July 5, 2009
One of the biggest measurements of a website’s success is the stickiness of its visitor base. Generally web masters would rather have 1,000 visitors who return regularly (they are “stuck to the site”) as opposed to 3,000 visitors who only visit once or twice. These days the web is massive, carving out a niche for your site and gaining a following within that niche is the key to success.
There are many reasons why you should try to make your website as sticky as possible. Visitors who return regularly are more likely to purchase some of your products or content. If you have a membership site, then retaining your member base is critical for growing your income and long term success. Also, a faithful following will encourage viral promotion of your site.
Search engine optimization can be a costly and time consuming task and your site’s listing can be hammered down by the powers that be (Google) in the blink of an eye. If you gain a faithful user base though, they will tell their friends and family about your site and encourage them to use it as well. Viral marketing is the cheapest and most effective type of marketing there is and making your site and content desirable is the only way to achieve this phenomenon. There are “five C’s” of stickiness to remember, and they are:
Regardless of the site’s design, without good content, the visitor will not come back or stay at the site for more than a few minutes. “Content is King” is a cliché, but true. High quality content is far and away the most important factor in attracting people back to a Web site consistently, and keeping them there for more than a few minutes when they do visit. It is said, in fact, that content is what drives 75 percent of consumers to return to their favorite sites.
In addition to your site being content rich, try to also keep it fresh. At least part of your site will be regularly updated, preferably at least once a month. This is why web sites which resemble online brochures fail. Delivering the same content in a blog, posted in installments, can be much more effective. This will encourage users to come back regularly, as they check in to see what new content you’ve added lately. This is stickiness in a nutshell.
When a site attracts enough visitors with similar interests it has the potential to develop into a “community.” That can be very powerful for the site owner. Providing message forums, chat rooms, podcasts, user profiles, blogs, etc. are all tools to allow your visitors to interact with both you and each other. This also makes your site VERY sticky if you are able to develop a thriving community.
Rather than visiting your site once a month people may begin to visit it multiple times a week. Having a thriving community can be viewed as developing a site which is constantly developing its own content. Rather than requiring you to spend hours developing content, you can instead monitor the postings on your site to ensure they retain the kind of atmosphere you want for your site. As time goes by you may also be able to appoint some of your more responsible members to monitoring positions to do this job for you as well.
Communication is equally important as content and community. Communication includes building and maintaining your list, reaching out to people on your list, and interacting with visitors to your site. Try to respond to any question, comments, or feedback you receive promptly. This builds relationships with your visitors and will keep them coming back.
One of the best ways to reach out to customers is to offer quality, free information. This is basically a sample of what your site has to offer, and should always help address the questions your visitors came to your site for answers for. The very nature of the web stresses that you consider offering more free content to your customers than most other mediums do. You have too much competition to be stingy. One of the most effective means of providing content to customers and developing a list of potential customers at the same time is to offer a free guide to visitors who provide you with a name and email address.
For example, if you run a site teaching real estate tips and tricks, after your visitors have seen your “foot in the door” content located on your “splash page,” offer them the first lesson of your course on real estate for free in exchange for their name and email address. You benefit from this by having names to attach to the IP addresses of your visitors. This provides you with more information about who is being drawn into your site. It is also important you use a quality auto-responder for this step, as communication is a critical part of your site and must be handled professionally.
One last note on communication: Be sure to provide your name and contact information clearly throughout your site. It will frustrate and turn away visitors if they have a question or comment and cannot figure out how to reach you. By providing a name and place to reach you it also helps contribute to the last two “C’s…”
Commerce and Consumer Confidence
These are perhaps the two most important things that get overlooked in websites. First, effectively promote your site by using professional marketing and search engine optimization for the niche your site seeks to fill. Provide reliable, safe, and secure means for your customers to purchase your for-pay content. If your ordering method does not look safe, all your efforts working to sell your content to your visitors will be lost if they get to the order page and you look like an unprofessional, fly-by-night operator. Always use a secure ordering form. Offering a money back guarantee can be extremely helpful to reassure customers.
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