Wednesday, August 15, 2007

10 ways to make your Web site 'sticky'

By Joanna L. Krotz

If you've figured out the kind of Web site your business needs, a question I address in a separate article, it's time to discuss how to attract visitors to your site and to keep them around long enough to develop a relationship.

Back in the 20th century, we surfed for the joy of the ride. But nowadays the online experience is all about getting immediate right answers. As usability guru Jakob Nielsen has pointed out, all we care about anymore is how fast we find the precise page that delivers the exact information or solution we are seeking.

Rarely do visitors bother to begin on a home page and navigate from top to bottom. (The exception, says Nielsen, is a well-organized e-commerce site, where you move from shopping to fulfillment to confirmation.) So your work is cut out for you. Your mission is to:

Motivate visitors to spend time exploring your pages

Persuade customers to keep clicking from page to page

Prompt visitors to return after their first landing


Here are 10 ways to make your site "sticky."

1. Comfort your visitors with familiar items and navigation.
Think about walking into a department store or supermarket for the first time. Previous experience tells you where to go to find what you need because there are conventions — established and traditional traffic patterns for you to follow. Similarly, there are online standards now to help orient visitors, making them comfortable and ready to learn more.

In a recent study, Nielsen's consulting firm, the Nielsen Norman Group in Fremont, Calif., found the following page elements on roughly four out of every 10 sites.

The term "site map" for the site overview

A different color after links are clicked and expired

Shopping-cart links in the upper right corner

Left-hand navigation for peer-level links

Logos in the upper left corner

When used, search boxes on the home page

There may be other standards that apply to your business or industry. Check out competitive sites and, if you decide to flout convention, have a good reason.

2. Keep it simple. The faster and easier the navigation, the happier your customer will be. If you're launching an e-commerce site, it might pay off to outsource some of the complex management and tools you'll need, such as with Microsoft's Commerce Manager. And set up a plan to monitor every page periodically so that you catch broken links and make sure every page loads quickly.

3. Offer a guided tour. "Find out who your visitors are and make suggestions about where they might want to go," says Thomas Obrey, co-founder of PixelMEDIA, a Portsmouth, N.H., Internet services company, explaining that it can be done via navigational cues or by a click-by-click page tour or demo. "It's the same concept as a salesperson greeting you at the store, understanding who you are, and guiding you to what you want."

As an example, Obrey points to the ECCO shoes site (www.eccousa.com), which his company recently redesigned. "The site is 100% engineered to lead visitors around." It has a "front end that markets shoes and a back end that sells shoes," Obrey says.

4. Tell your story. "A Web site is like a mini-broadcasting station," says Terry Isner, creative director at Jaffe Associates, a Washington, D.C., marketing consultant. "It starts right on the home page, which should set the stage by telling a compelling story that positions the company against its competitors." Include clear, concise information about whatever differentiates your company in your industry or niche.

Having an "About Us" section enables you to present the human side of your business by profiling your management team and detailing your company's history. Also, a section devoted to company news allows you to announce new clients, new hirings, new products or features — through press releases you post there. These are "conventions" to many users. Don't discount their value.

5. Update your content as regularly as possible. If you want repeat visitors, you need an answer to every returning user's question: "What's new?"

Even if your site is not content-rich, a key to getting repeat visitors is to offer something new when they return — new graphics, new product information, new offers, new article links, new company news, whatever. If you sell products or offer services, updating your online catalogs and product or services pages regularly will let people know you're still active in the business. It also gives you a chance to vary the offerings you tout and test what resonates with your target audience.

Also, if your business caters to a particular community of users — such as outdoors enthusiasts, musicians, movie buffs, or even retail store owners — consider having a communities section on your site, or a blog. (For more on blogging, see this article.)

6. Say yes to archiving pages. When designing or upgrading a site, it takes little additional cost and effort to add an archiving channel for press releases, investor bulletins, media clips, company fact sheets, sales presentations, product announcements or specs, conference briefings, white papers and other content that you originally posted in more prominent places. You never know when a client will remember some data point or presentation you had on the site and return to forward it to your next prospective customer.

7. Test your labels and links.
Before signing off on copy or design, put it through a usability test. Watch a live customer click page by page through your site to see if it's intuitive.

You should also test all top-level site labels, suggests Marcia Yudkin, marketing consultant and author of "Web Site Marketing Makeover." "It's essential to learn whether the labels you've come up with make as much sense to your audience as they do to you." Also use phrases or call-to-action sentences instead of one-word labels for your active links. "Granted, longer labels can pose design challenges, but what's the point of an aesthetically perfect home page with options that perplex visitors," Yudkin says.

8. Always fine-tune your site after launching it. The most common mistake, say many experts, is doing everything right in taking the site live — but then walking away from the considerable consumer information it can yield.

