Intelligent Design and Stickiness

Stickiness is the term we use that describes when visitors come to a site and come back again. If a blog has great stickiness, chances are that readers typically find very interesting things there and they bookmark it or subscribe to the feed. Most sites are not very sticky though. They may have moments of brilliance when a high profile link comes in, or a story gets Dugg and then – poof! The visitors disappear. Finding ways to make your blog sticky are important for growth.

Great content is the first and foremost way to create stickiness. There is no substitute for great content. Why does every John Grisham novel hit the New York Times Bestseller list? Because people love his writing and are drawn into his stories. Likewise, Techcrunch is sticky because the content that is going up is compelling for readers of Mike Arrington’s blog.

A secondary way of creating stickiness, and the focus of this entry, is by using intelligent design. Not that kind of intelligent design, though the metaphor of creating intelligent blogs instead of simply letting them transition from ape to human works in this scenario. WordPress plugins allow you to accomplish a whole lot of intelligent architectural things with your blog. Here we look at four plugins that will create intelligent design and stickiness on your blog.

Subscribe to Comments is a plugin created by our very own Mark Jaquith (long before he was our very own). Subscribe to Comments allows commenters to subscribe to a posts comments. In other words, everytime a new comment comes in on a post, they recieve an email with a link back to the story. In this way, conversation is maintained and people are reminded to come back. To me, this is the single most important plugin that every blog should have. Go ahead and comment on this entry and click the subscribe checkbox!

In Series is my latest favorite plugin. I’ve been using it here at Technosailor for a few months now. For people who write series of posts, as I do, this plugin will include a table of contents in every series post to the other posts in the series. Readers don’t have to click around to figure out where the next parts are and the cumbersome part of going back and manually editing each post in a series to provide links to the other parts is eliminated. This also provides a great automated way of internally linking boosting a blog’s SEO juice.

Landing Sites is one of those plugins that smacks you on the head and reminds you that you are a mere mortal. It “sniffs” where a visitor is coming from and if they come from search engines, it presents the visitor with possible other blog entries based on the search terms they were looking for. It’s all about giving options because maybe, just maybe, Google included a result that wasn’t really what the visitor was looking for. If you can provide the visitor options, then you increase the chance of stickiness.

Popularity Contest is a plugin that does as it sounds – it records popularity of posts. In this way, it’s easy to display, say in the sidebar, your 5 most popular posts for visitors to click through to. Putting your best foot forward is important for stickiness.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

32 thoughts on “Intelligent Design and Stickiness”

  1. I was most impressed by the words used in the title of this post. I expect the use of “intelligent design” will give this post a certain appeal in the search engines when folks might being searching to try to find more information on the evolution/creation debate. Did that thought cross your mind when naming this post?

  2. The “In Series” plugin is intriguing, since I had to trick WordPress into doing the same thing on my site. Thanks for the heads-up on that and the other plugins!

  3. Great Post. At least three of these plug-ins should be valuable for my site. I’m testing the “Subscribe to Comments” now. Thanks for the info.

  4. Nice list of plugins – though I think a “email me posts regularly” plugin should round up the list and make it five plugins.

  5. I totally agree that subscribing to comments is one of the most important things. I myself wrote and shared that in one of my blog posts (Article found hear).

    I also agree with your other points and have bookmarked them to add them to my blog, when I get some spare time and finish up a clients job.

    Thanks for them

  6. Hmmm. Am planning to move to wordpress soon. The landing sites plugin seems to be very interesting. You should really do a part two and make it a series.

  7. Which do you think is better, using something like Popularity Contest, or using one of the several “Rate this Post” plugins? Allowing the readers to vote on posts does bring them into the conversation…

    Kevin
    http://technogeek.org/

  8. The Landing Sites plugin looks fantastic. I’ve been thinking of ways to give people a bit more context and direction when the come straight to individual posts from search engines and this looks like it will fit the bill perfectly.

    Thanks for posting it.

  9. Most sites are not very sticky though. They may have moments of brilliance when a high profile link comes in, or a story gets Dugg and then – poof! The visitors disappear.

    guilty as charged ;)

  10. Kevin,
    I would use the plugin “Subscribe to Comments” that way people return back when your post gets updated. Like the one technosailor uses , if you leave the checkmark “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” then you will get an email right after my post gets approved. That means you come back :) to read my comment :)

    Sincerely,
    –JuliaxXx
    http://www.bontb.com

  11. I use the Subscribe To Comments plugin. I personally think it’s the best in the list, although I haven’t experimented with In Series yet. Sounds pretty cool.

  12. How come you don’t use the popularity contest plugin here?

    I was wondering if I should use it, but am curious as to why you don’t.

    A similar one I have is the ‘most commented’ plugin that shows all your posts in order of the number of comments. The problem is, I miss quite a lot out because I don’t want a huge list. To slightly counter that I’ve also created a page for ‘featured articles’.

  13. I love that In Series plugin! I will definitely use it. Lately, I’ve been trying to write series and its kind of difficult when I have to manually change the TOC on each post. Thanks!

  14. Landing Sites sounds really interesting. I plan on redesigning my blog very soon and will probably use a few of these from your list. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Thanks for the information. Else I would never know such good plugins exist. I prefer the “subscribe to this comment” to the rest. It gives me a greater sense of participation from the reader point of view.

  16. great info… i have decided to take blogging more seriously and these tips and tricks to get more traffic is certainly going to help.

  17. Thanks for this list, there’s three plugins from this list that will fit really well on my site.

    Keep up the good work!

  18. I was using Landing Sites for quite some time but kept getting feedback that it wasn’t working with Google Reader. People visiting through Google Reader would see, “We saw you came from Google, you might like…” but the recommendations were blank because, of course, through Google Reader no search terms were input.

    I’ve followed the plugin for awhile, tried some fixes, and none worked. So it’s currently disabled on my blog.

    I’m a big fan of Popularity Contest, although you can just as easily list the top posts in the sidebar that you want to draw people’s attention to.

    Subscribe to Comments is a MUST.

  19. Stumbled across this site while searching for plugins for my site. Had already activated Subscribe to Comments (and I agree with you, this is a MUST-HAVE for all blogs) and am waiting to see if Landing Sites will prove useful.

  20. Those sound like nifty plugins. I think I’ll give them a shot to see how they effect my site. Who knows. Maybe it will help with my popularity. :D

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