Bounce Rates on Google Analytics

google analytics bounce rate pages exits ratesI was just discussing what Bounce Rates were in Google Analytics and thought this could be a potentially confusing term and would be helpful to blog about. I also work with WebTrends .

We have a client that has a site with us that had a high bounce rate and a high exit rate. (50% for some pages) Anything above 20% would be something worth looking into in my opinion, but the differences change depending on the site, product, sales process and design so everyone has their owne level of normal as a benchmark and you try and improve from there.

They wondered if this Bounce Rate was an issue, as many clients would.

The thing is, it may not be an issue to have a high Bounce Rate because if people land on a product description page and then click to buy (or in our case, apply) is this really bad?

Well the qualifier for a Bounce Rate is that they viewed that one page and left. This does not include someone clicking on a link on the page to buy/apply. That would be an exit. They would not have viewed any other page on the site or interacted (clicked) anything else either. This bounce would be from hitting the back button or clicking the x button on the browser.

Exits from the site are considered people who have viewed more than one page and finished their visit. They may click to apply/buy or they may x-out of the window or they may reload the home page. (just a few of many examples) One tricky thing is when someone gets a site that launches a new window for a page you click on. That is typically an exit and new site visit. 

So, is this good or bad? For this client I think it is ok, because they are very stringent about who they are looking to hire and when people see the extensive requirements I am pretty sure most people would realize whether they had a shot at the job or not very quickly and either click forwards in the path to apply (on an Applicant Tracking System application site, (don’t ask, too many sites linked with too many processes)) or back out. It is very straight forward and very few other options are on the page.

How do you reduce bounce rates?

I never hear people talk about strategies to get more qualified traffic to these pages, I just hear about providing more info on the page to help them convert. That is a great strategy and if you can link exact search terms to the appropriate products/jobs with a page designed for one clear desired action then you are doing well. If you can suggest other related alternatives on the same page, maybe on the right sidebar, you are doing even better. If you have an email sign-up that says, not what you are looking for? Sign up here and we’ll email you when new ones come up. Great. But if you have a lot of traffic bouncing even then, you may want to look at the source. What words are your pages optimized for and why do those keywords not match what you’re providing or asking people to do? Maybe search is also not the right medium to find people based on the Google Insights search volume for that term and you are getting similar searches/clicks but not for what you offer. Maybe reel in the search efforts and go for more qualified means of finding these specific people like email, targeted display ads (by content/interest, behavior or location) or offline communication. (gasp!)

Remember Google Analytics (or any analytics package) is not just about a bunch of numbers and bunk. If you can’t figure out what the human behavior is behind the numbers or what the actual user/customer wants they don’t mean much of anything except that your site is up and running.

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SEO Update from Chicago

Everything just got a bit harder with the new Google Caffeine update for the search engine. If you haven’t heard about it yet you can check out the API to see how your website will rank in the new engine compared to the old engine.

I would say that most people began to understand the old engine in a logical way from experimentation over time and many businesses thought they were just “following the rules” building sites in a way that fit with that logic. Now the new engine will be completely different and all that work will be gone. I looked at some sites and saw how they will compare between the 2 and the results are a challenge.

One site went from 12th to 44th for a key search term. Another went from 5th to 23rd. It is almost universal that everyone who develops a business model around search will be hurt by the change whether they are spammy or not.

I am all for reducing and removing spam/affiliate networks/link schemes from google to reveal the real content but the actual companies with the products/services/tools that businesses and professionals use will be hurt by the update and some may suffer financially as a result. Google just doesn’t have the human ability and reasoning skills in a robot algorithm to tell whether a site is spam or not. They’re going after spam and hurting other legitimate businesses.

Investing in marketing might be something we start looking at like investing in stocks/bonds/401K/the market. They have had long standing recommendations on asset allocation between stocks/bonds/international funds/currency and other types of investments. They associate risk levels with each one and say things like; invest the percentage in bonds that matches your age or diversify and reallocate to maintain that level of diversification between investment types 2-3 times per year.

Investment Strategy with Marketing may look the same someday. SEO might bring in X% of revenue and cost Y% of budget but is highly risky, so you don’t invest as much in it, because it is all potentially going to vaporize when Google decides to update. Things like Branding on TV and Radio and Outdoor are more expensive and not trackable, but companies have been using them for decades and they are very low risk. You spend that money on awareness and people know who you are after that. PR is another wild card and social networking (viral) marketing is another component with low cost and high risk.

Companies may want to diversify their marketing and advertising dollars based on risk as well as the ROI because within a few clicks of a mouse in California, the entire web changes and all your efforts may go up in smoke. This idea definitley favors the old methods and in some ways, internet banner ads. Display advertising on the internet is way undervalued right now and people are also starting to look at ads online like they used to on TV. They are actually paying attention sometimes. The conversion rates have gone down on average, but for mainstream brands and trusted sites they are near 5% (up from .01% years ago) when you include post impression data (people who never clicked, but went to your site anyway).

