Why visitor retention is crucial to your success

by Martin Reed on 18 June 2007 in Articles

It occurred to me that I have frequently spoken about visitor retention but have not gone into much detail about what the phrase actually means, or why it is so important.

This article will therefore address the question ‘What is visitor retention?’ and talk about why it is so important and how to achieve it.

What is visitor retention?

Put simply, visitor retention is the phrase given when you are able to keep visitors coming back to your site.

A visitor who comes to your site once, sticks around for a few seconds and then leaves, never to return, is not a valuable visitor.

Either your site is doing something wrong, or you are attracting the wrong audience. Your ultimate aim is to increase the number of regular visitors to your site. You can then be sure you are satisfying your visitors’ wants and needs, and are well on your way to building a successful online community.

The importance of visitor retention

As I touched upon above, visitor retention shows that your site is satisfying your visitors. After all, people will not return to a site that has no value to them.

An online community relies on visitor retention to build the community feeling – if your website consists solely of people that post once then disappear, you don’t have a real community.

Real community exists only when people return time and again and get involved. You want your regular visitors to have a sense of ‘shared ownership’ of your community and really get to know other members. Similarly you want other members to really get to know them, too.

Regular visitors strengthen an online community. Whilst new visitors are also important, it is the regular members that will really shape and develop your site.

Methods of achieving visitor retention

First and foremost, you need to maximise the usability of your website. This is something I will talk more about in future articles. Your site must be simple to use, and intuitive. If people cannot understand your site within a few seconds, they will leave.

Ensure any promotion you are undertaking is aimed at the exact audience you are targeting. Untargeted visitors are just as bad as no visitors at all – they will waste your bandwidth and will not add any value to your site as they pass through.

Fill your site with content and keep it updated – do you really expect people to return to your site to read content that hasn’t been changed since their last visit?

Your methods of visitor retention

Have you considered the importance of visitor retention? What methods (if any) do you employ to ensure users become loyal and frequent visitors to your site? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Tim June 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

I think one could quite say I think about targetting my audience… I completely agree with you though, targetting a general audience proves to be a lot more difficult.

Martin Reed June 19, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Hi Tim – Thanks for your comment. I agree – targeting a specific audience is far easier (if done properly) than going after a general interest audience.

Chicago 2016 June 19, 2007 at 4:09 pm

I think a lot of this can be done with basic site layout. If it’s text-heavy, you’ll get people who are looking for specific information, but if it’s graphically pleasing, you’re more likely to draw in first-time site visitors.

There definitely needs to be a balance, but it’s a decision that I think needs to be made early in the site development process.

Smiley June 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Very good points raised there, Martin. I was thinking the other day that I seem to be attracting the wrong kind of visitors for my site, actually!

I have fined my community down to a specific “genre”, a “friendly” community with a strict “no-perv policy”.

So, while advertising, all I seem to got was the generic chat rooms perverts who enter, bomb everyone with “ASL ASL ASL ASL ASL” then leave again because none of the regulars will stand for it.

Of course, any valuable visitors don’t see the real atmosphere of the community because of the above mentioned generic chatters, so they leave aswell!

Untargetted visitors really can be more damaging than no visitors. Quality over quantity, eh?

I’ve now written a better explanation on the homepage hoping visitors will catch on as to what kind of site it is.

Martin Reed June 23, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Daniel – I think that a site’s homepage should never be text heavy; it should convey quickly and effectively just what the site’s purpose is. Something that draws the visitor’s eyes rather than forcing them to read huge amounts of text will be far more effective.

I definitely agree that site design is an important factor in retaining visitors; that’s why you should never stop tweaking and experimenting.

Smiley – Quality over quantity; I couldn’t agree more. There is no point attracting visitors that are not interested in your site or its subject matter!

seo blog October 24, 2007 at 8:22 am

Great Tips! Keep it UP Martin

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 26, 2007 at 5:59 pm

seo blog – Thanks for your comment; I am glad you are enjoying the blog!

Sean March 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Lately, our repeat visitors went up related to the implementation of a company blog. Though this was discontinued…. don’t ask… it really was the best way to keep visitors coming back. I believe retention and page visits per visitor are so much more important then actual traffic. But that is just me.