It was silly of you to come, but stay awhile

In the quest for audience, we live by what marketing  whiz Seth Godin calls "silly traffic."

One time visitors who hit a site for a few seconds and are gone. This site, for example, has a high number of them.

The Google Analytics average for the last month is a bounce rate of 79.26 percent and average time on the site of 40 seconds.

Godin says that's not where publishers should be focused:

I think it's more productive to worry about two other things instead.

1. Engage your existing users far more deeply. Increase their participation, their devotion, their interconnection and their value.

2. Turn those existing users into ambassadors, charged with the idea of bring you traffic that is focused, traffic with intent.
Eric Berlin picks up on that thread and offers some advice on building a focus audience.

I suppose the simple and not terribly magical answer is to write great content consistently, network with publishers and influential types who write similar kinds of content (and read and engage on their sites), and then hope to get linked.
Part of a strategy around focused audience is generating high return visits and part of it is finding new visitors who will become part of the community of focused audience.

It takes a goodly amount of silly traffic to do that. In this site's case in the last month, three-quarters are new visitors. But the number of returning visitors and the number of RSS subscribing is growing.

Berlin says he's a stat fiend. I'm not so much for just enjoying numbers and charts, but I do believe in severely overweighting credence to what people do than what they say they do, and web stats may be the best watching tool ever invented.

As Berlin says, it starts with great content, it continues with marketing (inbound links being but one form), but it also has to include learning and appreciating what the community of focused readers or users find engaging about the site.

Compared to the 40 second average visit on this site, returning visitors over the last month have stayed a minute and 43 seconds per visit. That's a huge difference.. Godin says the goal is build the number of readers who return and linger; not those who bounce in and out.

What those loyal users/readers are focusing on can sometimes surprise you. And that's why you, too, should be a stat fiend.

A couple more resources:

Avinash Kaushik: Standard Metrics Revisited: #3: Bounce Rate
Joshua J. Steimle: What's an Average or Typical Bounce Rate?