09 March 2006Here is a very important factor for your website success: “How much time does a user spend on your site per visit and how often does that user come back?”. The more, the better. When your visitors spend a lot of time on your sites, a bunch of cool things happen…
1. Search engines will increase your rankings. One of the hottest new directions in search relevancy is tracking user behavior (time spent on sites, clicking on search results, bookmarks etc.). “Usage statistics” as Google calls it, is a substantial part of user behavior.
The more time a user spends on your site, the better your site must be, right? When users go around reading all your content, it means your content is interesting, relevant and of high-quality. It also means your content is not just a bunch of stuffed keywords.
Google, for example, talks about using user behavior and specifically usage statistics (traffic data) for ranking purposes in at least 2 patents – “Methods and apparatus for employing usage statistics in document retrieval” and “Information retrieval based on historical data”.
2. The more a user stays at your site, the better are your chances of making a good impression. That means more incoming links, more repeat visitors, more bookmarks etc. This in turn means more repeat traffic, more traffic from incoming links and more search engine traffic (better rankings).
3. The more pages a visitors sees, the more times your advertising gets shown (more ad impressions). More ad impressions will turn into more revenue.
Some time ago, I thought the best thing for AdSense revenue was to make simple pages with very few links and put AdSense all over. These made-for-AdSense kinds of pages get a higher CPC per visit BUT…
If the visitor is directed to read more of your content, you will get more ad impressions per visit, more repeat visitors, more search engine traffic, links etc. In the long-run, making a valuable, usable and easy to navigate content site will make you much more money than trying to monetize users on the very first visit by overloading with AdSense and providing no usable navigation.
How do you make your visitor stay at your site longer?
1. Make your site load fast! In a recent thread on WebMasterWorld, there was a very interesting discussion that when sites were moved to a faster server, ad revenue jumped. It seems that a lot of visitors don’t wait for slow websites to load. They just go away. I personally, associate slow-loading sites with sites overloaded with advertising. Surfers tend to stay more at fast loading sites.
To make your website load faster:
- Get a better hosting provider located in the area where your primary traffic comes from (example: USA). Don’t fall for the cheap oversold hosting that guarantees slow response time for scripts. Shelling out a few more bucks per month will be compensated by a higher revenue.
- Use faster scripts
- Use gzip compression
- Minimize unnecessary images
- Take off all advertising until your site gets established and ready to monetize heavily
2. Provide a more useful navigation. Make it really easy for your visitors to follow links to other content on your sites.
- Put links to related articles / blog entries / forum threads below your content
- Put links to the most recent articles / blog entries / forum threads below your content. Showing links to your most recent articles / blog entries on every page is a neat idea because you can also take advantage of topical queries as I have explained in a previous blog entry about the v7ndotcom elursrebmem seo contest.
- If you have a rating system in place, put links to Top Rated content on your site
- Cross reference your articles within your content. Place longer and more descriptive anchor text links, as there is research suggesting that when longer anchor text links are given more value than shorter links, relevancy increases. The authors of the paper speculate that longer links involve more editorial vote in them than shorter links which are most often parts of the site navigation.
- Place navigational links below your content (not only above your content).
How do search engines know website traffic details? Toolbars, ad network statistics, browser history, purchasing web logs from the biggest ISPs etc. etc. Search engines can spy on user behavior. If it weren’t true, they will not file patents and develop tools that make this spy job easier.