This guest post is by Gregory Ciotti of sparringmind.com.
One of the many tough obstacles that newer bloggers have to deal with is the fact that many of their visitors, which they work very hard to get, will often “bounce” away from their pages—they’ll immediately leave the blog after landing on the homepage.This “bounce rate” can have a drastic effect on your blog’s success at any stage, but especially in the beginning. It’s very important to be able to keep the interest of your earliest visitors in order to build the loyal following that’s the essential foundation of any great blog.
So, what can you do to keep people around your blog long enough to explore its great content?
1. Set up a navigation bar with “super pages”
As a blogger, you’re probably very familiar with (and even have) a navigation bar on your blog, and you likely recognize its importance in helping readers get to your content.
However, many people do not take full advantage of this above-the-fold navigation bar, which inevitably draws a lot of clicks. After all, your nav bar really stands out on your site, and people are very familiar with how these menus work.
You can get more out of your navigation bar by having it link to pages that are much more than just a sequential list of posts in separate categories (as most bloggers do). I’d like to show you how by teaching you about a tactic that I call “super pages” that will direct readers to your best content.
Instead of just listing those categories up on your navigation bar, you can create separate blog pages that accomplish many useful goals, including pages that turn into SEO powerhouses and are incredibly shareable (linkbait), pages that convert new visitors, and pages that help you establish trust with people coming across your blog for the first time.
First things first, one super page to include in your navigation bar would be a Start Here page, where you can include a lot of elements that could be beneficial for first-time readers, and boost your subscriber count.
This page will reduce your bounce rate, guaranteed, as readers who may otherwise have been confused and left your site now have somewhere to begin. In fact, on many of my blogs, it is the most clicked link on my navigation bar.
Secondly, the Start Here page gives visitors a chance to see what your site is really about. You can also make this a little About Me page, putting a trustworthy face on a formerly anonymous website, and letting visitors know that your blog is run by a real person looking to offer great content.
Third, if the above two things weren’t enough: you can use this opportunity (after a descriptive About Me section and great Getting Started guide on your page) to offer visitors a way to get email updates, and if they like what they’ve seen thus far, they will opt in.
So not only will you be reducing bounce rates, you’ll be gaining more subscribers who might otherwise have slipped away after visiting your Getting Started page.
The other way to use super pages effectively is illustrated by Copyblogger. You’ll notice the navigation on that site includes topics that the site posts about, such as landing pages, email marketing, and keyword research. However, these links on the nav bar do not take you to a categorical list of posts.
Rather, they take you to a super page that presents a long description of the topic, including useful insight into getting started in that category, with plenty of links to the best posts on Copyblogger on that specific topic.
So, for instance, on the Email Marketing page on Copyblogger, an intro on the topic and its effectiveness is given, followed by links to great Copyblogger content, followed by a link to the Copyblogger newsletter specifically on email marketing (which people are obviously interested in). This is followed at last by an opt-in form that states that Copyblogger is a great place to learn about email marketing.
Anyone clicking to this page will be interested in email marketing, so now they have a list of links to great posts that is easily shareable (you’ll find that super pages are some of the most shareable pages on your site), a way to opt in to get updates, and a great descriptor of the topic at hand.
Much better than just a list of archived blog posts, wouldn’t you say?
2. Everybody loves a freebie!
One strategy that is implemented on almost all successful WordPress blogs is the giving away of freebies. These are almost always digital products, so that it doesn’t cost the blogger anything to give these products away.
This strategy works so well because people are much more likely to follow your blog if they see free and valuable content coming their way: they won’t want to miss out on anything in the future.
One of the best ways to do this is to create an autoresponder to send out a freebie if people sign up for your blog’s updates. I’ve found an extremely useful tool on MailChimp for doing this, which is described in detail on MailChimp’s blog.
If that sounds a bit too complicated, don’t worry! Freebies by themselves work as great promoters for people to follow you, so even by sharing a few freebies you are bound to gain more subscribers.
However, there is a way to greatly leverage your freebies: make people share your website in order to get them!
You may have heard of the service PayWithATweet, but there is a much better option that I’d like to show you called CloudFlood. What this service allows you to do is share anything you’d like to give away for free, but your viewers have to send out a tweet (that you generate) in order to gain access to it.
So if I’m sharing a new pack of icons for web design, and I want to give it away for free, I can set up my CloudFlood button and whenever someone wants to access the free download, all they have to do is send out the automatic tweet that I made, and they get instant access.
I could make the tweet link back to my username on Twitter, and have it say something like “Free icon pack for web designers up for grabs, download it now! bit.ly/SomeLinkHere.”
So, I get to give away free content that is useful to people, and they share my website to their Twitter followers … sounds like a win-win!
3. Make it easy for people to subscribe
If there is one thing you should take away from any place giving blog advice, it’s this: your blog is nothing without loyal subscribers or followers.
Thus, it is very important to convert people from the get-go, and making it easy to follow your blog is something that is of utmost importance.
Creattica has some great, free pre-made PSD buttons that are easily edited (you don’t need to be a designer, it’s very simple) so you can add whatever text you want. You can also get some great buttons at Graphic River, such as these.
The link above takes you to an example button that you can edit if you have the PSD files (which are included on the Creattica buttons as well as on Graphic River). So you could easily edit the text to say something like “Follow Me For Updates” or “Get Updates From My Blog” or whatever you think will encourage your subscribers to click on the button.
Eye-catching buttons that stand out and complement your blog are guaranteed to make those who come across your content more likely to subscribe. Copywriters and bloggers alike know that big, beautiful buttons are just calling to be clicked. Are there any on your page?
Why it’s important
As you can see there are a lot of things that you can do (for free!) to reduce your blog’s bounce rate, and in the end, grow your blog’s subscribers.
Even if you only drop your bounce rate by a few percentage points, think about how many visitors that will mean in the long run, over your blog’s life.
Capturing a visitor when they land is the starting point for any visitor to become a new subscriber to your blog. You need to do all you can to make sure things start off on the right foot.
How do you plan on dropping your blog’s bounce rate?
Gregory is an avid blogger and marketer, and loves improving and measuring his blogs. You can find him discussing effective WordPress strategies, and even talking about the hot topic of tumblelogs and lifestreaming on his blog I Love Tumblr.