Saturday, May 24, 2008

Unique vs. repeat visitors - and the impact on sales

How many repeat visitors do you get? Is the number increasing over time? Do they bring you repeat business if you use your blog to help you market your art?

This post looks at site tourists versus repeat visitors and their impact on sales.
  • "Site tourists" are unique visitors - people who tend to visit a site once. For those marketing art they are people who aren't likely to create sales or increase the business income total for the year.
  • Repeat visitors are people who like what they see, visit more than once - and may well buy some art at some point.
Drawing a Head 1st May 2008
pencil and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

It follows on from a very sensible comment by Martha (Trumpetvine Travels) in response to my post Techie Saturday: Silly vs. focused traffic - how high do you bounce?
I've always thought that for blogs bounce rate isn't a particularly meaningful measurement. The reason is that the most compelling content is right there on the top page.

So, you can't really distinguish between someone who arrives and leaves immediately vs someone who arrives, loves what they see, reads it in detail and intends to come back.
Jakob Neilsen (, in his covering e-mail for his biweekly Alertbox column, recently commented about unique visitors versus returning visitors - and site tourists. Below I summarise some of what he says and reflect on how that relates to act business activity.
Unique visitors must be eradicated as a goal: for the vast majority of sites, it's no good to have people visit your site once, never to return. Uniques minus returns equals one-time tourists, which is a *negative* metric. You're paying for traffic that doesn't engage with your brand and is highly unlikely to be true leads or convert into customers.

.......... Several speakers confirmed that Digg and other "social" services were particularly horrible sources of tourist traffic, referring almost no valuable leads
Jakob Neilsen - Alertbox May 13 - cover e-mail
Back in 1997, he identified three types of site tourists in Why Site Tourists are Worthless - an Alertbox Sidebar article to his main article which was all about Loyalty on the Web.
If you build a good site, users may come; but if they only visit once, you lose. This is one of the reasons why raw "hit rates" are discredited as a measure of site success
Jakon Neilsen, Loyalty on the Web
In Why Site Tourists are Worthless he identified three main types of site tourists. My shorthand version is:
  • People who arrive by mistake
  • People who check out your site as they are trying to design/produce something similar
  • People who are interested in one topic in one post/page of your site and who don't stick around to look at more.
If you're blogging, some of the latter group might have time constraints - but may well come back and check you out again. In my view, this only happens if you make it very easy for your visitors to bookmark or subscribe - otherwise they may never find you again! My subscriber numbers definitely grew quicker once I moved the subscriber function to somewhere that was a lot more visible ie next to today's post!

My view has always been that lots of unique visitors can be converted into a slow and steady climb in repeat visitors - and that certainly has been my experience to date. The trick is to find ways of getting the one-time visitor hooked so they stick around and look at more.

How to get repeat visitors

Repeat visitors to art sites are helped by:
  • making it easy for people to bookmark or subscribe your site. I keep my subscription links near the top of the right hand column - and the bottom of the page - for a reason.
  • a focus on a topic which interests or appeals to others (eg you like a daily painters output; you're a fan of feline art)
  • posting about a topic(s) which is useful to others - one of the reasons offered by many of my repeat visitors
  • posting about educational matters - people like to learn. Step by step blog posts are very popular.
  • creating art that people enjoy looking at
  • producing work or posts in a series - one often looks forward to the next edition - it worked for Charles Dickens and popular series on TV so why not art?
  • linking to previous related posts (show them this post is part of a series!)
  • posting good content on a regular basis
The classic way to increase loyalty on the Web is to have fresh content that changes on a predictable basis.
Jakob Neilsen - Loyalty on the web
Generating repeat business

Given the current economic climate, spontaneous 'one hit' sales are probably now less likely to occur than they have in the past. People are now tending to be more careful with their money - if they have any to spare.

