The Myth Of Manufactured Stickiness

Every time you turn around, someone else is spouting off ways to enhance the “stickiness” of your site: “Top Ten Ways to Make `Em Stick like Flies” or “Memoirs from a Turkish Prison.” And yes, you probably clicked on this article because it has “stickiness” in the title. (Cheap ploy, I know.)

I am, indeed, going to talk about stickiness. But I’m not going to perpetuate the myth of created or synthetic stickiness — that sticky, gooey artificial content on general interest sites that promises to attract visitors and keep them coming back, but seldom does. In getting visitors to stick, I’m going to tell you what doesn’t work, and what does.

Synthetic stickiness is like an arranged marriage. You’re forced into it with the promise of a loving and fulfilling relationship somewhere down the road, but it never comes. All you really want is to be with someone who shares your interests and cares about the same things you do. And, really, that’s what people want when they go online. They want to develop a relationship with a web site offering specialized content they really care about.

There are a lot of general interest sites out there, especially the mega-portals such as Yahoo that attempt to manufacture stickiness. Understandably, they are trying to keep your eyeballs stuck to them by inventing or gobbling up unrelated services that force you to stay on their sites.

Why are they doing this? According to recent Internet traffic data from Nielsen/NetRatings, more and more Internet surfers are bypassing the portals in favor of sites with specialized content.

The big guys are trying to be everything to everybody, bombarding you with everything from free email, online chats and weather to stock tips, classifieds and online auctions — all devised to prolong your stay.

But this everything-to-everybody model breaks down online because visitors want more depth from the sites on which they spend their valuable time. Manufactured stickiness leaves people feeling unfulfilled for the very reason that it is contrived and often unrelated to the core proposition of the site.

Okay, so how do you keep your visitors stuck to your site? Give people more of what they care about — that is, why they came to the site in the first place. Sure, your site needs to be visually appealing and easy to navigate, but most people aren’t online to see cool, animated graphics, or to test out the latest search engine.

People are online to learn more about the subjects they really care about — they are online because of the vast array of specialty content that is readily available, for free.

People go more frequently to their favorite sites and stay longer on those sites because they have discovered content that matters to them. They stay on these sites — willingly and enthusiastically — because of the relationship they develop with the publishers of these specialty-content sites and with the other visitors that frequent there.

Specialty-content web sites don’t have to invent stickiness — they’re drenched in it. People don’t have to be forced to stay on sites with valuable content — they stay because they want to. When you give consumers what they want, they will come back for more.

Finally, consider this: The value of a web site is its value to the visitor. The higher the value to the visitor, the higher the value will be to the advertiser. Fortunately, the Internet is awash with this kind of value, which is present among the vast army of specialty content publishers who produce the content that people really care about.

This is genuine stickiness, and this is what really works.

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