Side Doors

Today I want to add a few thoughts about drawing traffic to small Web sites, following up on the notion I advanced yesterday, that many visitors are drawn to sites by search pages that bring them past the home page. In short, people are finding sites they wouldn’t normally visit. Yesterday’s blog talked about the tactics big publishers are using to keep visitors inside their site once they arrived.

So if site visits are occurring serendipitously, are there ways to aid that process alolng?

I’m not qualified to discuss search engine optimizatioh, a separate art with many gurus, Instead I’m thinking out loud about what might make people spend a little more time on a site, or come back for more, once they stumble across it.

My first thought is that every aspiring destination — and that’s what publishers should want to be — should try to support a daily editorial cartoon appropriate to its target audience. This should be a featured item, visible when traffic arrives at the home page and, given the likelihood of side door visits, an item that flows to inner pages, pehaps as a small graphic that can be enlarged with a click.

This may seem like a frill but think about life from the viewer’s side of the computer screen. People are busy. When they visit a site they are grazing and restless. If your site can deliver a chuckle for a few seconds of attention, that may help you get remembered. If cartoons are hard to come by in your niche, or seem inappropriate to your material, would periodic photos accomplish much the same purpose of offering a quick visual surprise?

Another traffic building tactic that occurs to me is the creation of regular features: every Monday summarize the conferences in your niche; every Friday recap big developments in the prior week; every Wednesday profile some person or product. Create regular islands of useful content. Whatever you can think of that is relatively easy to gather and yet valuable when assembled in one place. You are trying to make your site habit forming. Structure should help.

Finally, something else I have yet to do in this hobby blog — provide a link list or blog roll, or access to other data that makes your site a convient bookmark on somebody else’s page. They remember that if they want to find such and such piece of information, the quickest way is by going to your site. When you start to create that sort of mind-presence then your site has developed a solid audience.

I know that all of these are suggestions I need to follow myself, and that this post is even lamer than usual. I am traveling and using borrowed equipment, and have to run momentarily (or the dog will eat my homework). Be back tomorrow, from home, where my newly purchased Web page development package (SJ Namo toolkit) sits unopened on the desk of my home office, taunting me to follow my own advice. It’s enough to make a MiniMediaGuy feel, well, even smaller.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media