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7 Ways to Make Your Blog Stickier

GlueThis guest post by Matt Harzewski of Webmaster-Source. Get webmaster resources, tips, and tutorials delivered straight to your feed reader by subscribing here.

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.

Write often

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:

  • Keep JavaScript and images to a minimum. Use as little images as you can in your template (though don’t worry about the images in your posts), and get rid of unnecessary JavaScript widgets.
  • 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.

Branding

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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

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Comments

  1. Adding tools is an option also, if you have tech skills. Sometimes lists can take the place of that without the tech skills. You just have to think of lists that people will use more than once. The lists on my site kept my site traffic up even when I wasn’t posting for weeks at at time in the past.

  2. Hi Darren, what a ton of excellent points, especially “branding… 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”…

    I’m surprised at how many people, even some fairly well known names in the blogosphere are using generic templates.

    At minimum they should at least create or invest in a custom header to stand out from the crowd a bit (or a lot).

    I love the series you’re doing this week, thx!

  3. keeping images to a minimum – may not always be good advice.

    Sometimes a good picture IS worth a thousand words.

    It is the quality of the images – not the quantity.

    The success of Flickr has proved this time and time again

  4. Louis says:

    I agree with the branding focus. I can’t remember how many blogger sites I have forgotten because they all run together in my mind.

    I do realize that everyone is not graphically inclined or not willing to spend the money to get something custom done. However at some point, if they are serious about their blog, it needs to happen.

    I got into heavy web design/graphics in 2000 just because I wanted to create a custom theme for Greymatter.

    Best thing that I could of ever done.

  5. What a great set of tips! After 10 weeks I’ve hit 500 subscribers by using many of the tips and techniques learned here at ProBlogger.

    Thanks for THAT!

    On another note, I plan to incorporate some guest posts very soon.

    Thanks! :D

  6. jhay says:

    Awesome tips and that link to a list of nifty plugins was a lot of help. Now I’m seriously thinking of opening my blog for guest postings.

  7. Great post Matt, this was a nice round-up of how to keep your blog in the “worth going back to” category.

    Nice Work!

    *=)

  8. Well said Matt. In particular, what you said about speed is crucial. How sticky can a page be if it takes a minute to load?

    It’s hard to cut out some of the extra functionality for what is usually a small gain in loading times, but it does add up, and it does need to be done. :(

    And thanks for the link!

  9. Niklas says:

    I see what your saying but I’m not sure what other medians there are of portraying information that hasn’t already been done elsewhere.

    The first thing that comes to mind is videos but you already seen to be doing that. Having podcasted interviews with bloggers has been done as well. I’ll have to give this one an hours time and update a list with my thoughts.

  10. Troy says:

    This post was a real pleasure to read. That point about full feeds is very true, I use Google Reader to keep up with many blogs, and those that force a partial feed are simply being misguidedly selfish. If a blog has comments, I usually visit there anyway just to see what other people have contributed.

  11. [rant]

    I’m one of those people who absolutely cannot stand partial feeds. Why do people do this? Why do I have to jump through hoops to achieve YOUR goals?

    You. want. me. as a reader. I do not want you as a blog, so give me a damned reason to read your content. Partial feeds are annoying and useless, and they come off as completely amateur.

    To stop plagiarism? Let me give you a small hint: You can’t. Stop manipulating the readers you want to try to hinder the readers you don’t.

    Wait, come to think of that, you’re hindering all your readers, desired or not, with partial feeds.

    Duplicate content? Read up on the duplicate content issue. A full feed isn’t the problem here. Sheesh.

  12. MR says:

    Making unique content is def. hard.

  13. Bibokz says:

    Be more than a blog… the best thing you can give is interaction.

  14. Great post! Thanks for the tips.

    Question…do you think that by asking the readers questions, or encouraging them to offer additional information to your post’s topic, you’re undermining your position as the “expert”?

  15. Tom Ross says:

    Great post, I particularly agree with the importance of branding your blog and drawing users into other posts (through popular post plugins etc…)

  16. Chetan says:

    Yeah having partial feeds does not impress the subscribers, and i can experience that myself when reading feeds of some bloggers..

    Should give full feeds and have previous posts linked in them which can bring the feed readers to your blog.

  17. Great article!

    I’ve been looking for ways to increase my readership. I am in desperate need of some quality plugins for my site. If any of you all have any ideas, please let me know.

    zach
    pennywise-poundfoolish.typepad.com

  18. I always return to blogs that entertain me orI learn something from reading them.

    As soon as I get the feeling that the author is just using “fill” to make a new post I’m In The Wind…

    The Masked Millionaire

  19. PlasticPilot says:

    Make it dynamic, and give away !

    I’ve a 500+ more photo gallery on my blog. At first I simply displayed them from a “Photo Galleries” page.

    Now, I made a random, dynamic banner, proudly showing the pictures on each page. I know some readers hit “refresh” simply to see more pictures !

    The ultimate development of this strategy is a widget anyone can use, which displays one random picture, with a link to my blog.

    Want it ? It’s there http://www.plasticpilot.net/blog/the-widget/

  20. MJ Ray says:

    Why use ? So that if you choose to use part of your template on another one of your successful blog network sites, or rename or otherwise tweak your blog, or release a template when you stop using it, it doesn’t become an long “got to get them all” drive to edit all the blog-specific parts. Separation of design and content is a good idea.

    Most of the tips are good, but that one sucks. Using is worth the 0.001s marginal cost. PHP is already loaded and running, after all.

