Is Increasing Visit Frequency A Realistic Goal?

For the content sites I’ve worked on there’s often been the following mantra on the business and editorial teams:

We want to our site to be part of our users’ lives.   We may be a quick, entertaining mid-day mental snack, but one our users can’t live without.   We want them to come back (practically) every day.

But there have been a number of times that I’ve run into the following pattern…a pattern that makes me wonder about the soundness of this goal.   I’ve reproduced it here using Quantcast data that’s in the public domain, starting with site ranked number 22 (Huffington Post) so as to exclude the very top-ranked utilities and running down to number 89, excluding sites that are not quantified or block access to their frequency data.   There are 32 sites on the chart – the point is that I wasn’t cherrypicking.

Quantcast Loyalty Data For 32 Highly-Ranked Sites - 6/28/2011

The chart breaks the number of pages per monthly visitor into two components, page views per visit across the x axis and visits per visitor across the y.   These are the two components of loyalty, how deep do people go into the site when they visit and how often they come to the site.

The striking thing is that all the sites fall into a narrow range on the visits/visitor axis.   Almost all fall between an average of 1 and 4 visits per month.   Of the 32 sites there are a couple of all of about 4.5 and 5.5 visits per visitor per month (those would be Tumblr and Drudge Report).   The pages per visit axis has the wider range, with the majority of sites in the 1-10 range and outliers into the low teens, one into the 20’s (Tumblr, 4share and Drudge Report).

The admitted flaw here is that I’m working with averages.   If you break down the average of 1-4 visits a month and look at the distribution of visits across visitors there are sure to be segments that visit the site every day, several times a day.

But my bet, looking at the averages, is that those highly loyal groups, in terms of visit frequency, will tend to be small, perhaps infinitesmal.  For the most part the online world is so noisy, there are so many options at people’s disposal, that it is difficult to generate visit frequencies to content sites of more than once a week or so.   The bigger driver of loyalty, the measure that creates more of a difference between the more sticky and more bouncy content sites, is how deep visitors go on each visit.   I believe the pattern implies…at least for content sites…that it is the pages/visit aspect of loyalty, the within session aspect, that deserves relatively more analytical and editorial focus.