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.

National Marketing Email Unsubscribe Day September 1st on Labor Day

Get your life back (and time) from your inbox. Unsubscribe from email newsletters and marketing messages on Labor Day September 1st.

I am proposing that everyone take (an hour or so of) time on Labor Day to clean out your overloaded email boxes and unsubscribe to the emails you always delete or file to read and never come back to. If you have not read it in a month or longer or you delete the email newsletter or marketing messages every time you see them, just scroll down to the end of the email window and click the unsubscribe link.

I think that everyone has the best intentions when they subscribe to email newsletters and marketing messages. I have subscribedto a lot of them over the years and only this week did I finally get to my breaking point when hundreds of messages were commonplace after only a few days away from the computer. Most were from companies I had purchased things from in the past, social networking sites that send you an email every time something happens, blogs which send updates via feedblitz and news sites that send news and links as they happen. Oh and the ubiquitous google alert on anything I was a fan of or working on at that moment. There were also some marketing newsletters from publications that write about the industry that I work in but as time has gone on some were relevant and others, not so much. Sometimes you also have to subscribe to and email newsletter in order try it and see what info they send. If you get all kinds of stuff that isn’t helpful, it’s time to unsubscribe.

I am guessing I unsubscribed to around 100 email newsletters. Everything from travel sites with airfare updates to flights to Paris to the Anthropologie and Nordstrom sale newsletters. (I’m sad to see those go but I never buy anything there, too expensive) I aim to take back the 3-4 hours a week it took to weed through all these alerts and updates on everything from celebrity news to Chicago entertainment options. I still get some alerts and some emails I am actually using but we will see if I can weed it out further and regain another hour of my week back.

If you think about it, you only have so much free time after work and why would you want to be mildly entertained by marketing messages when you could be out living your life? Or writing your own email messages to real live humans.

Update: I went from 150 messages in a weekend and 100 messages a day to 45 messages in a weekend and about 40 messages per day in the email account that was in question. I still have another email account I have not completley pruned and my work email that also needs pruning but this is a start! Information overload and email overload have been taking place too long. I aim to get my time and life back.

Update: I just spent the last 2 months ignoring this email box after it was initially pruned. What happened? I got 2,000 email messages and had to spend my christmas vacation cleaning it out. I took about 3 hours on 12/20 and about 3 hours on 12/29 to read, skim, file, delete and unsubscribe through this list of 2,000 emails. I also had to change alerts to weekly from daily and reroute some newsletters that are useful to a new email address I use more often. I hope now that the box won’t need as much maintenance but as soon as I get the list down more marketers seem to get my address and start emailing me. Most of what I unsubscribed from today was newsletters I never signed up for in the first place. Some were others I had a hard time letting go of (Etsy and Chicago Mom’s Blog) but knew it wasn’t going to get read.

Are you going to unsubscribe to more emails in 2009?

Email management for overloaded email boxes circa 2008

I have noticed I spend a lot of time sifting through email these days. I have several accounts for different purposes and they fill up quickly with both subscriptions I have started and a lot of spam I never requested. I know that spam is just the price we pay right now for an app like email, but I hope that someday the spammers are put out of business because of the awful things they do stealing identities and personal information.

Anyway, my post wasn’t supposed to be about spam. It was about email volume circa 2008. I do get a lot of spam, and because one email address I have dates back to 1996 that one gets about 50% spam.  The spam filter I have does catch about 80% of it but the other 20% is annoying and dangerous.

The other 60% of that old email address mail is a lot of subscriptions since I am more likely to read an email than go find a bookmark of a blog every few days. The web based email is about 25% spam and the work email is maybe 1% spam, they are pretty good at blocking it.

I found this feedblitz and email update technology immensely helpful in the beginning since I check email anyway and it was a way to kill 2 tasks with one stone. Now though, things have gotten out of hand. I estimate that I get about 200 emails per day between 3 accounts. That is a bit more than I intended. True, it may be time to unsubscribe to some newsletters and updates but then it might go down to 150. Knowing this, you might understand why I gave up on RSS feeds in 2004.

