7 Ways to Get Visitors to Stay on Your Website

A stickier website will help you attract more customers. These tips will get online visitors to relax and stay a while.
June 22, 2012

The average person stays on a webpage for less than a minute. There are many factors that drive visitors away, and plenty of reasons why they linger on and return to a given page.

Truman Hedding is the founder of website design service, TruInteractive. He and his team created a question-and-answer tool that uses a mathematical equation to determine what services are best for individuals wanting to take the website design process into their own hands. Although his tool operates under the assumption that every website is unique, most consumers think similarly: "Give us fast results and tell us as soon as possible why we should do business with you."

Over the past eight years, Truman has witnessed the same mistakes when it comes to creating a website. Regardless of the industry, the same pitfalls will steer potential customers away.

Here are seven tips Truman provides for making a visitor-attracting website:

1. Create an appealing design. First impressions are everything. No matter how accomplished or customer service oriented your company is, if your site isn't aesthetically pleasing, people will leave.

"The main reason we see poorly-designed layouts is a lack of priorities and/or resources. Although information exists on how to create effective designs, it's another story to take action on it," Hedding says. "Even those who work in design can still lack the basic skills to make a website successful because they don't stay on top of trends and listen to what experts say on the subject."

2. The design should mirror the industry: A great design isn't the end of it. Your design has to match your business, the products you are selling or the services you are offering.

"If the site is about making money at home, you'd be able to get away with long content pages, big fonts and clip art. If the site was about settling tax debt, you couldn't get away with the same design," Hedding says. "You'd need structured content, modern, clean font, solid colors and professional images."

3. Put it all up-front: People come to your site for a reason. It should not be a mission to find the desired information, and if this is the case, you'll lose a potential customer. Your site's navigation should be structured, simple, and easy to find.

"Internet users are spoiled and impatient," Hedding says. "Right away we want to know who you are, what your offer is, why it is better than others, and who else is doing business with you."

4. Eliminate interstitial webpages: Interstitial pages are pages that appear, covering the entire site, before you can view the expected page. It is rarely advised that you use this type of advertising, but there are rare cases where it may work.

"Interstitial pages affect the repeat visits to your site no matter how big your company is. Users simply don't like ads shoved in their face. Forbes uses interstitial pages, but they are an exception; they carry years of trust and credibility. Personally, I continue to visit Forbes.com because I know the end result is what I'm looking for, but others will not," Hedding warns.

5. Take advantage of heat maps: Heat maps help businesses by exposing the spots on webpages that are attractive to visitors. Truman has begun using a newer form of heat map tracking that records the mouse moves of site visitors in the form of a video, providing tremendous insight into the consumers' mind.

"Heat map tracking gives you insight to what content users like and don't like. For example, on a recent site we promoted, we used Heat Map tracking and found that an inconspicuous link on the footer was the most clicked element on the page. We moved the link to the top of the page and enhanced the message on that page, which resulted in a 50 percent conversion rate. Or, you may find out through heat map tracking that people are not visiting your 'About' page. You might try changing 'About' to 'Why [Company's Name]?,' and let heat map tracking run for 1,000 visits and find that users respond better to "Why [Company's Name]?"

6. Omit auto registration: According to Hedding, requiring visitors to register to your site before viewing content is more obnoxious than a pop-up advertisement. There are other alternatives to registration that are less obtrusive.

"Include an option to register somewhere else within your site," Hedding advises. "The only way you could require registration is if you have something to offer that someone couldn't get elsewhere, such as with Groupon.com, although even they will let you view their deals if you click their logo."

7. Make an FAQ available: No matter how good you think you've made your site, people are still going to have questions and the best businesses anticipate this.

"It's important for any website to have an FAQ for three reasons," Hedding explains. "1) Everyone has questions; 2) We've seen the FAQ page on client sites to consistently rank in the top five most viewed pages; 3) It shows that you're addressing the consumer's needs."

What drives you off a website?

Photo credit: Lite Productions/Thinkstock