Strategic Web Designer
The Strategic Web Designer
The Case for the Web
1. Content First, Content Second
2. Use Unique URLs
3. Create Seamless Experiences
The Case Against Apps
1. Ecomonmic Oligarchy
2. Unnecessary Redundancy
3. NO URLs
What to do?
Understanding Bounce Rate
Because the term bounce rate describes traffic that moves away from your website, it’s often the metric that causes the most concern. What’s worse, some get overly focused on hitting a very particular percentage without thinking about where that percentage comes from and what it applies to.
The most important principle I have learned about bounce rate is so obvious it often gets completely ignored: The bounce rate only applies to traffic that landed on a page. Unfortunately, Google Analytics makes that principle a little too easy to ignore by sequestering landing page data in one report and commonly displaying visit and bounce rate values on most others. You see, a visit is any view of any page, but a landing is a visitor’s first view of any page on a website; all landings are visits, but not all visits are landings. To determine the exact number of bounces from a particular page, you must combine data from two different reports in Google Analytics - the Top Content report (or Content Detail report) and the Top Landing Pages report.
Google Analytics’ Top Content and Content Detail reports list the bounce rate along with the total number of unique visits but exclude landing data, creating the false impression that the bounce rate should be applied to the total number of visits. But as we’ve learned, the bounce rate should only be applied to the number of visitors that landed (first entered the site) on that page - often a much lower number than the total visits, which means that the bounce rate is also likely lower than you might initially conclude. By merging data from both the Content Detail and Top Landing Pages reports, you can create a new custom report of your own that will help you to better understand the traffic to any page.
Let’s explore an example to see how this works. I’m going to throw a bunch of numbers at you - real-world data, so they’re not going to be tidy, round numbers, either - as well as a bit of math, so just take it slow and stick with me.
The Content Detail report in Google Analytics will tell you about the activity on an individual page of your website.
The Content Detail report above tells me that a total of 5,863 unique visitors have come to an individual page on my site in the last month. Because this page was promoted midmonth (you can see the resulting spike of activity), I can assume that most of the visitors arrived to my website for the first time by landing on this page, but without checking the Top Landing Pages report, which will tell me the exact number, I won’t know for sure. In fact, I’m likely to apply the bounce rate shown on the Content Detail report (29.19 percent, which I’ll round down to an even 29 percent) to the total number of visitors, which would create the impression that 1,700 visitors bounced. That may be more than actually did bounce.
The Top Landing Pages report in Google Analytics will tell you about the pages that serve as entry points to your website for first-time visitors.
After checking out the Top Landing Pages report, I learn that 5,539 visitors landed on this page, slightly less than the total visitor number. Now, between these two reports, I want to be able to reconstruct the story of all the visitors to the page. I can do this by focusing in on the visit numbers, the bounce rate and also the percentage of visitors that exited the site after viewing this page (29.04 percent, which I’ll also round down to 29 percent).
My first step is to subtract the number of visitors who landed on this page from the total number of unique views of the page - that’s 5,863– 5,539, which leaves me with 324. If I apply the exit percentage (29 percent) to this number, I am left with only 93 - the number of visitors to this page who came to it from another page on our website but then decided to leave. This is different from the bounce rate, which, as I mentioned before, identifies the portion of landing traffic that left the site without viewing any other pages. To determine the number of bounces, I apply the bounce rate (29 percent) to the number of users who landed on this page (5,539), which gives me 1,606 bounces. This is less than I thought before investigating the landing traffic data.
By doing this bit of math, I now know that out of the total 5,863 visitors to this page, 5,539 entered my site for the first time on it (landed), 1,606 left right away (bounced), 93 left our site from this page after having viewed other pages (exited) and 4,164 continued from it on to other pages. Now 1,606 is only 23 percent of the total traffic to this page, leaving 4,257 others that at least saw some additional content on my site - that’s 73 percent of its total traffic.
As you can see, separating the data and doing a little bit of work to get the numbers right is worthwhile. If I hadn’t done this, I probably would have assumed that a 29 percent bounce rate (granted, a very low rate) for my web page meant that 1,700 of its visitors bounced, when in reality, 1,606 of them did. That may seem like an insignificant difference, but consider this: The difference is not just a number, it is 94 more people than the Content Detail report made it seem. In human terms, discovering an additional 94 people that were exposed to your message is very significant!
What DOes This Mean For Conversions?
Measurement Is a Way of Life
The Three Big Questions
1. Who is driving traffic to my site?
2. What are the most popular pages on my site?
3. How many of my site’s visitors leave unsatisfied?
Google Analytics does a great job of presenting a vast array of data in many meaningful reports, but those reports can also be confusing or not quite configured to tell the particular story you’re looking for. With that in mind, I’m often inclined to pull the data out of Google Analytics and into another context in order to make the connections I need to see in order to discern what’s actually going on with my website’s traffic. Fortunately, Google Analytics offers the ability to export any report in just about any document format you might need.
I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of exporting Google Analytics data. You just won’t be able to make certain connections by only viewing isolated reports - particularly if you’ve been doing basic website measurement for a few years now and are ready to go deeper. Sometimes, in order to answer the more meaningful questions you have about your site, you’ll need to create your own reports that draw from multiple analytics sources. It was by doing this that I came to an interesting conclusion about how referral traffic actually converts. In order for those conclusions to make sense, however, I need to clarify a few things about bounce rates.