers is that it demands that visitors engage with the material, whether it be answering questions, offering opinions or selecting from a menu of options. It offers a way to transform visitors from passive viewers to engaged participants. You can use interactive media to capture the visitor's attention and hold onto it. Your visitors will be focusing, thinking and responding to your media, rather that sleepwalking through it.

In addition, if you track visitors' responses to your media, you're liable to learn more about them, such as their interests, needs and wishes. That information can help you tailor your future marketing campaigns to make them more appealing to your target audience.

Educational Benefits

Interactive media is sometimes used to educate, and marketers could bear this in mind when evaluating the kinds of media they choose to present. Often, marketers will want to educate prospects about the value of their offerings, and the instructional nature of some interactive media may serve their purposes well.

We tend to learn best from our experiences when we are allowed to experiment, test our knowledge and receive performance evaluations. Interactive education can also let users compare and contrast various options that the prospect wants to evaluate.

Chris Dede, Harvard University professor of education, says that teaching with multiple interactive media is more powerful than teaching with any single medium. Dede notes that interactive media's capability of engaging the user is one of its most effective characteristics. "It lets students act rather than listen, and do things inside the technology world that are impossible in the real world," he says.

Post Script

You may want to bear in mind that interactive media can be one of the most powerful tools for increasing prospects' engagement with your website. Interactive media not only keeps visitors interested in your site, it's a potential educational tool that can help spread the word about your offerings and other pertinent facts about your industry. A third potentially useful function of interactive media is that you can use it to track and record lots of rich data about visitor behavior. That can help you better understand your customers, their habits and their needs. With the information that you glean, you can probably create even more successful marketing campaigns in the future.

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