Often, internet marketers tend to look at their traffic numbers and focus solely on one metric: how many people are visiting the site.
Sure, some people are analytics demons and monitor their stats in fine detail, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people out there don’t.
One juicy bit of information that you may miss is the New vs. Returning visitor metric.
This statistic tells you how many of your visitors in the current time segment have been on your site before.
While it’s not a 100% accurate figure due to people clearing cookies etc, it does give you a decent idea on your returning visitor figures.
Why do I need to know this?
It’s simple: it’s easier to sell to people who know and trust you and your website.
If the vast majority of your traffic is a first time visitors, then you are not doing everything you can to retain your audience.
This should be a revelation and if you metrics are like the ones below, it should be a cause for concern too.
These stats are not from I’ve Tried That!
In fact, websites with a low number of repeat visitors, that actually turn a profit, are rare. It’s also likely that your bounce rate may also be fairly high as a result of having such a high volume of new visitors.
A lack of repeat visitors means a lack of a community.
Sometimes we forget that the stats in our analytics system are in fact people: living and breathing, with wants and desires (OK there’s some bots too!).
Actual people are looking at your site and saying to themselves “Nope. Nope, nope, nope!” and clicking the back button.
That is, if they even give the site a second thought before delving elsewhere to find their answers and spend their money.
There can be multiple reasons why your returning visitor count is low:
Poor Quality Content
If your content does not meet the needs of those visiting, then they will abandon your site, and find somewhere else to frequent.
You may have the best content in the world, but if you rarely post anything your site will begin to die a slow but quiet death, with new visitors failing to see the value in a repeat visit.
If you’re targeting the wrong keywords or market, you could be bringing in a bunch of visitors to your site that have no interest in the content, thus inflating your new visitor count dramatically.
If people cannot find the information they need because the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) of the site are poor, then they simply won’t return.
You Ignore Your Audience
If your audience talks to you, reply! Ignoring them is a great way to bleed away your fledgling or existing community.
7 Ways to Build a Community
Building a community around your website often brings to mind things like forums, and while they can be used, you need to think of community in a broader sense, covering several areas.
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Well, since I mentioned it! Barring IRC (Internet Relay Chat) forums are one of the oldest community structures on the internet.
They can be used for many business types, especially for things like support and discussion. However, unless your site is built around a forum, I don’t think these are a great addition to a normal blog style website.
With WordPress and other CMS style websites, having the ability to comment has greatly increased engagement.
Default WordPress comments though are a bit sucky, and you should definitely consider “upgrading” your comments system by using something like Disqus. This type of commenting system not only makes it easier for people to comment, but facilitates the conversation as well.
No matter what form you want your discussions to take place, you, yes YOU, must be involved.
Actively monitoring the discussions is key, and you should not only be replying to comments and ideas, but provide even more value where you can.
Sure, on a busy discussion you can’t answer everyone or even every post, but you should keep abreast of them and answer the interesting and valuable ones.
As a bonus for this, you also get to see into the mind-set of your visitors, allowing you to modify your Content Marketing Plan to better target your repeat visitors.
For me, there are only three social media networks you should consider using for community building: Facebook, via a Facebook page, Medium and Google+.
These three networks make it easy to share content and discuss it.
You should of course, follow your audience. If you know that your audience shares to Facebook more than Google+ or Medium, then use Facebook.
Networks like Twitter don’t really facilitate a conversation; though it can be useful for sharing links to content and discussion son other networks.
Content Quality & Consistency
Mentioned earlier as possible causes of low return visitors, these two aspects can and should be reviewed and worked on.
Review your analytics to see what pages people are landing on and viewing. Is this content up to date? Is it the highest quality it could be?
Compare it to similar content across the web, and check out their social metrics too (if someone is not interested in your site enough to never return, why would they bother sharing your content?).
If your content seems thin in comparison, you know you need meatier, more informative articles.
Make sure you start building a Content Marketing Plan, and be consistent with your posting, as people will be more likely to return to your site if they know there’s a good chance of new, and informative e content.
Go Forth & Communicate
You can do this both online and in the real world, but head out there and join in the conversations with other communities, via website comments, forums, events and conferences.
Get to know the people in your niche, the movers, the shakers and just the people in general.
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Reach out to other bloggers and websites, not necessarily in your niche, whose audience you think might be a good fit, and offer guest posts etc.
This is more to try and grow your audience, by bringing in visitors who potentially might find your content awesome enough to grace with repeat visits.
Your content, your business, must offer value. This could be in the form of intelligent and information articles regarding your niche.
It could be bringing news to people. Perhaps you have the best product in your niche that would greatly benefit people.
All that is great, but guess what? You need to keep providing value, week in, week out.
You need to come across, through the various parts of your site, that your site is worthy of peoples time.
The Bottom Line
A site without engagement is dead in the water, or dying. A lack or low percentage of repeat visitors is a good indication of this.
The way to combat it is by slowly but surely building a community around you, your site and your brand.
Only by having a core, solid group of “regulars” who trust you and the content your produce, can your business and site grow.