On the top of every content marketer’s to do list is to attract and maintain an online audience. The content marketers at the Harvard Business Review aren’t just achieving this goal – they’re killing it.

The Harvard Business Review, an online publication that caters to academics and business alike, made some changes to their online publication that resulted in a 20 percent increase in registered users.

How did they do it? We asked Brenda Della Casa, the editor-in-chief at Preston Bailey Designs, to analyze the changes made and explain why each one contributed to growth in readership.

New feature allows readers to save and organize articles
Marketers know that readers don’t always have time to read a well-crafted article, so rather than let great content go unread, HBR created a solution. It allows readers to save and organize articles they’re interested in.

“Creating a space where readers can save information they find interesting and access it easily is good customer service,” says Della Casa.

It not only keeps readers happy, but it provides important information on the backend.

“HBR can track what content is most popular which will assist in content curation,” says Della Casa.

This feature, which is given to paid subscribers, provides extra value for the subscription fee. It’s a nice perk that brands with gated content could consider.

More visuals added to the site
HBR upped the visual ante too. The publication added an entire “Visual Library” section to its site, which is filled with charts, graphs and infographics.

The rising demand for “eye candy” online can’t be ignored, Della Casa says.

“There is an enormous amount of research on this topic which emphatically proves that, in this day and age, visuals are absolutely vital in marketing,” she says.

Eighty-six percent of consumers have expressed a desire to access visual content on demand, according to recent data from Demand Gen Report.

An increasing number of brands are turning to DIY tools like Canva to create visuals in-house. These tools eliminate the need for a graphics department and give brands the chance to create crisp, clean visuals that attract and maintain an audience.

Increased social media use reaches new customers
HBR took to the social media highway to lure new readers to its website. Seventy-nine percent of HBR’s traffic came from social channels, which is now the third strongest referral channel the site has.

“We live in a digital world where most of our communication is electronic,” says Della Casa. “At this point, a brand without an ongoing online conversation is seen as out of touch.”

While most brands have a social presence on at least one channel, there have been some holdouts. For HBR, social media is the key to attracting newcomers. So, if your brand hasn’t embraced social media, or isn’t devoting significant resources toward it – it’s time to reconsider, Della Cases says.

“It’s clear why brands like HBR are changing the way they engage their readers: they have to,” she says. “Millennials (age 13-34) are the first generation in over 100 years to have a different brain on a microcellular level due to their attachment and use to digital media.”

In other words, future readers are on social media. If you want them to join your online family, you have to hang out where they do – on social channels.

Will your brand consider any of these changes to increase readership? Or are there other changes that you’ve made that led to increased traffic? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.