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What Makes a Web Site Sticky?

 

Visitor loyalty is created by providing essential information, helping users with their needs, or giving them a place to participate in a community of people with similar interests.


Content. Web content can range from interviews and white papers, to news and financial updates. Even Web sites with few resources can still provide informative content related to their niche or products. For example, an business site could offer offer a monthly tax or business tips.

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Are you selling a product? Your visitors need to be able to find all the information they need to make a sound decision. This includes detailed specs, prices and any product reviews while on the site. Changing and updating content often will help them return. If you don't have staff to maintain content, consider approaching a non-competing Web site that does offer content that your visitors would be interested in reading. Often, non-monetary content partnerships can be arranged. Terms can include a link back to the host Web site and prominent advertisements or attribution with the host site's logos.


Quality Content Resources. Content is not the only traffic builder. Scour the Web for useful, applicable sites and become a mini-portal. Use niche positioning to create an organized list of links that are useful to your visitors. This will help them view you as a resource for the theme of the site.


Entertainment Sells. Just because your services or products may be serious business doesn't mean your site can't be fun. Offer quizzes, contests or humorous tales from your industry. If you have the budget, streaming audio and video can add considerable entertainment value to your Web site and become a serious traffic generator. Of course, entertaining features should supplement a robust, well-rounded e-marketing campaign. These features should not be a gimmick" to drive traffic to your site -- unless your business is entertainment.


Build a Community. Web sites that allow people to build an online network generate return visitors. The community portion of Web sites offer chat rooms, discussion boards, product reviews, tips and recommendations and other interactive functions. If you monitor users' communities on your site, you'll learn their interests and concerns. In subsequent site re-designs, you'll be able to incorporate meaningful changes and better meet customers' needs.


Magnetic Sites. These Web sites offer a specific function that increases in value as more people use it. For example, Intranet.com creates free intranets. The more people sign on for a particular intranet, the more useful it becomes, since more information is shared. Similarly, SixDegrees.com is a free networking service. The more people convince others to join, the more the network grows and the more powerful the networking tool becomes.


Generate Momentum. If your site offers information and tools that are relevant and useful, your users will eventually incorporate the site into their regular online activities. But how do you get people to start visiting your Web site in the first place?

Branding. People are still more likely to visit a particular Web site if they've heard of the company before. Start by developing a strong branding strategy. Along with youre larger branding strategy, try visiting newsgroups that focus on your business's area of expertise.

After you've become familiar with the newsgroup's culture, begin replying to some of the questions. When you list your company's name and contact information at the bottom of your informed response, you will be, in effect, broadcasting a mini-ad to hundreds of readers. Be careful that you don't try to sell anything or overtly promote your company, however; you'll probably get kicked out of the thread by the moderator.

Broadcast Newsletters. Email newsletters help to drive return visitors and are considered to be one of the most effective forms of e-marketing. These newsletters should include useful, non-product related information relevant to your industry as well as current productpromotions. If possible personalize email newsletters and strive to meet the needs of the customer -- rather than just masking a sales pitch. The key is to offer an email newsletter that the user will continue to open, not one that they automatically delete. Also, be sure to get users to opt-in for your newsletters -- and enable them to unsubscribe easily. Otherwise, you're sending Spam, which is an annoyance to the receiver and will diminish your reputation as a vendor.

Follow-up Emails. Your repeat customers are much more valuable prospects than other prospects in the online universe. Concentrate your marketing efforts on those that are already loyal to you and treat them well. Send personalized emails to customers who have purchased from your site in the past 30 days. Ask them if they want more information on related products or if they'd like to be reminded when it's time to repurchase. Also, find creative ways to reward your site's most frequent visitors --discounts, bonuses and a "visitor of the month" corner are just a few ideas.

Traditional marketing efforts focus on winning new audiences. In contrast, Web site stickinessinvolves responding to the needs and preferences of current users -- your most valuable market.

Creating a sticky site is not about trapping or tricking your visitor into spending more time at your Web site. The goal is to create a Web site that users willingly and eagerly incorporate into their online activities.