One of the most stunning mistakes that site owners make is to pay too much attention to first-time visitors to their sites, and too little to repeat visitors.
First-time visitors can be bought. Banner ads, site sponsorships, and other advertising efforts will bring some people to your site — but only once. Getting them to come back generally means having compelling content on the site for them to enjoy on that first visit, and a strong pull for them to come back again soon.
An important rule of thumb: people who eventually do things on your site that you want them to do, like registering personal information with you, signing up to receive a newsletter, or buying a product — generally don’t do these things on their first visits. They do them on their third, their fifth, or even their twentieth visits. People tend to build trust your site as they make more repeat visits, and with their trust comes their patronage.
So you have a real challenge here: how can your site be of value to people who don’t want to buy what you’re selling, at least not the first time they come to your site.
What can you offer those people? Strong, original, unique content that promises to be updated regularly is right at the top of the list. Each of these adjectives is very important, though. The content must be strong — not just filling space. It must be the kind of material that rewards your site visitors more than all the other things they could be doing would reward them. Strong content competes with television, talking with friends, and all the other content out there on other Web sites. And your content must be original. Piping in news feeds and articles that have been published elsewhere might please some site visitors, but those who are most engaged in the topics your site covers will find recycled material less than satisfying. Unique content means that it simply cannot be found anywhere else — on or off the Web. That’s a great challenge to rise to, but if you meet it, first-time visitors will be back for more.
You’ll also want to find ways to reward repeat visitors with “frequent surfers’ discounts,” and perhaps with contests and give-aways that build on clues woven into your site over a series of days or weeks.
In the long run, you’ll find that the bulk of your revenues come from repeat visitors — so invest in your resources accordingly. For every dollar you spend on banner ads or other promotions, ask yourself how much you are investing in the quality of what you’re offering the folks who already know where you are, and need a good reason to keep coming back.