  21. MJ Ray says:

    Ooops. I should have written <?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?>

  22. Manish says:

    Apart from branding and sticking to a schedule i do everything.Not sticking to a schedule is costing me dear traffic.But i cant do anything as my exams are on at the moment and for next one month.
    Great article.Thanx.

  23. OldSailor says:

    Very useful tips.I totally agree with you on giving full RSS feeds.

  24. Bob Younce says:

    Excellent advice, Matt. I think that, in the days of social bookmarking, getting sticky is probably the most challenging part of blogging.

    Good form!

  25. suresh says:

    All advices are wonderful.

    I shall appreciate the nice relevant images attached with each post.

    Keep the good work going on and let it be used by every blogger.

  26. Tech Blog says:

    This post is simply useful for us as a good resources.And I agreed about giving Full Feed RSS.

  27. Grizzly says:

    Can some one tell me why I want hundreds of readers. Do they spend money? Mine don’t – they read. On the other hand thousands of search visitors come and go quickly and spend money or click ads… just a thought assuming some of you are online trying to make a buck.

  28. Thanks for the tips but for “Launch a forum” – This might attract a lots of spammers. I have recently disable the forum due to more spams.

  29. redwall_hp says:

    @SearcH EngineS WEB: I wasn’t saying that you should keep the images in your posts to a minimum. Use as many as you need there. But you should keep the images in your blog’s template to a minimum. If you have an image-heavy template, you’re blog’s performance will take a hit.

    @Michael Martin: I agree that it is hard to cut functionality for minor speed improvements, but you’re right, it does add up. Also, server performance is another big factor. You can have a bare-minimum template for your blog, but you won’t get the same performance from a 1and1 shared hosting plan as you would from one of Media Temple’s plans, or from a dedicated server. Sad, but true. (You, Michael, are well aware of this though).

    @Troy (and everyone else talking about full feeds): Yes, full feeds are important. Provide them so people can read your content without wasting their time. People will still comment if they have something to say, and if you’re blog is sticky enough, they may stay for awhile before going back to their feeds (or visit “manually” later for other reasons). Summarized feeds aren’t the solution to plagiarism. (There really isn’t a solution. Summarized feeds just make things a little harder, at your readers’ expense). Also, as Chetan commented, by linking posts from your archives in your newer posts, you can get them to come to your blog in yet another way (and steer them to more content they may find interesting).

    @thatcoolbroad: No, I don’t think that, by asking questions to your readers, you undermine your “expert” status. (Neither does Darren, judging by some of his posts…) You’re asking for your readers’ opinions, or their own expertise. You’re interacting with them, and letting them have your say. You’ll seem like more of an expert, because you have the guts to say “I don’t know everything, and my opinion isn’t the only one that matters.”

  30. As many people have turned towards blogs as a means for making money online, these tips are very important. The advice on publishing full feeds rings very true. When I first started out and was gaining popularity, I had a lot of readers complain about the partial feeds, so I changed it and instantly there was a huge jump in subscribers. I also believe that it is of utmost importance to build your blog into a community. There is so much you can add to build value, like news, free downloads, games, social networking, forums and so on that make you appear to be an authority site by sheer size alone. Thanks for the tips.

  31. moser says:

    Great article. Going to try it out.

    http://www.nela.in/

  32. redwall_hp says:

    @Work from Home Guru: Can you keep a secret? I started-out with partial feeds, but by the time I hit the 25-subscriber mark (it seems like it was years ago…), I had a few readers complain. I decided to change to full feeds, and my subscriber count doubled. The best blogging lessons are the ones you learn yourself.

  33. kevin says:

    Dumb-person question: How do I know or control the diff between a ful or partial feed if i am using Blogger and Feedburner? Don’t remember seeing any “options” when i set up the feed for people to subscribe to.

    thx

  34. Adam says:

    Plug in list is quite useful, the no of feeds should also be more than the default 10.

  35. redwall_hp says:

    @kevin: To set your feeds to full in Blogger, go to your blog’s settings, choose the Site Feed link, and change the dropdown marked “Allow Blog Feeds” to Full. Hit the Save Settings button and you’re done.

  36. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the follow-up tip! I must be smart since my Blogger Site Feed was already set to Full (ha ha – i bet that is the default setting and i had no clue !!!)

    thanks again!

  37. Kevin says:

    Thx for the tip on Blogger site feed settings!

    Was already set to full, which means i am smart. Or more likely that is the default setting! hah!

    thanks again!

  38. Great tips. I am actually planning on launching a forum soon to create a sense of community on my blog

  39. gofree says:

    Very useful indeed esp. how to to choose a unique template!

  40. Really useful 7 tips, I have implented them and they are working fine!

  41. Jenny Lynn says:

    Hello All,
    Thanks for all the wonderful tips. Newbie here… giving this blogging setup stuff a shot. Yikes!
    Does anyone know how to plugin the “subcribe/rss” section as it appears on Darren’s site? Clean, easy, understandable. Where do I get the code for it?
    Grateful! jenny

  42. Great job on this post. I have beeb using some of these for years, and they do work .

    Get more traffic, make more money.

  43. loved it says:

    thank you soo much that was so useful… good job… :)

  44. I guess this is why they call you the pro blogger:) You know I started a few blogs and post for fun one about internet marketing and one about online business. What I find really interesting is my readership goes up after each post which means if I don’t post on a regular basis it begins to drop. Anyway I loved the post.