The stickiest sites on the web offer interesting and urgent experiences several times a day, every day. Their existence depends on creating a good first impression to bring people in, and then using whatever resources are available to lure prospects and customers back to the site.
The sites described in the earlier sections of this article offer clues to how businesses might grow the stickiness of their sites.
1. Improve first impressions
The first thing you must do to create stickiness is to lower the drop-off rate on the first page. Here are three simple tricks that the leading sites use:
Be relevant. Stylehive, ESPN and Daily Kos are all crystal clear on who their audiences segments are, and they successfully target content so the users feel at home.
Be clear. Like Yahoo, you can ensure that key content areas are easy to find, even if you have a large quantity of content on the homepage.
Be current. Change your content as often as necessary to keep users up to date with whatever passion you are feeding.
2. Create a reason to spend more time on the site
Once users have committed to spending a little time with you, the task becomes keeping them on the site longer.
- Make quality content available. Content should be of the best quality you can provide-- and there should be lots of it.
- Refresh your content regularly. Even the best quality content is no good if it hangs around too long and users get bored with it.
- Merchandise your content. Place new and popular content at the top of the list and draw attention to items that expose the breadth of your content.
- Update your content automatically. By using content targeting, you can automatically re-order the content based on what leads to the most page views or time on site. You can remove content or lower its priority if it has already been read by a user. You can also lower its priority if it has been shown several times and not read.
3. Remind them to visit again soon
Most business sites are visited on an "as needed" basis only. That's because the sites are not designed to offer anything of value until the prospect is ready to consider buying again.
If you want to encourage visitors to come more often, consider these tactics:
- Try to create the "itís like Christmas" effect. Deliver something new and useful regularly.
- Build community ties. If a customer or prospect engages in a site community there is a chance that an affinity for or a responsibility to the community will draw him back.
- Integrate "push" applications. RSS feeds and bookmarklets work well and are easy to deploy. Custom applications that sit on the desktop and remind the prospect or customer to come back are high-risk but potentially high-reward.
- Applets can work great. Acura has a particularly good one that lets you monitor current traffic conditions.
4. Try improvements based on engagement
The next time you plan changes to your site, don't look solely at the "things" -- such as colors, copy and images -- that you can improve. Rather, look at actions. How can you improve the way you allow and encourage those actions to happen?
You might consider:
- Navigation. This is one of the main ways a visitor interacts with you. Are there areas for improvement?
- Editorial voice. Publishing sites, retail sites and others often lend themselves to an editorial voice. Do you offer suggestions to visitors, such as best-sellers, most-often-viewed or "highly recommended"? Do you also incorporate visitor suggestions, such as most-often-recommended or most-highly-rated? Do you balance the editorial voice and the voice of the visitor well (as Daily Kos does)? Testing the amount of weight each voice is given on your site is an effective way of improving stickiness.
- Efficient browsing. Any time a visitor searches for something on your site, he is highly engaged with you. Using AJAX-like elements that pull content to the current page when a new item is searched, rather than sending visitors to another page, can speed up the process and avoid disengagement.
How to Build a Super-Sticky Homepage