You should be checking into your server logs to monitor visitor and consumer behavior and traffic patterns. What site or search engine does which kind of customers come from? How long do they stay? On which pages? How do they move through the site? What products or information do which customer segments focus on?

Inexpensive, automated software such as Microsoft's FastCounter Pro can quickly analyze Web traffic and provide you with easy-to-understand reports. Once you get these reports, do something with them! Use the information to edit your pages, fix the navigation, change links, change content, and alter your search engine marketing to respond to customer needs. (See this article to learn more.)

9. Establish trust in your users. Many consumers have now been burned by online experiences, so you must quickly establish business bona fides. Web design conventions (see No. 1 above) can help put customers at ease, but you must also establish individual credibility. The options depend on your business. For example, Richard Solomon, a New York State attorney and author, runs SmallClaimsBook.com, which helps people learn about winning in small claims court.

"I post my television and radio interviews, in addition to book reviews. This shows visitors to the site that I have a product [a book] and a service [public speaking] that are recognized by the media," he says.

Other possibilities:

Prominent bio or expert credentials

Customer testimonials

100% money-back guarantees

Free or discounted shipping

Perks or discounts for second-time buyers

Generous and clear product return policies

Live chat online sales support; see Microsoft Office Live Meeting for details

Letting customers track their orders

Contact information, with a phone number, on every page

Online customer access to your inventory

Online client access to your appointment calendar, such as with Microsoft's Appointment Manager


10. Empower your visitors. Design your navigation and online applications so your visitors can find what they want. Yes, the site's overall look and feel is important and, yes, your copy and content must be assured and professional. But the main mission of your site should be to make each visitor feel that he or she is in charge of the experience.

That's the route to attracting customers — and motivating them to return.


Joanna Krotz
Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit" and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom publisher.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
it seems as though you relied on the video to make
your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste
your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when
you could be giving us something enlightening to read?


Feel free to surf to my site: オークリー サングラス

Anonymous said...

Hello, after reading this awesome article i am as
well delighted to share my know-how here with mates.


Also visit my web-site: オークリー サングラス

Anonymous said...

When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked
the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and
from now on each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment.
Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service?
Cheers!

Also visit my website http://www.saberviajar.info/search.php?q=Electric+Charge+In+And+Also+Vegetables+In+Diploma+Articles&page=1

Anonymous said...

We're a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable information to work on. You've done a formidable task and
our whole community can be grateful to you.

Also visit my site: レイバン ゴーグル

Anonymous said...

Article writing is also a excitement, if you be acquainted with
then you can write if not it is complex to write.



my blog post; オークリー ゴーグル

Anonymous said...

For the reason that the admin of this web
page is working, no doubt very soon it will be well-known, due to its
feature contents.

Here is my homepage ... ゴーグルオークリー

Anonymous said...

It's a shame you don't have a donate button!
I'd most certainly donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS
feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this website with
my Facebook group. Chat soon!

my site :: レイバンサングラス

Anonymous said...

Hi! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I'd figured I'd ask.
Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring
a blog article or vice-versa? My site discusses a lot of
the same topics as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other.
If you're interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!

my web site; サングラスレイバン

Anonymous said...

Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clearness on your submit is just excellent and i could think you're an expert in this subject. Well along with your permission let me to grasp your feed to stay up to date with drawing close post. Thank you a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

Stop by my web blog; レイバンサングラス

Anonymous said...

I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my problem. You're incredible!

Thanks!

my web-site ... bluediamondclothing.com

Anonymous said...

I don't create a great deal of remarks, however after looking at some of the responses on this page "10 ways to make your Web site 'sticky'". I actually do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be only me or does it look like like some of these comments come across like they are left by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are writing at additional social sites, I would like to keep up with you. Would you list of every one of all your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

My web blog - レイバンサングラス

Anonymous said...

Heya terrific website! Does running a blog such as this take a large amount of work?

I've very little understanding of coding but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, should you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject but I just wanted to ask. Thank you!

my weblog: http://worldvipchat.com/blogs/14143/4951/-

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It's a very easy
on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come
here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
Outstanding work!

Feel free to visit my web blog; レイバン

Anonymous said...

I'm extremely inspired with your writing skills and also with the format to your weblog. Is that this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a great weblog like this one nowadays..

My blog post: レイバン ゴーグル

Anonymous said...

What's up Dear, are you in fact visiting this web page on a regular basis, if so after that you will absolutely obtain fastidious experience.

My website - レイバン

Anonymous said...

Every weekend i used to visit this web page,
as i want enjoyment, for the reason that this this site conations genuinely fastidious funny information too.


Feel free to visit my page オークリーメガネ

Mary P Lomas said...



Thanks for sharing your great post. I’m starting with the most obvious idea. However, it’s actually one that’s sorely lacking

on many web design blogs. Advise people on the different styles, graphics, structures and

functions a website can have. People want to be inspired and guided through the

possibilities that exist. They also want to know you really do understand the many

complexities of designing a website.