By way of contrast, from what I've seen and heard in the last six months, there are two groups of artist who are managing to weather changes in the pattern of sales.
  • artists who accept commissions - people who pay for a commission may well return for another or might well recommend you to family or friends. People are more likely to buy on the basis of a personal recommendation.
  • artists producing collectible art - as originals or prints (eg botanical art; animal art)
Familiarity with the artist - through repeat visits - appears likely to be connected to generating these sort of sales. Evidence also suggests that repeat visitors are always more likely to spend more than one-time visitors.

If you're still considering your options for diversifying your portfolio in the current economic climate, then you might want to think about
  • how you currently create repeat visitors.
  • the link between repeat visitors and repeat sales
  • how you convert repeat visits into repeat sales
  • checking out your trend in repeat visitors.........
If you have any tips for readers about how you manage to generate more repeat visitors and/or convert repeat visitors to repeat sales please leave a comment.


Casey Klahn said...

At my blog, I have just tried a "Can't fight 'em; join 'em" technique. The topic of Jackson Pollock (not my favorite topic) has generated consistent search query traffic, even a year (or so) after the posts.

You do the brilliant Squidoos, and I have dipped my toe in that pool by posting a Jackson Pollock Researcher - a very definitive list of links and link sites. It's of value to me, intellectually, and serves my unique visitors.

Just thought I would opass that tool on to you. Maybe you could expand on your Squidoo traffic - which I think is consistent with this topic.

Ed Terpening said...

I use Google Analytics, and get some great data about my visitors. Good advice regarding the Subscribe RSS option...I've added it to the top of my blog and website.

Felicity said...
Katherine, I wonder did you see this article on the BBC about how visitors are becoming more 'ruthless' in the way they use the internet. Personally, I have little faith in the net as a valuable tool for selling art unless you drive the potential buyers there to start with. I'd love to know the real statistics are (as opposed to what artists are aiming for with their sites) for artwork sold by viewing websites alone. (I myself wonder what some work looks like in close up and would hesitate to buy it without seeing it in person.)I suspect many online artists are like traders looking for customors at a trade fair.

I wonder too about site meters - I used to have a simple counter but I've even taken that off - I find them a bit 'big brother'. I know they have useful info for the person watching but I'm not at all keen on people watching which pages I visit and for how long. Some sites I avoid for this reason.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Felicity - Yes I'm subscribed to the Neilsen Use-It Newsletter and had already read about Jakob's latest report. I've been thinking about how to use it in a blog post as I think a lot of what he has to say makes a lot of sense - and this latest finding definitely needs to be thought about.

In terms of 'hooking' people so they might stay and read more, what I do now is try and write a clear statement at the beginning of my (always) long posts saying what the post is about. If it's then going to deal with a topic in stages I also signal that. Very much in the spirit of the very old mantra for communication "tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you've told them"

On the galleries issue, I'm cynical about claims about traffic by some commercial entities - but find that a quick visit to generally tells me what I want to know.

I'm absolutely with you re the buying art. I don't know why on earth anybody ever thinks they can sell art on the basis of very small images. Interestingly all the major galleries who deal with big time buyers with validated credentials operate through a closed password controlled part of their website. In other words bone fide buyers get to see BIG images once their status as a serious buyer has been established.

On the privacy issue, the reality is that virtually every site you visit will have some sort of stats software running - whether or not it is obvious.

If you want to know more try changing your cookie controls so you have to approve them one by one as they crop up. I've done this and it's absolutely amazing how many sites have lots of 'things' collecting info about you. The worst by far is the New York Times!

Whoooooo - that's nearly enough for another blog post! ;)

Peter Worsley said...

The statisitics of Unique and Repeat Visitors maybe misleading.

Often Repeat a visitor is determined by a "cookie" (a piece of html code) left on the visitor's computer at the time of the first visit.

Many visitors (me included) use a Browser prefence setting to automatically delete cookies from their computer when they leave a website.

Such visitors will always be recorded as "Unique" when they revisit that website.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Good point Peter - I'd totally forgotten about that aspect! I clear out all cookies I've collected at the end of the day so I'll definitely be counted as a unique visitor on other people's sites even if I'm a repeat one.

I'd love to know how Google manages to keep track of how many times I've visited a site though!

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