Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Categories Articles, Web Design

A design is only as good as the functional usability of it. Think of it like a pretty lady or handsome guy with no brain or personality. You can only handle it for so long because they don’t offer much, which eventually leaves you bored or uninterested.

Just like the scenario above, regardless of how amazing your design looks, without any functional usage, readers will only stay for so long. Even worse they probably won’t return, which is what any website does not want. There is no getting around content as the number one factor to gain returning visitors, but there are some design and functional aspects that can be implemented into your web design to push more users to visit your site again. We will look at some of these popular practices below.

Displaying Follower Count

The Internet is just like high school: everybody wants to be part of the crowd. If you have a lot of followers via social networks and/or subscribers, then why not share it with the world. By displaying the count, visitors will be more likely to subscribe themselves because they see so many other people are doing the same. I recommend not sharing your follower count until they are at least plus 500; however, the number can vary through different niches.

You can see a great example of this here, at Inspired Magazine. Above the fold, visitors can easily see that there are over 35,000 combined followers and would be enticed to become part of the crowd.

Another example of this can also be seen at Smashing Magazine. In fact, they even designate a much bigger spot than most sites by taking up nearly ¼ of the space above the fold.

Subscription Box

Another method to increase the rate of returning visitors is to build an email list. This is usually done through a subscription box placed somewhere on the sidebar. Obviously the higher up, the more likely it is to be seen.

As seen on The Wild Investor, the subscription box is placed in the sidebar above the fold. More importantly it is styled in a different color box that stands out from the rest of the site.

More often than not, sometimes you just need to put the offer directly in front of the users face. John Chow does this through a pop-up box that is displayed to first time visitors and briefly describes what the subscriber will get and a concise form to sign up.

Subscribe to Comments

Getting readers to post comments is great, but usually visitors will leave comments and then never return. You can see where this could make it hard to build any sort of dialogue. A good method to try and fight this problem is to give your readers an option to subscribe to comments, either through RSS feed or email notification. This will not only bring them back to your site, but could also build your comments as dialogue will continue to grow.

Problogger simple adds a check box at the bottom of his comments box to subscribe using ‘Subcribe to Comments’ WordPress plugin.

Six Revisions attacks this problem by using a text link that directs you to the comments RSS feed.

Display Popular Articles

Whether your visitors come from search engines or referred from another site, odds of them subscribing or returning to your website will be based off more than one article or piece of your content. So help facilitate this process by sharing your most popular content.

Noupe does this by displaying a thumbnail and comment count of the 12 most popular articles. Not only does this show what type of articles is published on this site, but also when you see multiple articles with 100+ comments, odds of returning just jumped a whole lot more.

While a design should be pleasing to the eye, it should also be functional. What good does an amazing looking house mean if it doesn’t have a kitchen? Ultimately your design should facilitate growth, which could be hard to do without returning users. Hopefully the above examples and practices will inspire you to make some adjustments to your current or future web design.

With nearly a decade of experience in web design and owner of his own web development company, Amey Shivapurkar shares the latest webmastering trends, tools, and practices over at Webtolerant.

Catalin Zorzini
Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.
  • nice one though i m using almost all that you wrote here….

  • Nice tips. I have to put subscribe box somewhere and obvious.

    I suggest don’t display your Feed reader if your blog have no more than hundreds.

  • Awesome article, there are always questions relating to this type of discussion, but you cleared up most of them.

    Keep up the good work.
    Jacques

  • These are really good tips, thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this – I’ve got some new ideas here! I’m going to download that subscribe to comments plugin right for my site now :)

  • Nice tips. I will try to use the my twitter number

  • Some great ideas here, I’ve been thinking for awhile about the importance of showing my rss feed subscribers, but like you said I want to make sure I get a couple more before displaying it..

  • These are all great tips that just goes to show how important functionality is in a website. I think this is something that is lost to a lot of designers. It’s not always about being the most original or the most creative. At the end of the day it’s about how many visitors you have and how many come back.

  • Visitors or returning visitors, are more valuable if the conversion rates are high. So efforts to increase the conversion rate is also important.

  • I have implemented all of the points. Thanks for the confirmation.

  • Why on earth is John Chow’s terrible pop up box with the hard sell anywhere in an article about increasing visitor loyalty.

    If you want to convert your initial impressions for first time users into a spam list, great. However, that does not in any way build some kind of real loyalty. The idea is just to get them on the list as fast as possible and maybe you can spam them later and get them to click something else and convert them into dollars.

    That is quite the opposite of building a loyal userbase.

  • There’s also a pretty cool wordpress plugin that sends a thank you email to first time commentators. It’s a great way for visitors to return.

  • Thanks your post has been very helpful.

  • I kinda disagree with subscription box feature. If placed higher up it will take a lot of space and can be easily confused with search box.

    Also the popup box will more likely annoy users rather than help in creating loyal readers.

  • nice post
    just chk my daily design blog

  • Great tips. We are just building a website where most of the points you mentioned will be implemented. Good to see for some more ideas though.

  • Good one even tough i have expected to see a longer article about this :P

    Thank you.

  • Nice tips. I am going to try the first approach. Thanks for sharing

  • I have a lot of problems when trying to find the subscribe box on some blogs, and you’re right, I rarely go back. Interesting tips mate.

  • nice post and this also proves that functionality and email address capture are two very important things to increase returning visitors.

    it is also important to increase the number of returning users and posting of good and quality content is very important. else however good the functionality is it wont matter. so i believe it should be a proper blend of the two.

  • yes i completely agree… the internet is a strange place and everybody wants to be a part of the crowd. if you have a heavy fan following then people will throng to your website else not. so it is really important to display the number of followers.

  • A great post you’ve made, I really like the example sites you’ve shown too, they look prettty good.

  • Great tip over the returning visitors of website and this is also helpful for increasing the website visitors, pages views and average time over website.

  • Forgot one think :D Give the visitant good motives to get back (good content).

  • Thanks for raising these points, it is easier to keep existing customers than get new ones.

  • Anjana Silva

    Thanks for sharing these valuable points. Cheers!
    Anjana Silva