Tommy Walker, founder of WalkerBots Content Studios, talked with John Bonini on an episode of the Metrics and Chill podcast. Tommy talked about how they approach one often overlooked metric they believe is crucial for content marketing success: Return visitors.
During the conversation, Tommy explained how the team crystallized the idea of drawing on returning visitor growth to improve metrics like conversion—and how they’ve gone all-in on getting to know customers on a deeper level and creating episodic narratives in order to do it.
Read on for more details, or listen to the full episode here:
The Metric: Return Visitor Rate
It all started when Tommy noticed a key link between returning visitors and other key metrics like conversion rate and time to conversion—improving the returning visitor rate could cut time to sale in half.
“We might think of it, as marketers, like talking to a bunch of people, but in reality, it’s a one-on-one relationship,” Tommy noted, “What I found as a content marketer was that the better the information you’re putting out there, the better story that you’re telling, the more people are going to want to return.”
The Opportunity of Returning Visitors
Tommy’s focus on returning visitors started with a correlation: “We were able to see and measure, if we increased the returning visitors on this particular page, we were able to cut the time to conversion in half. Across the board, we were able to see this kind of correlation.”
That link opened Tommy’s eyes the potential and opportunity of improving return visitor rates on content.
And it makes sense. As Tommy noted, “Most B2B is on a long sales cycle. When you’re trying to get into that consideration stage, if you’re able to get more return visitors, it can cut the time to sales down in half.”
For individual clients, Tommy told John, they look at content holistically. “I’ll look at the conversion rate and then I’ll work backwards. You’re getting this bigger picture of how good a piece of content is based on just the quantitative data you can see.”
Based on that analysis, Tommy identifies whether return visitor rate might offer an opportunity. “If you’ve only got like a 4% return visitor rate, no wonder it’s taking people forever to convert. If we increase return visitor rate, can we decrease the amount of time it takes to get to sale?”
Using Quality Content to Keep Visitors Coming Back
“When I look at increasing return visitors, what it really comes down to is the quality of the content,” Tommy said.
For Tommy, improving the quality of clients’ content nearly always comes down to better understanding their customers and what speaks to them.
“It’s an ongoing feedback loop of having these conversations with real people,” Tommy told John. “If you’re able to have those conversations on a regular basis, you can get that 1-on-1 feedback.”
On top of one-on-one conversations with clients, they also look at social media conversations, comment sections, and more—they “really try to read between the lines to get a sense of what the community is saying.”
That understanding helps Tommy to turn content into something that lines up with customer expectations and interest. While looking at the other content that captures the attention of customers, Tommy considers, “How can I take what I know about the stuff that you’re sharing and then incorporate that into what I’m doing, and do it a little bit better?”
“I can package the message itself in the wrapper of these other things that are grabbing their attention,” Tommy said.
But it’s about more than headline structure and the right kind of graphics: “Let’s get the human element of what it is they’re trying to do, and that is something that makes it returnable.”
In other words, there’s no hack for growing return visitor rates. You just have to be willing to do the leg work required to create content that speaks to your customers. Do that, and they’ll come back for more.
“We were able to get these narratives and these origin stories out of people, and it became something that was incredibly interesting on its own. You come back to it because you know that that’s the type of thing you’re going to get,” Tommy explained.
Results, of course, vary from one client to another, but Tommy emphasizes that the correlation between returning visitor rate and time to sale is an enduring relationship—one they see across the board.
For one example, when Tommy worked with Shopify Plus, their returning visitor rate was in the 60% realm. As for others trying to leverage returning visitors into sales, Tommy suggests a pretty simple mantra: “Do a little bit better than you’re already doing.”
As with many other aspects of content marketing, growing your return visitor rate is all about improvement—not aiming for one set benchmark.
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