Monday, April 27, 2009

The Secrets Your Bounce Rate Tells You

I don’t know about you, but I do a lot of online research and media monitoring on company web sites, blogs, online newspapers, product sites, etc. I Google everything and check out roughly 100 new web spaces each week.

Many of these sites have spent a fortune so they are on those first 2-3 Google pages when you type in a search term that is part of their business. But what most SEO firms don’t like to talk about is what happens when potential customers get to their site and can’t find what they are looking for.

Simple answer: You’ve wasted a lot of marketing money.

What does bounce rate mean? It measures the number of people who came to your site and never made it past the home page or as Google puts it “I came; I puked; I left." Bounce rate tells you what percentage of people weren’t impressed with what they found. Didn't think you were worth a second click.

Bounce rate is hard to misunderstand because the higher it is, the less effective your web site, blog, etc. is. Of course there will always be a small bounce rate but if you are exciting and engaging people in your site it should be pretty low.

It's a much more important measure than length of time on-site because people will forget to close all the windows they've opened and may leave some open all day.

Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro, a search engine marketing firm, said in a recent article that he likes to look at the differences in how people of different ages, gender, etc. react when they get to a page.

He pointed out two distinctive difference, and said there are many others.

1. How males scan a page versus females

2. How those who grew up online and those who didn’t search web sites.

How can you learn more about the way potential customers and other visitors react to your site? There's a tool that's pretty easy to use and it's free. In Google Analytics, check out your referring sites. Then visit them and find the source of how they are presenting your web site and the information it delivers. Find out which people, who came from which sites, stayed and those who bounced.

So what does this mean for marketers? More scrutiny. One client of mine tracks referring sites like he is mining gold, and in a way he is. Remember when PR wasn’t measurable? Now it is. He can look at the stories, mentions, etc. run about his company and see how much traffic it drove to his web site and how long it stayed. And we can make decisions on where we want to place stories based on the referral sites.

For instance, we’ve been using a regional strategy for one client and measuring how many hits they get from online stories in that market on the day and day after the story runs. It tells you a lot about the power of the story, the positive or negative slant (whether one or the other drove more traffic), and where he can get the most bang for his buck in the future.

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