As many journals shift focus from print to web, it seems as if all of us are talking about web traffic. In this session, moderated by Judy Connors, four speakers shared ideas on and examples of how to increase web traffic to journal sites.
Darren Taichman started the session by emphasizing the importance of relating traffic driving efforts to your journal’s mission statement. “Bring important content to a target audience.” His advice and examples were summed up in the formula: Traffic + Engagement = Success. Traffic originates from sites where the readers find links to your journal, so make sure you’re aware of where readers visit prior to landing on your journal pages. Journals can help readers find their content by optimizing searching, making timely corrections (in PubMed and other places), and facilitating referrals. Taichman also described how emails with eTOCs and alerts with tailored content to subgroups have increased web traffic at Annals. Social media is only responsible for a small percentage of their web traffic, but it is still useful to create a “buzz” and attract attention.
Besides traffic, you need to engage the readers to stay on your site and interact. Examples of how to facilitate engagement include providing related content to articles and offering novel content such as videos, comics, and interactive tools.
Glenn Landis offered a different perspective to the session’s topic. He warned us about websites and search engines competing to present our journal’s content. “They want first dibs.” Search engines like Google give readers previews of content and sometimes make it unnecessary to view the full journal page. Landis also told us to be careful with links to other sites, apps, and search engines that “push the readers away” instead of engaging them within your site.
The next speaker was Morgan Sorenson with the presentation title: “Neurology and Social Media: ‘Likes’ but Not Loves.” The journal has been working to increase web traffic and the staff conducted a small study to see how social media affected the numbers. They found that less than 1% of their web traffic originated from social media. Even though these numbers were low, they will keep using social media to build a community, increase presence, and alert users to new features. However, Sorenson said, they will also focus on other ways to drive traffic to the website.
The last speaker, Karen Barry, presented a study from Circulation called “Intention to Tweet: A Randomized Trial of Social Media.” In 2010, Circulation randomized their Original Research articles into two groups and promoted the articles from one group on Facebook and Twitter. By the end of the study period, there were no differences in page views between the groups. Still, Barry said that just as in Sorenson’s example, Circulation continues to promote articles in social media because the “impact of social media on ‘awareness’ may not be reflected in article page views.” And lately the journal has experienced an overall increase in visitors and sessions on the website.
Moderator Judy Connors concluded by describing the podcast initiative launched by Develop Innovate Advance to support its scientific journal, Therapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science, which uses podcasts to provide the audience with a variety of ways to access the content. The podcast was described as easy and cost effective to make, and by linking back to the article on the website, the podcasts have a positive effect on web traffic and article downloads.
Many questions remain about driving web traffic to scientific journals. Should journals focus on increasing web traffic in general or on reaching their target audience? Nevertheless, sharing our experiences is valuable, and we left the session with many new ideas.