Is Your Website "Sticky"?
Back in the good old days, reaching the top of search results for a target keyword was a relatively simple task. We knew that Google, along with the other major search engines, looked at a number of fairly simple metrics to work out how closely your site matched a given keyword. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to trick the system. In many cases, it was simply a matter of stuffing your site with your target keyword and directing a few external links to your content.
The landscape today, as we’ve seen in the aftermath of the massive Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, is vastly different. Google is becoming smarter, sharper, and less forgiving of the old techniques that used to work so well. Today, while it still doesn’t hurt to consider keywords and external links, a site needs to offer something special to climb to the top of the rankings. Brute force no longer works.
So, what works today? Well, that’s the wrong question. A better question would be, “What will work tomorrow?” Whether we like it or not, companies like Google shape the Internet. Google controls the flow of traffic, and it decides what we see. If you want to succeed in the online arena, you need to think about what Google wants. What does it want today, and in which direction will it take the Internet tomorrow?
The answer is simple. Google wants to promote sites that offer a great user experience. It wants to present the sort of relevant, compelling content that will keep users returning to Google every day. There is no benefit to Google in promoting spam or irrelevant content, so we can guess that the long term goal is to sort the good from the bad.
So, how do you create a great user experience? Well, you simply have to make your site “sticky”.
What is a “Sticky” Site?
Well, “stickiness” can refer to two things. The first meaning of “stickiness” is the “returnability” of a site. So, the features it offers that will attract a visitor to come back time and time again, turning a single visit into repeat business. The second meaning is how much the site “sticks out” from the crowd. So, the ways in which the site differentiates itself from every other site in its niche.
As Google evolves its algorithms and becomes more adept at identifying valuable, interesting and relevant content, it will become more important to build sites that offer something unique. The webmasters who start building this content today will find themselves head and shoulders above the competition tomorrow.
So, if you take away just one point from this article it’s this: the thin site is dead. The only way to succeed long-term is to add value.
So How Do I Create a “Sticky” Site?
The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t have to be hard to add a little “stickiness” to a site. There are lots of ways to transform a dull, dry website into something a little more valuable and compelling. Regardless of your niche, you should be able to achieve it with just a little work. Here are a few ideas.
1. YouTube Videos
These days it’s possible for anyone to create a YouTube video. Chances are you have a video camera sitting in your pocket right now, attached to your cell phone. By embedding a video or two in your site, you’ll encourage visitors to stick around a little longer. What’s more, with each viewing you’ll be increasing the popularity of your YouTube channel, which will suggest to Google that yours is an authority site in your niche.
2. User Interaction
An active commenting community or user forum can be an invaluable boost to your site’s “stickiness”. Users returning again and again to respond to your content and share your latest updates shouts to the world that you have a site worth visiting.
Depending on your niche you may be able to buy or write a simple script to perform a useful task related to your content. Your niche is finance? Why not add a currency exchange tool? Weight loss? A BMI calculator. You should add anything that will convince visitors to return again and again. The stickiest sites are the ones that offer bookmark-worthy tools.
4. Great Design
Finally, the basis of any sticky site is a nice, clean and easy to navigate design and structure. You could bake the best cupcakes in town, but nobody is going to visit your bakery if the floor is covered in garbage. Make your site a pleasure to visit and users will be happy to come back again.
What Can You Do Today?
Your first task is simple. Browse through each page of your site. Once you’re done, ask yourself if you’d return again if you were a random visitor. If not, why not? What could you add to the site that would convince you to come back? How could you add even more value to the content? In short, how can you make your site “stickier”?