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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 

Screen shot 2012 01 26 at 9.59.49 AM 300x83 7 Simple Ways to Get Your Readers to Spend More Time On Your Blog : Blog PromotionI 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.

 2. Interlinking 

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.

Screen shot 2012 01 26 at 10.03.54 AM 300x289 7 Simple Ways to Get Your Readers to Spend More Time On Your Blog : Blog Promotion

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.

Screen shot 2012 01 26 at 10.05.38 AM 147x300 7 Simple Ways to Get Your Readers to Spend More Time On Your Blog : Blog Promotion3. 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.

Screen shot 2012 01 26 at 10.11.47 AM 7 Simple Ways to Get Your Readers to Spend More Time On Your Blog : Blog Promotion

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!

 


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Comments

  1. says

    I think cracked.com has a really smart way to increase and measure time spent on their website. They break all their articles into two or more pages. And they make the block text content seem more digestible because the page isn’t as long, and because they count down most of the content in their articles. Just like this article says “7 Simple Ways…,” all cracked’s articles are numbered off, and if a user wants a sense of completion for reading it, they’ll have to click through to the next page.

    One thing I’ve noticed that cracked does using this method, is that they put the best content on the first page. I still click through to see finished what I’ve started, but I’ve come to expect the best items on the list to come first. I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not. What do you guys think?

    • Stanford says

      I’m seriously thinking about giving this a try. Let me boogie on over to cracked.com now to see what’s up

  2. says

    Hi Standford,

    Thank you for the tips. I love that slide plugin – Can’t wait to try it out! I haven’t seen many of those “helper” pages you talked about. It’s a great idea though. I’ve tried random post widgets and plugins, and haven’t seen much success, but perhaps it works better the longer your blog has been around. It’s definitely worth trying again.

    Thanks again for sharing these tips!

    • Stanford says

      Hey Melissa. Here’s some “random post widget” tips: 1) Title the section to grab attention. I use “What other people are reading”, 2) Configure the section to show a thumbnail pic from your posts to catch people’s eye. 3) Position the widget above the fold so people can see it without scrolling, 3) Make sure you are using amazing headlines for your posts. These headlines will capture people’s attention in the widget. You already use pretty good headlines so you’ve go this covered.

      Hope this helps :)

  3. says

    Stanford, I appreciate your information. My WordPress blog is new and I have learned quite a bit by reading. A couple of your suggestions I will be implementing soon.

    Thanks Much

    • Stanford says

      I can see how video can increase time on page but how do you use it to get readers to explore your blog?

  4. says

    Stanford, I really liked your post. Last night, I went into my WordPress and added a couple of features that worked with my theme. I still have a lot of work to do, though. Thanks for your work.

  5. says

    Hey Stan I totally agree with you on recent posts. I don’t see a point since most blog’s homepage also displays recent posts. I’ve tried popular posts and most commented posts. But then I don’t think they get a lot of clicks. Random posts is something that sounds interesting to me. Let me try it!

    Thanks for the awesome suggestions.

  6. says

    I read your suggestions with interest as I am in the process of building my site.

    I have a question, does it work better to have posts ranging a couple of thousand words, or to break those up into smaller chunks or 750 or so words each? I have been experimenting with page length, but do not yet get enough traffic to judge accurately.

    • Stanford says

      I believe that there isn’t a “correct” blog post length. Instead I make sure that I follow a post structure that tells the complete idea. Sometimes I can do this in 300 words other times it takes a 1,000 words. With that being said, post “series” are excellent for getting repeat visitors.

  7. says

    The Slide Plugin is very interesting – and I will be looking at it to pass on to my article directory members. And Google Analytics is something that every webmaster needs to work on for a succesful business.
    Thanks.

  8. says

    Great tips! I’m going to implement the random post widget right away – I’ve been frustrated with older posts getting lost in long “recent post lists”.
    I hate pop-ups with a passion but I think I’ll give the little one on the bottom a try :-) – I hope it can be hidden in the mobile edition

  9. says

    Hey Stanford,

    LOVE this post! So many great tips and I love the ideas of the Random Posts widget and the Slide Plugin. I can be counted among those that are not crazy about intrusive popups. but his was not interruptive at all. In fact, it caught my attention and I clicked to read the article!

    Will be using some of these ideas on my own blog. Thanks again.

  10. says

    I really liked this one Stanford. I’ve been meaning to install the slider plugin for at least a month now and I am off to see where it is and finally “get it over with”. Thanks for the other tips.

  11. says

    Sally and Stanford, I’ve had really good success with LinkWithin. It lists three related post thumbnails and uses the first photo from the post to lure the reader to click. My bounce rate is in the 60% range. I use at least one photo on every post and try to put pretty clutter right in readers’ pathway! Haven’t tried the slider. Yet.

    • Stanford says

      I like LinkWithin too. Sometimes it can clutter up the footer of the post. But it’s the right call for most blogs

      • says

        Hi Stanford,
        I decided I wanted the social media sharing links BEFORE the LinkWithin row of thumbs and had to resort to code that LinkWithin provided to insert in the post php. I’m going to try that for a week or two.

  12. says

    Hi Stanford,
    Just what I needed to know! It’s exciting to see people reading my posts, but they don’t stay, darn it. I’ll be using some of the techniques you suggest that I’m not using now and see how it goes.

    I noticed you didn’t have a list/links of other posts to see and the end of the posts (other than the helper posts idea) as with Link Within plugin. Does that not work for you? (I use it and can’t say it’s working for me.)

    • Stanford says

      Hey Sally, I tested LinkWithin but it doesn’t work as well as the Slide plugin. I’m always trying to minimize clutter so I picked one technique over the other.

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