Readers are precious and their attention is scarce. Your challenge is to get your readers to spend time with your content, get comfortable with your vision, and take steps to build a relationship with you. You can’t do this if they glance at a post for 30 seconds and click away to another website.
“Stickiness” is a challenge for many bloggers. It’s frustrating to see your bounce rate, the percentage of people who leave your site after visiting one page, hover around 90%.
While “great content” is always the best answer to most blogging questions, there are other techniques you can use to entice your readers to take off their shoes and get comfortable. These are are my favorite:
1. The Slide Plugin
I stumbled across the Slide plugin while reading the Harvard Business Review Blog and wanted to test its impact. The plugin creates a pop-up that slides in on the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The Slide shows one relevant post based along with social share buttons.
The results are promising. The plugin immediately increased pageviews on Pushing Social by 11.6%. I’ve received a few complaints from people who have an ideological aversion to any pop-up but most readers have actively used the Slide to find new content.
Interlinking is linking relevant words in your post to other posts that provide deeper information. WordPress encourages interlinking by offering you a search option when you create a hyperlink in your posts.
I’ve modeled my interlinking tactics from Copyblogger who uses interlinking extensively in every post. It’s important to only link to articles that add depth to the current post and to link in moderation.
Some SEO specialists believe that you can get search ranking benefit by smart use of this tactic. The important consideration is to make it convenient for your readers first and search engines second.
3. Post Widgets
I’ve tested “Popular Posts”, “Recent Posts”, and “Random Posts” widgets extensively in my sidebar. My results have been mixed.
Popular Posts widgets tend to be self-perpetuating. The initial set of popular posts get more traffic because they are displayed in the sidebar - making them more popular. Over time, the same Popular Posts take up residence in the sidebar only getting toppled by extraordinarily popular posts.
Recent Posts widgets work better since they show your latest posts. The problem is that good posts are buried simply because they are old. Also in many cases, your recent posts are still visible on your homepage making the widget redundant.
Random Posts widgets have worked the best on Pushing Social. With this widget, you can display a mix of posts from your archives. This surfaces and promotes posts that still have value but are overlooked by the Popular and Recent widgets. Also the reader is given a new list of posts every time they visit giving your site a dynamic feel.
4. Relevant Posts in Email Updates
If you manually create update emails promoting your latest posts then consider creating a quick list of relevant posts to include in the email. This will take a bit more time but is worth it if you believe that your post will have wide appeal with your email audience.
(By the way, let me know if there is a plugin that does this for you)
5. Create “Helper Pages”
New visitors to your blog will be looking for something to get them “oriented”. Creating a “New Here?” page that has links to other helpful posts is a great way to kill two birds with two stones. Your page introduces your blog’s Big Idea and gets them to stick around and explore your other content.
You can extend this concept to Helper Pages that summarize categories of blog posts. I have one for all of my “Blogging Promotion” posts that make it easy to get my best posts on the subject in one place. These pages are great for your readers and tend to get great rankings on Google as well.
6. Study and Model Low Bounce Rate Pages
Fire up Google Analytics. Navigate to Content > Site Content > Pages. From here you’ll see the pages that have the most page views for the last month.
Find the pages that have the lowest Bounce Rate. Review these pages and see what you did to get readers to click to other pages from your post. See if you can replicate the process with new posts.
7. Improve The Most Popular Pages First
While reviewing your popular pages look for ones that have high pageviews and high bounce rates. See is you can use Interlinking to encourage visitors to investigate other posts. Try to apply the lessons learned from your low bounce rate pages to these popular pages.
Sometimes Stickiness Doesn’t Matter
Not every blog post needs to super-glue your readers to your blog. Its fine if some posts satisfy your readers. You’ll find that longer, evergreen, “epic” posts tend to have higher bounce rates because the reader gets everything they need in one visit. These readers are likely to come back but one post is enough for their first visit.
On the flip side, if most of your posts have high bounce rates along with a short “Avg. Time on Page” then you should investigate how you can increase quality and lead your readers to other information on your blog.
Have you found other ways to get your readers to stick around your blog? Go ahead and share them in the comments!