Bouncing to a Better Web Design

Bob Dumouchel

One way to incrementally improve your web design is by listening to your data, and nothing in that voice is louder than bounced traffic. My comments assume that your web site is not designed to bounce. Some sites use a page where the entire web experience is designed to be one page long and that by design is 100% bounce. While I am not a fan of these squeeze pages, they do exist and they wreck the data that we are discussing. The majority of sites are designed so that the visitor will interact with the page if they become engaged by the message; hence a bounce is a bad thing.

A bounce is when a visitor lands on your page and then leaves without interacting with the page. When a visitor advances within your design, we refer to that as an engagement because they were exposed to the landing page and they were interested enough to interact with your site. This is the first step in a long journey called a conversion.

So why do visitors bounce? There are many answers to this one but the most common is that their immediate response to the landing page is that they are not interested. Much of this comes from a mismatch within the chain of conversation.  If you think about the journey of the visitor, they started with a search on a specific word followed by a response to a listing. They then land on a page that is connected to that link, and if the page is of interest then engagement is possible.  The sad truth is that most web pages fail to engage the visitor because they fail to consider the start of this conversation.  If your page jumps directly to talking about what is of interest to you without considering what is of interest to your visitor that is just rude. The typical visitor reaction to rudeness is that they leave with a negative impression of your business.

One error we find all the time is a client breaking a conversation chain.  A conversion chain is simply a series of items that make up the conversation you are having with this visitor. The example I use of a bad conversation is a person who searches for “Men’s Italian Shoes”, clicks on an ad for “Men’s Italian Shoes” and lands on a beautiful home page with a hot special on Women’s sweaters 9 clicks from the “Men’s Italian Shoes”.  This traffic will often bounce because you are not paying attention to the conversation and you changed the subject. The solution to this is really simple since the product does exist you simply change the landing page of the ad to the “Men’s Italian Shoes” page.

To find where you might have this problem, go to your Google Analytics and look at your average bounce rate. You need this as a reference point because as crazy as it makes all of us, some degree of bounce is simply unavoidable. Now that you know your average:

Drill into Account:

  • Click on Traffic Sources
  • Click on Search Engines
  • Set your dates for at least 90 days
  • Set first data dimension to “Keyword”
  • Set second data dimension to “Landing Page”
  • Look for the ones that are higher than average

The bottom of your screen should look like this:

Next, look for any shared words within the keyword data and filter your results using the containing or excluding tool at the bottom of the screen to get as large of a data sample as you can. Many times you will have many versions of the same logical search and bringing them together like this will show you patterns that you cannot see when the data sample is too small. The simple way to do this is just take a keyword that is performing poorly and filter on each word in the keyword and watch the totals. You will be amazed how this simple process will show you things you need to know.

Filter Settings

Filters can use a pipe | as shown here to include or exclude more than one word and the pipe | represents an “Or” condition while a space is an “And” condition.

Filter Example:

  • Google|Content =  Keyword contains either Google or Content
  • Google Content = Keyword contains the phrase “Google Content”

The example above reads exclude keywords with the word “Google” or “Content” with the word. This is important since when you are working with keywords you typically want to exclude content network traffic. There are many ways to do this but this is simple quick and handy.  If you really want to have some fun with your data play with the advanced filter option and you will find all sorts of things to think about.

Next, expand your dimension to include the landing page to see what page that keyword connected to. Then shift the second dimension to Ad Content so you can see the headline they reacted to. At this point you have a good idea of the conversation chain and you have to ask yourself – How did you do? Since you are dealing with a high bounce rate the answer is poorly and the question is rhetorical.

Now comes some tough questions:

  • Is the traffic volume high enough to justify making changes?
  • How can you improve the experience based on this new data?
  • Will the cure be worse than the illness?

This last question is where organic and paid traffic has to separate because in Adwords, you control where the traffic goes but in organic it goes where Google says it goes. If you are going to try and fix organic traffic, please make sure that you look at all the keywords going to that landing page before you start throwing changes onto that page. Life is full of compromises and nowhere is that more true than in organic traffic.

The purpose of this article was not to make you an expert in this process but to get you started thinking about how this impacts your business. As you explore your data, you will open a whole world of opportunities but there are also risks to consider.

Remember there are a thousand ways to drive traffic to your site – all of them are hard. If this was easy, everyone would do it and there would be no competitive advantage.