Email is just too ingrained into our business and consumer culture as a communication medium. Or at least it is for Gen-Xers like myself. I do feel the pressure of the millennials and Gen-Yers to go to a social networking communication platform and I have profiles on all the major sites with plenty of contacts/friends but it’s just not home base for me. For a while one circle of people I knew were using MySpace as a hub for communication, but they were in the Arts, as many MySpacers are. Now that I no longer have time for extra cirricular activities I have lost touch with them and my MySpace page. I also have an online client email I use for personal stuff and of course the ubiquitous work email. I also have a 4th email that I don’t use because 3 is really enough.

I was reading this article today about how people manage their emails and BAM it was exactly how I managed them without me even really thinking about how I categorize things. Literally things just evolved the way they worked best over the past 10 years. The old old email became a place for all the sign ups you had to complete for one reason or another, login info for registrations and updates and such but not time sensitive stuff because I moved my most critical emails over to the web based email when it got too cluttered and I wanted to be able to access it anywhere rather than just at home on my computer in outlook. The second web based email also became a place to move personal communication off the work email account since in the beginning there was no line between them and then there suddenly was one day in about 2004. The work account also gets some alerts and such but only work related. (yes, that’s a blurry line since its online media and marketing that I work in)

Overall, I was surprised that I fit their archetype “to a tee” and that I evolved this way without even thinking of it. The gen-x and gen-y people have a hard time separating work from personal (especially if you work in onlinemedia, its all online anyway at the click of a mouse, it only takes a second!) and this will only provide harder in the future as more is expected of us as we balance family and work all in less time. I hope this setup satisfies the need for different urgencies, disclosures and personalizations of emails as well as productivity and time management. All this digital overload is consuming in a very empty way really. I feel like I must look through all this and read it every day yet very little is really going to impact my work or my life. I am mostly off email on weekends and I find it not that different but I have more time suddenly. Hmmm…must pare down email newsletters soon.

I have a compulsion to keep my email boxes cleaned out once a day and reply to anything that needs it from work or personal in 24 hours. I wonder if I will be able to keep that up in the future and if I will have to integrate more mandatory social networking at some point to keep up with those 10 years younger than me? 

I also recently started using the rescue time application to log and review where I am in a day and how much is actually spent on email and work. I have since cut my work email time in 1/2 and ditto for the personal email also. It’s a good application for self time management, but I wouldn’t want to use it for work purposes officially. I like that I have control over it and am not evaluated based on it since I have my days where I am not as productive. But the application helps me get back on track and out of the funk quicker.

As a consumer do I like being emailed by companies? Sometimes yes. If I opt in to your email I may be marginally or really interested in hearing from you depending on how much your product fits my life and work. If the emails provide no help or relevance whatsoever, they will get deleted and unsubscribed within a few months. If you send me discounts, new product info or other locally relevant information or content I am really into that helps me do my job, I am happy to read and click to help your ROI. I think email is better than direct mail because of the targeting and the lack of paper it uses. (save the trees) I would much rather an email from most companies than a flyer in the mail box. Plus it gives me the control to turn it off when it’s no longer relevant. Trust me, I will re-subscribe if the situation changes, I am a newsletter nut, that is for sure. And I think my generation is in general. But don’t expect us to buy-buy-buy stuff just because you emailed it to us. If we don’t need or want it we just consider the offer and decide no this time. It’s ok, we will find you when we need it, even if it is a month or two from now. And frequency is an issue. I am annoyed by some weekly emails because how often do you really need to know about the same product over and over again? Monthly is fine, or how about every other week?  

So, all of this is kind of my unwritten rules of email, work and business, and I hope that we continue to figure things out to make communication and information finding more efficient and less time consuming while still productive. Now if I could only find a way to maintain 3 blogs more efficiently too.

Presidential Primary, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Political Campaign Marketing

I am usually not very political and hate how spin and vicious attacks are used to sway people’s opinion when they have little or no impact on the job that someone would do. That aside I am interested in seeing who will win this next presidential election in the U.S. and how the marketing that their campaigns do impacts the outcome.

