Getting to people to visit your website is easy…once. But the real distinction of a good website, which can draw traffic and drive sales, is that it gains followers. People who visit every day (sometimes multiple times per day), and make it a point to check it first thing in morning or evening. Here are some ways to achieve the effect:
- Update the content (and we don’t mean once a month)
Gone are the days of static websites, which remain more or less unchanged for years. That was acceptable in the 1990’s, but is doomed to failure in a Google dominated era. First off, frequent updates to your content mean a higher rate of indexing. Google’s search algorithm “revisits” your site, whenever it detects the content has changed. As such, frequent changes mean the search engine reassess your site more often, and changes your site’s ranking to reflect any improvements. Second, people have no reason to get addicted to your site, if nothing ever changes. There are only so many times they can read the same article or stare at the same infographic. Even the most viral meme, video, or article will die out at some point, and you’ll need something new. Ideally, your site should post new content every day; but we know that’s not possible for some companies. If you can’t manage that, try to update at least three times a week.
- Interact with your audience
Don’t just post articles and videos all day – focus on interacting with your audience too. The easiest way to do this is with contest marketing: quizzes, daily draws, and sponsored prizes are easy ways to get shares and likes, while also drawing frequent visits. But you can do better than that. As a more elaborate example, consider the famous #closethetap campaign by For Love Of Water (FLOW). FLOW is a non-governmental organisation supporting water conservation. The campaign showed an image of a flowing water tap, and with every Tweet or Facebook post, the tap would close a little more. This collective “game” didn’t just raise awareness, it brought multiple visits to the related site, as people wanted to check how much the tap was closing.
- Use lead-ins, so your readers never have a reason to close the tab
Consider top content sites, that are driven purely by articles. The Economist, Forbes, Vice USA, Vox, Cracked, and so forth. Notice that they all have one thing in common, besides well-written pieces: the articles either link to other articles, or there’s a bar at the bottom of the screen showing other related articles. This is the equivalent of Amazon’s “people who bought this also bought…” function. These lead-ins draw the reader toward related articles. Lead-ins stop them navigating away from the site. The also make the site addictive, because the reader is never completely done; there’s always another article they mean to read later, so the tab stays open (or at the very least, readers put your site on an app like Flipboard).
- Remind your readers that you exist
This is mainly the job of the social media manager – you need to regularly post your content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to draw readers to your site. This isn’t just to get new readers, but also to get old ones to revisit. One simple way to do this is with non-intrusive emails. For example, Investopedia sends out regular “word of the week” style emails, which explore one financial term each week. These emails all link back to relevant articles on the site. A more traditional method is to use newsletters or digests. You could make monthly round-up of top articles, and link them in a monthly email “digest”. This sort of regularity gets readers to revisit, and to look at content they may not have noticed before. Just be careful not to become a spammer – if a reader gets too many emails from you, they might lose their enthusiasm and unsubscribe. As a rule of thumb, never email the readers more than once a week.
- Use games
Gamification, as the name implies, is the process of dispensing content as a game rather than as an article, video, infographic, etc. It’s different from simple interaction (see point 2), although it would certainly count as such. Particularly outstanding examples include SPENT, by the Urban Ministries of Durham. The site challenges users to try and survive on a low income, in order to raise awareness of poverty. Also popular is This War of Mine, a game app by War Child, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to raise support for children in conflict zones. The game simulates the difficulties of survival in a conflict zone. There is a fair argument that games are just another form of interaction (see point 2). However, they’re an entirely different beast due to logistical reasons. Gamification is often means a much bigger investment, and it’s an expensive prospect for a small business. Start-ups and small businesses may want to consider teaming up with fledgling app developers, in some form of profit share.
- Keep things interesting with web exclusives and promotions
Resort comparison site The Luxe Nomad shows flash sales and discounts that change almost weekly; this prompts travellers to check in frequently, in case there’s a Promotion relevant to where they’re going. Flight comparison sites like Kayak show “hacker fares”, frequently changing arrangements of one-way flights that are cheaper than buying round trips. While these are specialised deal sites, you don’t have to be running a similar business to copy their methods. You can also run short term promotions on your product, to get users to revisit often. Note that these don’t have to be direct price discounts – free gifts or product add-ons can serve just as well. That said, don’t use promotions without tracking. A cardinal sin of any business is to run promotions with no idea of whether they result in conversions; that’s just throwing money away. Through Synagie.com, you can view key analytics. These let you track if customers are really buying more due to your promotions, where those customers come from, and the trends in their purchases. This informs you on whether you should run similar promotions, or find something new the next time around. You can try it for free right now.
- Surprise is the secret sauce
As an April Fool’s joke last year, property website 99.co briefly created property listings for pets. When Swedish agency Forsman and Bodenfors were tasked with a campaign to help the homeless, they opted out creating a typical charity site. Instead, created Faktum hotels, which allows users to “book” terrible looking spots where homeless people have to sleep (this was to raise awareness of their living conditions, and all bookings were actually donations to charity). Midomi is a website that sells music, and really needed a way to stand out. They surprised users by putting the microphone to good use: you can hum or sing a tune, and the site will try to identify the song. Plenty of users drop by the site just to sing to it, and see how good (or bad) their vocals are. In a world full of sites that can be described as “same-same”, it’s the small, unusual things that get people to visit again and again. Don’t be dismissive of novelty – they may seem gimmicky, but in the right doses they keep your website fresh.