If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ll understand that the key to success it to keep people coming.
After all, attracting 100,000 visitors a month isn’t of much use if they do not take your desired action. And assuming that you’re not running a site that relies on ad click revenue alone, that desired action will typically require your visitors to stick around for a while.
With that in mind, today I want to explore how you can make your site more “sticky” and keep people around for longer. More specifically, I want to focus on the post page. Why? Because collectively, it is the most visited page type on your blog, and as such, offers the most potential for positive results from optimization.
The Problem with Modern Content Consumption
Generally speaking, people don’t value content as highly as they once did.
This is no great surprise, because in this day and age we are pummeled with a great deal more information than we were in the past. We have had to adapt to be far more selective in choosing what we actually read.
And that trend unfortunately does not help us bloggers. Put simply, the vast majority of people are inclined to hit your site and leave almost immediately, unless you can give them a pretty compelling reason to stick around. They do not know your brand and they have no loyalty to you. Your blog is just one of literally millions.
With the above in mind, there are two key strategies that can help to keep people on your site:
- Repeated brand exposure
- Quality content overload
The first strategy is a long term deal. Becoming a ubiquitous name in your niche is typically a tall order — certainly not impossible, but also not something that is going to happen overnight. However, any blog can work on the second strategy from day one, and that is what I am going to focus on today. Quite simply, we want to put visitors to your site in a position where they are almost overloaded with a barrage of quality content.
Creating a “Sticky” Blog
I am going to focus on six key elements that you can implement on your post page to increase the likelihood of visitors sticking around. It is up to you to decide which apply best to your blog.
Let’s start with one of the first lessons any blogger should learn — you must link between your posts.
When someone hits your site cold, they are likely to be blind to just about everything but your content. They might not even register the navigational elements. As such, you need to place additional links to content in places that are far less easy to block out — such as within the content itself.
Interlinking is something you should do from day one. Obviously it becomes easier as your blog grows and gains more content, but there should be no excuse not to link to two or more posts from within each post you publish. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to link to categories and tags either — they should be a useful clickworthy resource.
The key is relevancy — if you have a captivated reader and present them with additional relevant posts, they are likely to explore further. If on the other hand you don’t give them an opportunity to explore further (or link in a contrived manner), they are more likely to go on their way.
When it comes to effective interlinking I heartily recommend the Better Internal Link Search plugin. It makes finding related posts on your blog far easier than WordPress’ default search engine.
I mentioned above that new visitors can tend to “blinker” navigational elements, but there is a stage of engagement at which they will show more of an interest. At this point you need to be in a position to offer them something comprehensive. You don’t just want to offer them a post here and there — you want to offer them resources.
What you need to do is create what Derek Halpern calls “resource pages” — a hand-picked selection of your best posts focused around a particular topic, with some relevant introductory text and perhaps a direct call to action too. These pages can be extremely good at converting visitors into subscribers, and you should link to them prominently from your post page — the sidebar being an obvious location. Having said that, don’t be afraid to link to them from within your content too.
Here are Derek’s resource page links in the sidebar on his site Social Triggers:
Big, prominent, colorful graphics. Hard to miss.
This should be an absolute no-brainer. Interlinking offers great value — it is essentially a way of offering up in-content related posts. But another obvious place to add related posts is at the end of a post. If someone gets that far they have obviously enjoyed your post, so why not give them an opportunity to keep reading?
My one and only suggestion when it comes to related posts plugins is Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (or YARPP for short). Although there are flashier offerings available, it utilizes (in my opinion) the most solid and reliable algorithm for ascertaining related posts. The results are also improved greatly if you utilize selective tagging. I often get YARPP “scores” (i.e. the measure of “relatedness”) up in the 20s on my blog, like in this post:
You might consider this as an alternative to resource pages — it is certainly a lower maintenance option (having said that, I would argue that is has less of a beneficial impact).
You’ll see a lot of blogs with “Popular Posts” widgets and the like, but the featured posts are usually sorted by page views, comments, or some other similar metric. I am not a fan of these. On the contrary, I think that you are the best judge of your best content, and should select posts manually. This gives you an opportunity to feature posts that convert the best, or generate the most income (say from affiliate sales). Picking your recommended posts carefully can make a big difference as they are likely to be displayed on every page on your blog (assuming that you feature them in the sidebar).
The easiest way to display posts is to add a specific tag to your chosen posts, then use a plugin like Posts By Tag to display only those posts in a sidebar widget.
Social Media Elements
This is a somewhat counterintuitive suggestion and certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely worth mentioning.
Many blogs suit social interaction. Not just blog comments, but more advanced forms of interaction that can draw people into the site. A great example of how this can have an enormous impact on a blog is a site run by our own CEO’s brother and wife — TorteKolaci.com. Vladimir recently revealed on his personal blog how the site has passed 10 million pageviews per month, a lot of that being down to Facebook referrals.
In this Facebook case study Vladimir revealed how the inclusion of various social elements has served to boost the popularity of the blog over the last couple of years. Here’s a screenshot demonstrating how the social elements have been incorporated:
Like I said before, a social-heavy strategy will not work for all blogs, but for some, it can massively boost engagement and keep people coming back for more and more.
Pick, Choose and Test
As you can see, there are a number of ways in which you can try to make your blog more “sticky”. You will prefer some to others, and certain strategies will be more effective for your own unique circumstances.
Ultimately it is up to you to decide which to proceed with, and I recommend that you test thoroughly whenever possible. Each blog out there is a unique beast, so treat it as such and find out what works for you!
What do you do to boost engagement on your blog? Let us know in the comments section!
Creative Commons image courtesy of crsan – christianholmer.com