Shane Snow is co-founder of Contently.com, a marketplace for freelance journalists and brands-turned-publishers.
Bounce rates are the bane of a blog's existence. The higher the number, the less engaged the reader (and the more depressed the blogger). A sticky blog means more engaged users. It means more opportunities to turn them into advocates who then share your content.
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The following seven tips will help you increase the time visitors spend on your blog and the chances they'll return often.
1. Mix Stock and Flow Content
According to Noah Brier of Percolate, one key to a sticky blog is having a balance between "stock" and "flow" content.
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"Stock" content is the bedrock of a blog. It's original, typically longer-form content that's insightful and outstanding. This is what keeps people coming back hungrily for your expertise or unique wit. A clear voice and angle that people can count on is often the hallmark of good bedrock content.
"Flow" content is shorter, curated links and excerpts from related content around the web. Think of it like what The Huffington Post or Buzzfeed do: They take web content their readers are likely to be interested in and put their own commentary on it, linking back to the full text off-site. Without the commentary, you're just another aggregator; and without proper attribution and linking to the original source, you jeopardize your relationship with the original site (and break copyright law if you plagiarize parts of or the whole post).
This mix between meatier content and quick-hit aggregation helps you to stay top-of-mind with readers, increase your refresh rate and also develop your own reputation. Eventually, the goal of a sticky blog is to get people to stay on the blog, so you'll notice that sites like The Huffington Post produce more and more original content all the time.
Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, said in a keynote address at this week's Inbound Marketing Summit, that the "next big thing" in content marketing is optimizing the middle of the funnel through personalization.
When speaking of Amazon.com's recommendation engine, Halligan says, "It's eerie how well they know me." The more you shop on Amazon, the smarter the recommendations become. That in turn, makes you more likely to shop on Amazon, creating a virtuous cycle.
In the same way, blogs that can serve up suggested content to individual readers based on their choices can see exponential retention. Smart widgets on many CMS can do this to a degree, and technology in this area is being developed all the time by sites like Outbrain and SimpleReach.
"Every action someone takes on your 'site' allows you to more personalize," Halligan says.
3. Let Your Blog Live On, Off-Blog
The blog is a hub for your content, but social media channels can be spokes that lead people to you. Don't be afraid to let your content spread. In fact, encourage it.
Repackage your blog posts into shorter bites for Tumblr or Facebook. Share your headlines, quotes or key insights on Twitter and LinkedIn. Pursue syndication opportunities on related sites so you can get your content to stick with new audiences. All of this leads people back to your site, having built your reputation off-site.
4. Do Post Series
Want people to keep coming back to your blog? Create some anticipation with post series. Instead of writing a comprehensive, 3,000-word post on the "ultimate guide to whatever," split it out into bite-sized chunks and release it slowly. This not only gives you the chance to dive deeper into your points, but it also creates the opportunity to get readers to "tune in" regularly.
Take a cue from cable TV: Instead of a marathon, release a mini-series.
5. Email Your Blog Out
Many people don't go out and just read blogs. They stumble into them via social media or other channels. So when someone lands on your blog, you may have a small window to catch them and retain them as readers.
Enter the email subscription. You're already writing for your site; why not repackage a post a day (or week) and email it out to subscribers?
Place an email capture form on each post on your site. First timers who stagger across your content may sign up because they liked the one post they read, and then you have the opportunity to reach them in the place they do the most reading: their inbox.
6. Link Internally Like Mad
You may not remember a blog you discover once through a Twitter link, but you likely will remember a blog you discover and then read 10 posts on. You can increase the stickiness factor of your blog by an order of magnitude if you employ the Wikipedia method of linking judiciously to interesting places on your blog within every post.
Have you ever gone to Wikipedia to look up something mundane, ended up clicking on an interesting link within the page, then another, and all of the sudden realized half an hour has gone by and you're somehow reading about black holes and time travel? Wikipedia is a black hole itself; its web of internal links gives it amazing sticking power.
You'll notice that nearly every section of this post has links to other stories on Mashable. Rather than saying, "Oh, please please click here," the links are seamlessly placed on words and phrases throughout the content. In this way, the passive reader isn't interrupted, but curious readers can explore a never-ending tree of interesting content.
7. Suggest More Content
Similarly to the internal linking tip above, by recommending similar content at the bottom of your posts, you'll increase pages per visit and the likelihood of gaining a subscriber rather than a one-time stumbler.
Most people read blogs because they either want to learn something or be entertained. Point them toward related resources after your post to keep them going. This related content doesn't have to live on your site. If you consistently point out excellent content on other sites, readers will come to think of your blog as an authority. Rather than going to a search engine or opening a million tabs to find info they're interested in, they'll just come to your site.
Become a go-to resource, and readers will stick.
Stickiness is one of the best metrics of content's success. Of course, everything here hinges on the idea that your blog is worth reading. And that only takes time and practice. The good news, however, is that while writing a compelling blog may be an art, stickiness is a science.
Disclosure: Hubspot is a Mashable sponsor.
This story originally published on Mashable here.