Search & Social Site Stickiness

Search & Social Site Stickiness

October 2nd, 2012

You are probably well aware of the benefits of making a “sticky” site. Sticky sites — engaging, well-designed sites that visitors find irresistibly hard to leave — offer dozens of benefits for your business and sales, including:

    A lowered bounce rate (because visitors stick around longer)
    Increased brand understanding and awareness (users learn more about you while browsing your site, and thus feel more comfortable investing/subscribing in your brand)
    Higher traffic and increased social shares (more eyes on more content = higher chance of sharing = more referral traffic from shares)
    Increased chance of conversions (more interaction = more opportunities/more incentive to subscribe, follow, like, etc.)

Sounds simple, right? Make your site sticky, and you’ll make your audience stick around for longer. However, with the advent of social media, our sales funnels have become wildly more complicated. Where we used to follow a pretty straightforward path, which began with a Google search and ended with a purchase, we now begin courting customers much earlier in the buying process.

In fact, it’s now become customary for businesses to use social media for brand outreach and awareness. Our social media fans and followers aren’t necessarily past customers or committed future buyers, but they are invested, engaged, and aware of our brand. And the more we can keep them engaged and active with our company, the better chance we’ll have of netting a sale (or accumulating shares that cause other sales).
So now we have two vastly different entrances into our sales funnels: a keyword-based entrance that begins with a targeted organic search, and a social-based one that begins with a click on a social network.

As a result, we have two different audiences with very different goals — and our sites need to be equipped to “stick” both audiences.

Direct Vs. Indirect, Buy Vs. Browse
In most cases, search traffic is very direct: a user comes to your site looking for something in particular. More often than not, they’re searching with the (eventual or immediate) urge to buy.

Social, on the other hand, is indirect: curiosity brought them in, and only curiosity will make them hang around. They’re just browsing to see what you have to offer, be it products, blog posts, or services. They’re a low-attention-span audience with no real reason to stick around, but with a little incentive (useful content, the promise of a giveaway or sale), they can be persuaded to stay connected.

Of course, there’s no harm in a little crossover, either. A searcher can easily be lured into a Facebook Like or a Twitter Follow at the promise of future sales; on the flip side, a site from a Google Reader subscription or a Google+ Circle can leap to the top of the SERPs for a social media user.

Whether indirectly or directly, both audiences are valuable sources for conversions, sales, lower bounce rates, increased social shares, etc. So, your goal as a site owner, then, is to create a professional, easy-to-navigate site that persuades both of these users to hang around.

Step One: Focus On Your Site Design
No matter if your visitors are social media or search users, your site design is your first line of defense against a high bounce rate. Your site design is the first impression you’ll make with your audience, and that site needs to be:

  • Professional. A commitment to a professional, sleek design will lead to further commitment from your audience.
  • Easy-To-Navigate, Easy-To-Use. For the search crowd, this means having an easy-to-navigate site with prominent menu options and an effective in-site search function. The social crowd should be attracted to these key features on your site: sales, promotions, popular blog posts, etc.
  • Welcoming. Your home page should function as a start here page: an introduction that eases your customers into what you’re all about.
  • Personalized. Your website shouldn’t look like every other site out there; rather, your audience should be able to instantly get a sense of what makes you different from your competitors.
  • Unique (And Definitely Not Boring). Stop worrying about offending everyone’s taste or sensibilities with your tame, bland-as-beige site. You have a target audience, don’t you? Why not play to that audience and design for what that audience would respond to?
  • Treat your audience like welcomed guests and care for their needs, and they’ll come back. It’s as simple as that.

    Wooing The Social Crowd
    Don’t underestimate the power of winning over social media users: Americans spend three times as much time on social media than email, according to a Nielsen report. What’s more, 70% of social media users shop online — 12 percent more than the average adult.

    Here are some tips on wooing that flighty, low-attention-span social crowd:

    Make it easy to find and follow you.

  • Let your audience get lost in your content. Stock your site with well-written, engaging, must-read/must-see content. With every link your audience clicks, you want them to tempt them with further links to keep them reading — and sticking to — your site.
  • Optimize your site for browsing. Instead of posting 1-3 entire blog posts on your blog’s home page, list multiple posts in one-paragraph excerpts that allow readers to choose what they’d like to read. Offer a Bestsellers or All-Time Best Posts feature that showcases some of your most popular products and posts, or add a New Products section that shows off some new arrivals.
  • Freshness matters. Each piece of (relevant, timely) new content brings a new opportunity to bring people into your site.
  • Give non-fans something to miss out on. There’s nothing shoppers hate more than a missed opportunity. Social media promotions, giveaways, and fan-only sales create a feeling of exclusivity: if I don’t Like them on Facebook, I might miss a sale.

    Finally: Measure − and Deliver − What Your Customers Are Looking For
    If you want to make your site stickier, you’ve got to find out what’s already making your customers stick. What keywords are bringing searchers to your site? If it’s a question, develop a multi-part blog series answering that question.

    If a product is bringing in ten times more traffic than usual this week, feature it prominently on your site. Similarly, what features are bringing in the most social referrals? What posts or promotions cause the most increase in followers or fans?

    Make your audience feel welcome. Make it easy for them to get around. Find out what they want and need, and then offer it. Make your audience want to stick around — it’s the only way to make a truly sticky site.