You don’t just want people to subscribe to your RSS feed. You want them to keep coming back to the actual website. You want to build an online community that your users get lost in, staying for over an hour until they realize what time it is. You want your site to be so immersive that they come back the next day.
The usage of the term “sticky” goes back a long time, to the ’90s even, and refers to the phenomenon where users become addicted to a certain website, and keep coming back, spending relatively large amounts of time there. Webmasters have all but driven themselves insane trying to attain that level of user satisfaction. How do you do it?
Create engaging and unique content
Provide something useful or entertaining. Work hard to create great content, and spend plenty of time thinking up new and different ideas. If you’ve seen it somewhere else in some other form, keep thinking. Writing new and unusual content is the hardest part of blogging, and probably the most important. You want your blog to be source of content that’s enjoyable, and unique.
Normally, people wouldn’t read through your archives randomly, just for fun. I would, if I was on a blog I really liked. If I’m skimming through your archives, visiting your blog in my spare time, and leaving plenty of comment, congratulations, you’re blog is fairly sticky.
Promote your full RSS feed
Yes, I said “full RSS feed.” If you want subscribers, then you had better have a full feed. Plenty of people will unsubscribe as soon as they notice that your feed is summarized. Make sure your RSS feed, and email subscription form, are above the fold in a visible spot. Yes, you want people to come back to the actual site, but that starts at making it easy for people to recieve notifications of new content. They may read your new posts in their RSS reader, but that doesn’t mean don’t visit the actual site. Also, be sure to put a second feed link at the end of every post (in the single.php template, for those who use WordPress).
Keep them there
Interlink your posts, have a visible search box, set-up a central archives page like Darren has done, highlight popular posts, use the Related Entries plugin. Do everything you can to keep ‘em reading. Provide plenty of ways to find more interesting content.
Pick a regular posting schedule, writing regularly and as frequently as you can, and stick to it. I currently blog every day, while some bloggers take a weekly, or “every other day” approach. You want your readers to know when there’s going to be another post, and you want them to eagerly wait for the next one. Don’t be too strict with your schedule, though. If you find a piece of breaking news that no one has covered yet, ignore your schedule and jump on it, be the first to cover it. Who knows, maybe it will be Dugg.
Optimize For Speed
A lot of people use the Google search engine as their browser’s home page. Why? Besides arguably being the most relevant search engine, it loads really fast. Speed is very important on the web. Face it, people have little patience when they’re using computers. There are whole guides to improving your load time, but here are a few things to start with:
- If you use WordPres, uninstall unneccesary plugins, and remove reduntant template tags that can be replaced with static text. For example, why use
<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>when you could just put the name of your blog?
- Install the WP Super Cache WordPress plugin (warning: may break some plugins).
- Pick a stable and fast host. Cheaper hosts may be, well, cheap, but you get what you pay for when it comes to hosting.
People can’t come back if they don’t remember where they were.
- Make sure you have a short, memorable domain name.
- Use a unique design. You won’t make a very good impression if you use the same free theme that 372+ other bloggers are using. Design it yourself, pay someone else to do it, whatever. Go out of your way to get a blog theme that you could just look at for half an hour.
- Get a good logo. If you see the Nike “inverted-wave,” or the Apple logo, in a commercial, you immediately know which company’s ad you’re seeing. Why should your blog be any different?
- Be memorable. Write-up a witty tagline (a.k.a. slogan), develop a unique style of writing, whatever. Do all you can to make a big first impression.
Be more than a blog
Content is one thing, but what really makes a blog sticky is interactivity. Great content may be your first priority, but your blogs “stickometer” will skyrocket if you can make your blog more interactive. Give your readers something to do, and they’ll stick around. Don’t just be a blog. Be a community.
Here are a few ideas:
- Encourage commenting. These WordPress plugins may help, though you should also respond to the comments, and participate in the discussion actively.
- Launch a forum.
- Accept guest posts.
- Ask questions in posts, and let your readers answer in the comments.
- Let your readers email you questions, and answer them in Q&A posts.
- Make use of social bookmarking and networking sites. Make it easy to submit posts to Digg, Del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon, link to your profiles, create a Facebook group, etc.
This post is not a definitive list. Use it as a general guideline, and experiment. There are many unknown ways to improve your blog’s stickiness.