Marketers, What You Don't Know About Bounce Rates May Hurt You

  |  November 16, 2010   |  Comments   |  

Many marketers are hung up on high bounce rates. Let's dissect how it will affect your corporate sites and campaigns.

Bounce rates have become a pretty standard way for people to assess the quality of the traffic hitting their website. Google Analytics and Web Analytics Association define bounce rates simply as any user session on your site that accesses only one single page. It is widely considered that a low bounce rate is desirable and anything more than 50 percent is very bad indeed. Many marketers have got hung up on this number and the concept of a high bounce rate being a bad thing.

Consider this - in marketing, our job is to communicate. In fact, to communicate as much of our sales message as we can in the attention window offered to us by various ad formats. This applies online and offline. The challenge is to deliver as much sales messaging as we can to a person before they move on. It seems a little unrealistic to make people work to receive our sales message. If you go to a website and it requires you to visit multiple pages when you key in a very specific search term, the user experience is very frustrating. I think we have all been there.

As Web marketers, when we move users from page to page, we lose a percentage of them. So we have developed the landing page to deliver information more smoothly to the user requiring minimum page changes. For marketers, forcing users into multiple page sessions can be undesirable.

So which is it? Do we want sticky users or a slick user experience?

I have a funny feeling when this talk of bounce rates being bad began it was addressed to bloggers. Bloggers want to raise their personal profiles and gain as much traffic on their sites as possible. For a blogger, a bounce rate over 50 percent is probably quite undesirable.

Another thing to consider is Google's algorithm penalises pages with high bounce rates in itsr organic site rankings. This makes high bounces a bad impact on your search marketing.

This is a perplexing problem. On the one hand, if we design our campaigns to make our target audiences access multiple pages, we run the risk of communicating in a sloppy manner that frustrates and loses people along the way. On the other hand, our search rankings will suffer if we run a successful campaign to a well-designed landing page that communicates in a single page visit. The problem is compounded when your landing page drives traffic to a third-party application like a shopping cart, payment gateway or data partner, or anything on a separate domain.

The answer, once you have identified problems, is self-evident.

Your main corporate site should be designed with an open navigation that encourages deep venturing into the site. This will help your organic search rankings and let people who wander in the front door of your website gain easy access to various parts of the site. When you run a marketing campaign, you should use landing pages.

Strategic landing pages linked to marketing campaigns should be on a different domain to the corporate site, not on a sub-domain. They should be on a different domain altogether. This will allow you to encourage direct access to the information a user requires without you requiring them to visit multiple pages. This will not penalise your organic search rankings at the expense of user experience.

In many cases, bounce rate is not a great way to measure the quality of the traffic on your marketing campaigns. If bounces are just single sessions, how do you assess the quality of the traffic on your campaign or site?

Honestly, I don't have a simple answer. There are some very advanced analytics programmes out there that may look into the traffic in more useful ways. What I can say is using basic Web analytics is going to give you incomplete information and the insights you may gain from it are highly questionable.

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Matt Harty

Originally from Australia, Matt has lived in Asia for over 20 years. He started in the Internet in 1997 as the co-founder and employee No. 1 for SpaceAsia Media, the first Pan-Asian ad network founded in Asia. SpaceAsia sold in 2000 to Engage Inc. (CMGi) with Matt staying on after the sale. In 2003, he founded Activ8 Worldwide as a JV with Outblaze Ltd, which handled global media sales for, Sanrio Digital (Hello Kitty), the Opera browser, plus a number of other leading brands. After the sale of Activ8's primary assets, Matt took a board director's seat on the Malaysia listed Oriented Media Group Berhad. In 2009, he took a position at News Corporation's FOX Networks as VP, Asia Pacific and Middle East. He is now general manager at Accuen, part of Annalect, Omnicom Media Group's business unit to lead the trading desk in Asia. Connect with Matt on Google+.

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