Small and medium business sites tend to focus the bulk of their resources on attracting visitors. Advertising, SEO, content marketing, and social media promotion are all about funneling people from an external website onto pages under the business’s control, where they’ll be exposed to advertising or products and services.
Fewer resources are spent keeping people on the site once they’ve arrived. That’s understandable: getting people to the site in the first place is the biggest battle. But neglecting the on-site user experience is a mistake. By the time visitors arrive, most of the work is already done, but it would be shame if they took a quick look about before heading to pastures new.
I’d like to take a look at five techniques small business site owners can use to encourage people to move away from their point of arrival and explore the site more thoroughly.
Make It Fast
Poor performance is a major cause of high bounce rates. If the first page a user lands on takes an age to load, they won’t be enthusiastic about sticking around for more of the same.
Performance optimization can be broken down into three main areas:
- Back-end optimization focuses on the performance of the server component of the site, including the web server, the database, and the code that constitutes the application.
- Hosting optimization ensures that the site’s server, network, and data storage are as fast as possible. For most small businesses, this means choosing a web hosting provider who can deliver optimal performance at a reasonable price.
Performance optimization is probably the single most important step in improving site stickiness. If the site performs poorly, everything else you do will be less effective.
An oubliette is a dungeon with one entrance, typically in the ceiling. People were put in oubliettes to be forgotten.
The web equivalent is a page that offers no obvious means of moving forward: no links to related content, no internal linking, no calls to action, no reason for the user to do anything but hit the back button.
There are situations in which we want users to have no-where else to go: product landing pages are often the end of the journey. But in all other cases, users should be given a clear path to move from the current page to another page relevant to their purpose.
Can A Secret Be This Obvious?
This one’s not really a secret, but so many small and medium business website owners seem to be unaware that it might as well be.
Create. Excellent. Content.
The content is everything. It has to be interesting, relevant, valuable, useful, informative, well-written, and carry with it the promise of more interesting content to come if the reader would just click onwards.
UX, UX, UX
User Experience is a huge topic, so I’ll stick to two pieces of advice here: keep it simple and don’t be annoying.
If you don’t need a feature, remove it. It doesn’t matter if the Vice President of Widgets thinks a rotating cat animation adds an air of sophistication to the page. If it doesn’t contribute to conversions, provide value to the user, or move them forward in their journey, it’s got to go.
Don’t be annoying. Most people have no trouble with this concept, but, as a group, marketers seem peculiarly immune to the social disapproval that follows annoying behavior.
So, if you were the kid who’d offer someone a candy, wait for them to say thanks, and then pop it into your own mouth, don’t be annoying means “try to make the user happy”.
If they visit your site to read some content, don’t immediately cover it with a giant popup begging for their email address, don’t trick people into clicking on links that take them somewhere unexpected, and don’t make them wait ten seconds while you load megabytes of tracking scripts before letting them look at the 300-keyword-stuffed-words you’ve “written”.
Build A Community
Finally, community is the magical glue that makes sites sticky, as Facebook, Reddit, Hacker News, and almost every hugely popular site on the web proves.
Community building is hard work and it’s not suitable for every business, but if your site becomes a known incubator of conversations and friendships in its niche, it will have no trouble keeping visitors.