So, I guess the mood I am feeling today is one that is cautious optimism about old advertising methods in light of Google pulling the rug out from under companies, in the way they always do. It doesn’t help that adwords pay per click costs are as high as $20 for many mainstream words and can go as high as $100 perclick. Then when the conversion rates are so low, nobody will pay that. Most of my clients are abandoning ppcads and someday may do the same with SEO. It just doesn’t pay.

Engagement Marketing Metrics, ROI & Open ID

I have been reading a lot about how conversion tracking isn’t enough data to make the best decisions and engagement is the new black. It is frustrating because no one defines engagement in the same way and no one can really tell you what it is.

I do agree though that engagement is the next evolutionary step in tracking onlinemedia for ROI purposes. I think the trouble people will have will be in customizing it rather than standardizing it. I think the meaningful parts of the process will be totally different depending on the company, the media, the process and the product.

What I consider the next thing for my own tracking purposes is prior ad exposures. This is an engagement metric for the ads leading up to conversion rather than site visitors for our own site. I don’t work with analytics usually or determine how to get someone to engage with a process over and over again. I do try and figure out ways to advertise affordably and get people to complete the conversion process. This prior exposures report should provide more insight into how many, where, when and how people come to the conversion site. I am thinking it should provide us information we won’t anticipate as well as show some information we knew would be there.

I am also a bit pissed off with this stupid marketing sherpa execuitive summary report. Pretty much everything written in it is complete bunk since there are a ton of caveats to each graph and I would bet more is according to how people track and assess results than how the media actually performs. If people would track media post impression they would see the value of banners rather than just for clicks. This is so frustrating until you see the data. Then it just makes sense.

People are influenced by banners (branding) and that whole banner blindness thing had to do with the crap companies that were allowed to buy ads with spammy business practices and scams.  They are still out there and as long as they are allowed because of corporate greed, people will keep ignoring some of the good ads for things they really do want and need. Targeting is part of the equation, but as far as targeting goes, we are still in the dark ages.

This brings me to another beef I have with the online ad industry right now. Everyone LOVES behavioral targeting, even if they don’t know what that means. (It has nothing to do with your behavior most of the time by the way.) It is a tracking of people who have been selected as a target by their profile info (Yahoo) or by visiting your site before and the ads follow you around on the web. The latter is the better way to do this (indicating actual interest rather than categorical inclusion) although we don’t know nearly enough about our target customers to really be able to target them online.

I am always asked why someone targeted for one category converts in an opposite one. Why? I have no F-ing clue dude! People are multi-faceted. They can belong to more than one interest or category even if marketers feel it shouldn’t be allowed. People have many aspects to their life and interests and they will always be that way. We won’t know all that data about them or how to process it for a long long long time.

That is what this stupid open ID thing will eventually lead to. A one stop shop for all your profiles and data so marketers can target you on hundreds of variables like what you do for fun, what you do for work and where you shop and live. (they have to sell out sometime) It would take literally hundreds of actual customer profiles to understand the marketability of each of these demographics, and then targeted messages to serve specifically to each profile type. It will take a few years to get there but I think it will get there sooner than I am personally ready for. I don’t know how to collect, assess or value those metrics about customers nor do I really want them targeting me like that.

Oy! Anyway, I am most interested in the overlapping cloud of ads that all influence someone to buy or sign up for something rather than I am in trying to figure out how to track a million personal profiles and target them with individual ads. Also, contrary to that stupid exec summary, pop-ups and unders still suck ass and you know it.

New Email Marketing Social Network Site

I am always interested in what other marketers have to say and are working on. There is always a lively debate about theory and practice of any marketing medium or method going on. Email marketing is also a huge success area for marketers and they debate heavily on what is best, worst and the new latest thing. Yes the email newsletter has still remained on top for providing push marketing messages out to consumers and creating conversions to purchase when there are sales goals to be met. We all get the “limited time only”, “huge sale” and “new product” emails from retailers and some of them actually work.

icontact logoThere is a new online social networking community just for email marketers now. It is from iContact. They are an email marketing management company. Someone you buy email management and sending services from to manage your email marketing process. They want marketers to not only use their management solutions, but to also log on and chat with other marketers. I think this will give both the marketers and iContact insight into what works and doesn’t work and what innovations are needed. The new iContact community is a lot like other social networks allowing people to rate and “digg” stories and content. There are also a lot of blogs and newsletters about email marketing that contribute there too. I have not done any email marketing for a while so I might go check it out just to keep up my knowledge up on this topic.

The web community service already has 120,000 registered members (so it is going strong) that are logged in and because it is a professional service they charge $9.95 per month. (this is something your company would most likely reimburse you for) Check it out to see what is new and working in email marketing right now. http://community.icontact.com