How to Increase Return Traffic to Your Website
We talk a lot about generating organic search traffic, helping people find your website. But how do we keep them coming back?
Return Traffic is a Measure of Your Site’s Health
If your return traffic is low, the chances are that you are not giving people a good reason to come back.
Usually, the best way to generate return visits is to create a habit of revisiting the site, and part of this is creating a feeling of newness and discovery upon each visit. Consider creating a blog so that your site is consistently generating new content. Make sure that a portion of your homepage is updated frequently to showcase this new content so that visitors can easily find the latest news.
Stagger Content Posting for Freshness
Many magazines, such as U.S. Bank’s Reserve Magazine, publish their content online as well. However, many publications tend to dump all of the content onto the website at the same time as the print magazine goes out.
This dumps too much information on your site all at once, pushing some new stories out before readers can find them. It also means that your page is only fresh when a new print issue comes out and then is stagnant for long periods of time.
To encourage return visits, magazines should stagger the posting of content online. When someone is reading a magazine, they flip to the sections they have yet to read.
The internet user, however, has a hunter mentality – always seeking out new information. Website users want to see fresh content. Would you visit the New York Times or CNN websites repeatedly if the front pages were always the same? Absolutely not!
Fresh content also helps your site’s SEO. As Edmund Lee notes in this recent blog post, “Google assumes that if you are regularly posting quality content, it’s more likely that your content is authoritative in your field.”
Rearrange Your Home Page
Say you have a site that has a lot of content, like Lowe’s Pro Services, but that the site does not add much new content. Rather, it is storing older articles that are still relevant. One way to encourage return visits to a site like this is through frequent updates of the home page.
While you may not have new content, the featured content on the homepage can be changed out to create a feeling of newness. Also, this is a good way to make your page relevant to users when they visit. For example, the current homepage slider features articles about solar power and installing outdoor electricity. Those are fine topics, but may not be relevant to readers in January. Compare this to doityourself.com, which has “Tips for Staying Warm” and “Winter Safety” on the front page. These are items that will be more relevant to current readers. That makes your site a more valuable resource to users.
Use Social and Email to Boost Return Visits
To build a habit of revisiting your site, you have to remind people that you have some new or currently relevant content.
An email program can help you with this goal. Don’t spam your fans like crazy with marketing messages, but consider sending out a monthly digest of three or four new or relevant stories that may remind fans that your site has some good stuff and that they should visit more often.
Social media is another avenue to engage (or re-engage) fans with your web content. You can use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to report links to old content when it becomes relevant again. For example, that content about winter safety is going to be relevant every year. Just because you promoted it once doesn’t mean you can’t again. Only a fraction of your social media fans see any particular post that you distribute, so make sure to send messages multiple times; just be smart about it and avoid overkill.
Comments Sections Bring Visitors Back
If you’ve been on Facebook, you know that a lot of people love to share their opinions and that other people like to comment on those opinions. Some people get into a back and forth in those conversations and the thread turns into a lengthy conversation (or argument).
Adding a comments section to your website can have the same effect on your website. People who comment on your articles are interested in giving their opinion, and they are also interested in seeing how others respond to their opinion.
With a free service like Disqus, you can add a comments section to your site. Disqus will let commenters know when someone else responded to their content. This helps bring people back into the discussion and back into your website.
Return Traffic is Hard to Track
Unfortunately, despite all of your best efforts, it is very hard to track return traffic with Google Analytics (or any other tool). The proliferation of the multi-computer user has made it nearly impossible to tell who is actually a new visitor and who is a return visitor using a different device. A lot of us may visit the same website from a home laptop, home desktop, work computer, smart phone and tablet, but it would register as five separate visitors.
Rather than trying to boost the “return visits” stat, these tips are bet for ensuring that people build a habit of visiting your site often. This is one step closer to building a true brand fan!