20 Ways to Increase Web Site Traffic and Stickiness
Author: John Safin
Is your web site screaming for attention? Below is a list of less-than-typical suggestions for building traffic, stickiness, and return visits to your web site.
1. Bookmark This Site – One of the simplest options and many webmasters neglect to use it. Make sure the “bookmark this site” button is posted on every page. Remember to include a favicon (short for “favorite icon”) so your site stands out in your visitor’s list of saved sites.
2. Series Articles – Extra long feature stories or topics too large to complete in one article can be turned into a succession of pieces posted over a period of time. A story about a motorcycle trip from Boston to Los Angles is an example. There should be a way for the reader to sign up for a free email reminder when the next part of the article is posted. A better tactic would be to email the reader the next installment before it’s published on your site. This will encourage visitors to supply you with their contact information that can be used for your eNews and email blasts (more on this later).
3. Discussion Boards – Give your visitors a place to “meet” online and share their wisdom. Most of your audience wants to interact and feel involved. Involving the audience is how “American Idol” became such a big success. The ideal blog would have automated member services (joining, updating profile, password resets, etc). Discussion boards work best when broken into specific topics. The postings should be monitored since the last thing you and your image need is someone posting inappropriate or illegal content. You might also find some useful nuggets of information or even someone who might make a good (free) moderator.
4. Promote Topic Boards – Now that you have a discussion board there are thousands of “experts” who want to be included in the conversation. Cooking, dating, politics, sports, needlepoint…whatever the topic there are people who want to talk about it. Create promotions revolving around specific topics for pinpoint audience targeting.
5. Live Chat – This function is available from some web hosts. Instead of a “static” blog, chat rooms will give visitors a live interactive experience. Chat rooms are a good location for publishing (and selling) advertising links. Find a chat function that allows you to have a log of the discussions. While most of the conversations will be mundane there will be instances to discover more details about your audience. Chat rooms can also be used for text-based events, such as interview with a person of interest.
6. Webinars -This is an opportunity to draw an audience to a live online event. This can be a seminar-style format or create an interactive atmosphere by including text and/or telephone conversations with your audience. There are several companies offering hosting services with varying tiers of service.
7. Non-Text Media – It’s become very easy (and cost effective) to add audio and video content to the Internet. Host a weekly online radio or video program. Finding people of interest to interview for programming shouldn’t be difficult since almost everyone is pitching some service, idea or merchandise. With proper management and effort this might turn into a profit center. Best to make the media files accessible for download to the latest portable devices.
8. Cross Blog – Post blogs/articles about your company on other sites that reach your audience. Use blogging to reference content posted on your web site. Cross post to other blogs that will help build name recognition. Remember to consider some of the micro-blog sites too.
9. Provide RSS Feeds – Really Simple Syndication is an easy way to make your site’s content available for others to publish. Feeds can consist of complete articles, just the headlines, or information you choose to release for general distribution.
10. Create a Toolbar – Google, Yahoo and other sites offer a free toolbar to keep their name in the face of computer users all the time. There are several programming tools – some for free – that will give you the ability to create a customized toolbar for your web site.
11. Data Mine Traffic – Hopefully you’re tracking how visitors are finding your web site. Discover the key words visitors are using to find your site. This would give you information to find other web sites that receive traffic using the same search words. Use this data to determine where to trade or buy links and advertising.
12. Off Topic Content – Post information of interest to your audience that is slightly different than your site’s typical theme. For instance, easy to make recipes to impress a date on a sporting web site. Regular visitors will look because it’s such unusual information – builds stickiness. Search engines would pickup on the information and expose your site to someone who might otherwise have missed it.
13. Press Releases – Periodically send a press release about your company. Content for the release can be about achievements of the company or its personnel, company milestones, or any other type of general news. There are several pay service and free press release sites on the Internet.
14. eNews and Email Blasts – First, make sure you’re collecting mailing data from your visitors. If you need additional contacts there are companies that sell email lists that can be built by various demographic criteria. Next, the content will need to be compelling for the recipient to want to click-through to your site. Finally, send it. This task needs to be accomplished on a consistent basis, which will help build credibility. Make sure whoever is responsible for distribution abides by Spam-Can laws.
15. Referrals – Encourage visitors to forward pages to their friends and associates. This is simply a link on your page that uses the visitor’s default email program to generate a message. Contests or some reward for referrals can be created. Prizes can have an esthetic value, such as receiving a featured page or article. Online retailers can give credits for purchases. Of course, any prize with a monetary value would always get noticed. For eNews and email blasts, a “Forward to a Friend” option is also recommended. Your site should feature a page dedicated to banners/buttons your team created allowing users to copy and imbed them on their blogs.
16. Offer Something for Free – There are dozens, if not hundreds, of web sites that scour the Internet searching for links to free items. The “free-offer” web sites have a vast database of contacts who receive regular email alerts. Your free item could be access to unique information, some widget or anything of perceived value. Bumper stickers are cheap and won’t break the bank with shipping costs. Sponsoring a contest or raffle would be an option. Check with your state’s attorney general’s office for laws concerning contests and raffles. Remember to have the word “free” on your web pages and in the metafile. The objective is to get the free-offer portals to find and include a link to your web site in their content.
17. Call for Contributing Authors – There are more writers than readers in the United States. All the wannabe and frustrated authors are looking for a place to get their material published. Many will even submit content for a by-line credit instead of pay. Your call for submissions can have a specific topic for the content (“article about left-handed Armenian meat cutters”) or a broader focus (“articles targeting adults 18-24 years old”). Promotions should have a closing date for receiving content. You will want to set aside time to actually read the articles for inappropriate content and to check grammar. It is suggested you create and post submittal guidelines for writers. Research the rules other companies use in their submission rules if you don’t know what to include.
18. Be an Online Community Member – Social web sites, such as MySpace, Crag’s List, LinkedIn, and Yelp, are gaining more and more visitors every day. Having a presence on community portals would give your web site an expanded audience and, typically, is free. Take time to search the member directory for people who would be interested in your web site and send them a message. If you have video content, consider promoting your site on any number of video-based communities.
19. Off-Line Advertising – Chances are the same Internet audience you are targeting can be found in the real world. Since you already know your audience, think about what they would read or where they would go when not sitting at the computer. There are inexpensive or even free ways to advertise. For instance, if your web site targets quilting, find local craft events to distribute flyers about your site. You can also cooperate with a brick-and-mortar business by trading counter space for web ads.
20. Spell It Out – Obviously your site’s address should be on your business card. Think about all the instances during the week where your telephone number is required. Include your web address any where a telephone number or other contact information is used.
Always remember: To know where you’re going it’s best to know where you’ve been. Accurately track web site activity. Specific site activity criteria to track: total hits, unique hits, entry page, and exit page. Statistics should include where visitors are originating or how they found your site. You need to know the traffic-building tactics that work to focus resources in the appropriate areas.