How Do I Keep People on my Website?
Does it matter how long your customers stay on your site?
What if your average visit time is 6 minutes, instead of 60 seconds?
In theory, the customers that stick around longer are more likely to buy—but that’s not all.
It turns out that Google also tracks how long people are on your site. And they use that metric to influence your search rank.
That’s right, longer visits = better SEO.
(After all, if people click away after just a few seconds, then your site obviously didn’t answer their search query. Makes sense, right?)
Of course, there’s another way to look at visit length. When a user stays around, it means you’re doing something that’s helping them. From my perspective, that one fact alone means site length is worth looking at—and leads to conversions.
Today I’m going to deep-dive into the three factors that boost your visit length, and how it affects customer loyalty. But first, a couple of words of warning…
You Can’t Boost What You Don’t Track
Well, okay maybe you could… but trust me when I say you don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark guessing at your time-on-site metrics.
Visit length may be a bit more ephemeral than simple stats like clicks, but it’s still easy to track. One of the easiest ways to do that is to install good ol’ Google Analytics (which you may already have active on your site). This free tool will show you average time on site of all visitors, or you can look at a specific page and see how long it’s holding people’s attention. Super useful.
So what should you do with this data? Start by noticing which pages have longer average view time—what makes those pages different from the others?
Then, set goals. Depending on your needs, it may make sense to choose just a few landing pages and work to increase their average visit length. Or, if you’re making site-wide navigation changes (see below!), you can set a benchmark for overall visit length across the whole site.
These goals don’t have to be written in stone, but by measuring your progress against them you can see whether the changes you make are really helping.
A Cautionary Note About Video
Before I go any further, I want to give a head nod toward a tactic you’ll see mentioned over and over from other marketers: video content. Usually, this is what people rave about when they discuss average visit length. And, all else being equal, it’s true that a site with lots of video content will have longer average visits than a site without.
But that doesn’t make video a silver bullet.
Sorry, videophiles. While video can be great for some purposes, there are three big reasons why you shouldn’t overuse it:
- It’s already overdone. You don’t think people are tired of landing pages that have a perky video instead of just explaining what the product does?
- Not everyone likes it. In general, the numbers tells us that people like video content. But any given consumer may not be in a place where they can turn on their audio, might not have time to watch, or may already have their own music playing and be annoyed to have to pause it. Video is intrusive, which is why it gets attention—but also why it sends some customers packing.
- It’s not searchable. Customers can skim a list of bullet points, or even ctrl+F to find something specific. With video, jumping around is much harder, and so is finding specific pieces of information. That means that video can actually be a barrier to user intent unless the same content is also available in written form.
A good practice for video is to only use it at the top of product/service landing pages, and to include a transcript or some written copy that covers the same points. Users should be able to clearly see that the video is optional, and choose the medium they prefer to engage in. That allows you to get the longer page views (from those that choose to watch it), without leaving customers feeling “stuck” if they’d rather pass.
(And, for the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t set your videos to auto-play unless it’s silent!)
Okay, so with that out of the way, what specific tactics can help you push your visit length through the roof—and keep your customers happy? Well, here are the three big ones, from most basic to most advanced…
1. Improve Your Site Navigation
Wait, that sounds boring?
Well… it is. At least if it’s working right.
The thing about site navigation is, if it’s done well no one ever notices it. But if it’s poor, it quickly becomes a source of frustration. And customers don’t put up with that. They click away.
Luckily, creating an easy, user-friendly navigation experience isn’t hard. Here are the major boxes to check:
- Make key pages obvious. It should be easy to find “Contact,” “About,” and major services or products.
- The top navigation bar should be clean and easy to navigate. If there are drop-down menus, they should work smoothly—can you see all the options (none running off the bottom of the screen)? Can you mouse around without the menu disappearing?
- The site should be free of intrusive ads or audio. Use pop-overs wisely and protect the user experience.
- Make it easy to search. Have a visible search bar and try out searches of your own to make sure it’s returning the most relevant results.
- No registration required. I still see this all too often. I applaud the desire to build your list, but the general site should be free for anyone to peruse without entering their details. Save the signup forms for specific free downloads like a white paper or ebook.
If you do just one thing to improve your average visit length, it should be better navigation. This one step lifts up the usability of your site and improves visitor experience.
But, if you really want to up those numbers, you should also focus on…
Imagine you’re on a long flight. To pass the time, you have your choice of two pieces of reading material: one in size 7 font, with the pages printed out of order and no paragraph breaks; and one that was designed like a high end magazine. Which do you think you’ll spend more time on?
The same applies to websites. Readability boosts reader interest and keeps them around longer. And you can overhaul your readability with a few simple style steps:
- Choose a font that’s easy to read. Don’t use font colors except in small areas such as H1 text or ads.
- Break up walls of text. Use bullet points, numbered lists, images and smaller paragraphs to keep people moving forward.
- Make hyperlinks easy to spot. They don’t have to be classic blue, but choose a visible color and underline them if possible.
- Use simple language—the kind that even a middle schooler could understand. (Even if your readers are very smart, it takes less brain juice to read simpler text, and keeps them around longer.)
With these readability tricks, even relatively bland content will hold attention longer and lead to more conversions. But why have bland content in the first place? Which brings us to…
3. Great Content
This is where engagement, visitor interest and site time are truly made. If the steps up till now were little league, bringing out great content is varsity. Let’s take a look at your three key players:
- 0% fluff.
Good salesmen don’t spout hot air, and neither do good websites. Every page should be filler-free, with each sentence delivering something of meaning. Anything else must be cut!
- 10x better.
Take time to look at what your competitors are saying. What information do they provide in their copy that you don’t? And: how can you provide 10x more value than that? The “10x” rule should guide every page or post you put up.
- No more YAWNS!
There’s no shortage of info content. Make yours stand out by making it as interesting as it is informative. Use a zippy, fun or even irreverent voice—you won’t just keep the reader entertained, you’ll also sound like a real person.
Loyalty is the Secret Sauce
The tips above refine your site to engage people as long as possible. But there is no substitute for customer loyalty. Visitors who return over and over are likely to spend much longer on the site—it’s a sign of their trust (and how well you’ve done your job).
Loyalty begins with a great product or service, but there are many other ways to drive it. Consider:
- Free downloads and giveaways if the user signs up for your list
- Promotions tied to your Facebook or other social platforms, so they become followers
- Customer quizzes, which hold the customer on the site longer and identify exactly what they need—ultimately giving them an experience they’re happy with
- Have public discussions with customers on Facebook or in the comments, and use their questions and ideas as fodder for more blog posts
- Spotlight followers who mention your brand on social media, and give them little perks in exchange for talking you up
Give More, Get More
Ultimately, visit length stats come down to how much value you provide your customers. You don’t have to streamline your site navigation, clean up your readability, or 10x your content—but customers can vote with their feet (or clicks) if you don’t. Give more and you will get more in return.
Of course, you may not have the time to redo your front end, or the writing staff to create one-of-a-kind content. But you don’t have to do it alone. At ByteLaunch, great sites and great copy are what we do. Let us give you a free consultation and get you the results you need. Contact us for your free consultation today.