Here’s a vision to help you imagine how your website treats its visitors. To make this complete it needs a bit of audience participation. Sorry. So first off print out the pages of your website that your Google Analytics Account tells you are visited the most. Then lay them out on the floor in front of you. Now sit back, look skyward and use your imagination to “see” people falling down from your office ceiling onto these pages.

For most websites the trail of falling people will be concentrated upon your home page. However, if you have a highly optimised website then you should see people falling on many of the pages in front of you. These falling people are your site’s visitors. The pages they land on are what Google calls – guess what – your landing pages.

If your home page does its job well then you should see people rebound from this page to another, and ideally another one too as they move around your site. Problems with your home page could have them bouncing from it out of the site, never to touch a page again.

The percentage of those who arrive on your home page and bounce away never to return is what Google Analytics calls the home page bounce rate. With this stat, the lower the better. Some of our customers have home page bounce rates below one percent. Others struggle with 50% or higher. The main task of your home page is to welcome and help your visitors find what they are looking for. Therefore, if there is one page that should have the lowest bounce rate of all your pages, it’s this one.

To recap, we have imaginary people falling from your office ceiling and bouncing on your print outs. Some rebound from one page to another, others bounce out never to be seen again. The percentage of those who come to one page and leave forever is your website’s bounce rate. A target value here is between 20 and 40%.

Thankfully, not all visitors leave immediately. Some will rebound from page to page and then choose to leave. The page from which they decide to leave is called the Exit Page. Your Contact Us page could be very effective and still have a very high Exit Rate, as it’s where people find your phone details before placing an order – and then leaving your website.
With this understanding of Bounces and Exits we can learn some valuable things about our website’s traffic. Here are just three.

Golden Coated Visitors

Some of those imaginary falling people may be worth more than others. For instance, they may have come after clicking on your paid advert. Each falling person who did this cost you, say, a dollar. Let’s imagine they have a gold tinge to them as they arrive, so they stand out. As they fall onto your website you are crossing your fingers hoping they rebound onto another page and don’t bounce out. Google Analytics will tell you what percentage of them do as you want, and how many bounce.

The bounce rate of your Paid Advertising traffic should be below your site’s average. If it’s not, perhaps you are bidding on the wrong keywords. Or you could be bidding on the right keywords but directing people to the wrong part of your site.

Or – and this is the hardest issue to deal with of all – you could be bidding on the right keywords, and pointing traffic to the right page, but delivering the wrong information of effect. Whatever the issue, Google Analytics will let you drill right down to individual keywords to resolve these issues.

Visitors Taking Exits That Shouldn’t be There

I’ve written before on the 80/20 principle and how it applies to online marketing. When it comes to your website content 20% of your pages will produce 80% of results. So for a 50 page website, that means 10 pages will do all the heavy lifting.

Within those pages will be a few where the Exit count is way higher than it should be. (Remember, an Exit is when someone leaves your site after arriving from a previous page.) In some cases, these may be pages where the visitor needs to make a decision.

“Should I keep shopping or check out?” or “Do I log in here, set up a new account or even shop as a guest?” Decisions, decisions – and then the phone rings. Or it all gets a bit too hard and with the click of a mouse they are gone. Damn. Add one more Exit to their count.

So why do they leave? And how can you make those decisions easier, quicker or even remove them altogether from the process?

Never Exited – Never Bounced

Following on from the 20% analogy, there will be pages that do a great job of moving visitors to other pages, helping to forge new conversions. These are the golden pages of your website, the glue that binds your visitors to your site as they journey from the first page to the final page of your conversion process.

The job with these is twofold. First, you can improve their already impressive performance by comparing the best of them with the next tier down. What makes the top ones so good? Is it product selection, or good use of copy?

Then you can compare the great with the poor. Again, looking at the e-commerce example, what has this production category page do such a good job compared to others?
Yes I know that these are just two metrics from the many provided by Google Analytics. But guess what. The 80/20 theory applies in this space too. These two are in my list of the 20% of metrics that provide 80% of the insight available from looking at your reports.

Why not take time next month to look at these metrics in more detail? What is the bounce rate of your home page? How does it fare when compared to your site’s average? Too high? Perhaps move some content around – or add to what’s there to entice people to move deeper into your site. And, of course don’t hesitate to give us a call if any of this makes your head spin or if you need a second opinion.