Metrics in a Vacuum: Bounce Rate
Nov 9, 2016
Data in Context – It Matters
So, cards on the table. I started to write this blog post about something completely different. Ok, maybe not completely different, but it quickly spiraled in size and scope. Fortunately, before it got too far out of hand I realized that this was the piece I was really trying to write.
It happens. C’est la vie.
Anyways, I’ve been wanting to write about site metrics for a while, but have been struggling to focus on one area. Instead of writing one Magnum Opus on metrics (that nobody would really want to read, and that I can’t really bring myself to write, to be honest), I’ve decided to break it into a series of smaller pieces tackling a specific metric topic that I’m passionate about.
This time around, it’s bounce rate.
Turn Off the Vacuum
Ok, we’re not really talking about bounce rate, but it is the best example I have for the issue of companies not putting their data into the right context, instead viewing it in a vacuum of numbers on a screen.
So how does bounce rate prove my point? First, a little background on me.
Before moving into Content Strategy I spent years in SEO, where metrics and Google Analytics are everything. It’s why I’m still so data driven in my approach to Content Strategy. I loved it when my clients expressed an interest in looking at their data along with me, but I inevitably ran into some variation of this:
Wanting to know what’s going on with your metrics, such as bounce rate, is great. But understanding what those metrics mean, especially in the context of your business, is equally important – if not moreso.
Bounce Rate in Context
Ok, so how do we put bounce rate in context? Well, first we need to understand what bounce rate is. Kissmetrics has a great infographic to describe it, but it amounts to a visitor entering your site and leaving without visiting any other pages on your site.
A lot of site owners believe that you want users to visit as many pages on your site as possible, which in turn means that pages with a high bounce rate aren’t performing well. Some of that is because most people don’t know what constitutes a “high” bounce rate – the average is between 41%-55%, with some variance based on industry.
The other problem is that site owners forget the real purpose of any particular page on the site – to give the user what they need to take the next step. Sometimes that next step is visiting another page to get more information or complete a purchase.
Sometimes that next step is leaving the site.
Don’t believe me?
Chez Bounce Rate
Imagine that you’re looking up a restaurant online. There are probably only three or four pieces of information that you’re looking for – the address, the hours, a phone number to make reservations (assuming they’re not on a service like OpenTable), and maybe a representative menu.
Four pieces of information. That’s it.
While it’s true that a Google search can probably give you most of that information without having to actually click through to the site, let’s go ahead and assume that you have to visit a page to get the address and hours for the restaurant you’re interested in.
Chances are you searched for something along the lines of “Chez Bounce Rate address”. Assuming the restaurant has done an even passingly good job of designing their website, you’ll immediately be taken to a page that has that information, be it a Contact Us Page or something else.
Now that you have that information, what are you going to do? You might visit another page, check out the menu, but you already have what you came to the site for, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to leave the site. You’re going to bounce (pun intended).
Now, is that a Bad Bounce? No, they got the information they needed, left, and are now on their way to your restaurant. They bounced, but they also became customers.
What Does It All Mean?
Now obviously there are bad Bounces, and there are pages on your site that you don’t want to have a high bounce rate, making the question that started this whole thing a lot more reasonable.
There are steps to identifying and mitigating a high bounce rate – Marketing Land has a great piece on it that I recommend, but understanding what you want users to do on your site is key to putting metrics like bounce rate into context.
Creating a buyer’s journey before building your site helps to establish what paths you want users to take, and can help you to predict where users will bounce versus where they’ll abandon the site.
Also, establishing what metrics are important to you from a business standpoint and setting baselines – be it visits, sales, engagement, or yes, bounce rate, helps you to view your metrics in context by giving you something to measure against over time.
Doing these things, identifying your important metrics and creating a buyer’s journey, can help you identify which of the metrics you’re tracking are vanity metrics, which don’t have a business impact, and which are proxy metrics, which can show how a page or piece of content is performing.
Thoughts? Questions? I’d love to hear them – I’m @DasJorge.
Following graduating from George Mason University with a degree in English/Creative Writing, I joined the world of SEO in 2007. First as a copywriter in the wild west days of press releases and article repositories (EzineArticles...am I right?), then as a strategist, developing long-term solutions for local clients that helped them address the needs of their audience in meaningful ways. After jumping around the SEO agency world of Richmond, VA for several years I decided to go out on my own, forming my own agency in 2014 that blended aspects of SEO, content strategy, data analytics, and content marketing. Following my wife to North Carolina I’ve worked as a bartender, in-house SEO for the largest hammock manufacturer in the country, and finally ended up as a content strategist at Centerline Digital, using my decade of experience to build strategies for companies like IBM.