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University of Maryland: Testing related link placement in stories on CNSMaryland.org

Project overview and goals

Students from the Capital News Service team at the University of Maryland wanted to see if they could increase the amount of time visitors spent on the site by adding links to stories. Its goal was to manipulate the Activity After Viewing This Post metric in order to send visitors to other stories on the cnsmaryland.org site -- ultimately increasing visitor engagement and improving time on site.

Project design

CNS used Parse.ly to identify older stories from the cnsmaryland.org website that had consistent amounts of traffic, dividing them into three categories:

  • Toplink stories: Related links were added to the top of stories, underneath the first paragraph. The tag “toplink” was added to these stories.
  • Bottomlink stories: Related links were added to the bottom section of stories, after the last paragraph. The tag “bottomlink” was added to these stories.
  • Nolink stories: No related link was added, but the tag “nolink” was added to these stories.

In order to determine if the link placement in the article (or lack thereof) influenced traffic, students examined the following metrics to calculate their findings: Activity After Viewing This Post, Pages Referred From This Post, and Referred Views.

Findings

Students at CNS found that links at the bottom of stories were most successful in sending visitors to related stories. Links near the top of the article were least successful in sending visitors to related stories on the site.

Story group Number of articles analyzed Total PVs on original articles Number of clicks to related link ("Referred Views") Percentage of PVs referred to the related link
Related Link Near Top of Story (“toplink”) 21 4,608 22 0.47%
Related Link Near Bottom of Story (“bottomlink”) 20 1,164 14 1.20%
No Related Link (“nolink”) 19 1,708 13** 0.76%

All data shown above was collected between November 1, 2016-December 20, 2016

** The "number of clicks to related link” metric for the “nolink” stories reflects a click to any other story page on the CNS website, not a specific related link, as none ww placed in these stories.

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