Let your users go!

Paul Boag

We spend too much energy keeping users on our sites. We should focus more on reminding them we exist.

I am forever reading articles about how to make your website more sticky. Hell, I have been responsible for writing one or two of them in the past myself. 

These posts suggest a plethora of ways to keep the user engaged from related links to newsletter signup forms. 

Multiple visits are required to convert

It is not surprising that there are so many of these posts. We all know that for our sites to achieve their ultimate objective of “converting users,” those users will almost certainly need to make more than one visit. We therefore bend over backwards to grab their interest and keep them engaged. 

However as I look at my own site and that of my clients, I wonder if we approach this problem in the wrong way.

Look at the web stats of any blog and you will see that despite that bloggers best efforts the vast majority of users only read a single post when they visit. 

All of that effort to make the site sticky, increase dwell time and encourage page views is for nothing. 

In reality, how users engage with a site and associated brand is a complex relationship.

Excepting the complexity of user engagement 

Take your own engagement with this site. Maybe this is the first time you have read an article on boagworld. If that is the case you have probably been pointed at this post by a friend or colleague who follows me more regularly. 

You will read the post and go away either impressed or otherwise. I doubt you will be so impressed as to look at my other writings. You don’t know me well enough for that level of engagement. I am yet to convince you that I am worth your time. Instead, your relationship is with your friend and their recommendation of a piece of content, not with me. 

Multiple encounters required

However, you may remember my name and you will notice it if it crops up again. Maybe the same (or another) friend recommends a different post. Maybe you see something I have written being shared on twitter. Perhaps you see a guest post I have written for another site. 

In short, it will take multiple encounters with “my brand” before you start to consider me worth more investigation. Only then will you think about subscribing to my site or completing whatever call to action I present you with. 

Allow users to leave

What then is the conclusion of all this? I see too many website owners who try anything to keep users on their site. They try everything from incentives to annoying popup windows when users try to leave. 

Instead, I believe we should have the confidence to allow users to leave. We should focus our energies on getting our name and content in front of them as many times as possible, rather than on persuading them to remain on the site.

I would prefer a user to visit my site on six different occasions for one minute each, than once for six minutes. That is because they will have been told about my site six times and so will be ready to take what I have to say seriously.