The first thing I noticed was that all the campaigns for the presidential primary elections and Iowa caucuses were utilizing Email. Rudy Giuliani used it the least (once a week is not enough) and Ron Paul was the most primitive with text only messages that seemed to be hand written after each event, but everyone got out the info about donating this way. I noticed that Barack Obama and Jon Edwards slowly built up momentum with emails supporting the increase in number of stories they had covered in the press. Hillary Clinton (Billary) has been sending a deluge of daily emails since about 6 months ago. I would say she has over-used this medium. I am almost becoming immune to the emails now and not even reading them anymore. I did think it was a nice touch that Rudy Giuliani sent an email thanking everyone after he dropped out of the race and another one a few days later asking his supporters to join the McCain camp. It was very classy and genuine.

Online they seem to really try and use banners to advertise their sites and not the issues, but I haven’t run across that many banners or display ads yet since I don’t hang out on political sites all that much. On TV they seem to be targeting the states and DMAs where there are primaries but I think national ads will be seen soon. I just hope they remain positive because there is much more to be gained in voter enthusiasm from a carrot rather than a stick. Text ads in search have also been utilized but I don’t think they have been as targeted or flexible as they should have been. They aren’t taking advantage of the customize-able real time edit-ability of these ads. All the candidates really need someone on the bus listening to issues and going to events that can be online at that moment and customizing campaigns to reflect the outcome. Plus a team in the background analyzing and optimizing the campaigns based on tracking conversion to donation data. One guy who does this as a second job and isn’t even very good at it isn’t the right solution. Barack, you’re just giving your money away for nothing with this one. 

The news publication/blog/press/PR area is another world all together. I feel like they all try and court this market the most and rely on these writers to transmit their message. The thing is not everyone watches or reads the news. I almost never do, because I am never home. Plus these writers are pretty willy nilly all over the place with what they cover and how frequently. They write about whatever the big thing is that moment and after the day the story runs, the buzz is gone. (plus a lot of it is fluff) It’s forgotten and on to the next big thing. It’s just so short. You have to keep churning out notable stories or always be the front runner to benefit from this medium. I would find this very frustrating to be over saturating a small market/audience of people with messages that are fleeting, confusing and less meaningful rather than building a real relationship with them over time or examining the issues and candidates in depth once and getting a final vote.

An alternative medium being used more this election than ever before is the use of political humor shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and late night shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. These shows give politicians an audience of voters who may not watch or read news because they are disengaged or apathetic. If they are light on issues and come across as like-able, funny and can take a joke making fun of themselves they may gain some votes this way from people who vote by like-ability rather than issues. I see the blur between news and entertainment blurring further in the future and this will continue to be a tactic in future campaigns.

I assume direct mail was a part of the mix although I didn’t get any mailings locally or nationally for the primary in Illinois. Lawn signs and outdoor signage in general always plays a big role leading up to the last month and days before an election. So do volunteers. This is really the backbone of the marketing organization. The enthusiasm, scripts message and overall level of performance of these cold callers and door knockers can make or break the candidate’s chances in local and primary elections. So do the quality and clarity of the leave behind brochures. They must differentiate your candidate from the others and make clear why they will be the best candidate in real terms for the voter.

Anyway, I will be watching and waiting as per usual to see how this comes out in the end. Who will you be voting for and why?

New Travel Site Contest for Key West

There is a new travel web site called Trusted Tours and Attractions that is having a contest drawing for free tour tickets from all the people who sign up for it’s new e-newsletter. I thought I would mention it in case you wanted a chance to win 4 tickets for the tour of your choice in the city of your choice. It doesn’t cost anything to enter.

For example if I won I might go to Key West because it’s warmer than Chicago this time of year and I have never been there. I am a fan of white beaches and crystal blue water and it looks like they have plenty of that there. I am sure it would be great to get away from the oppressive cold here for a while, but if I left I probably wouldn’t want to come back until around April or May. In Key West the Tropical Bike Tour looks like fun. I have been bike riding around here a bit and it’s a nice way to see things slow enough to enjoy them and cover more ground than walking. The Glass Bottom Boat also looks interesting with it’s view of the coral reef and I am sure that the Butterfly Conservatory would be great for taking pictures. All in all it’s a better place to be than Chicago right now.

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