Yes, you’re right, this is a blog post about website bounce rates, but no, you haven’t gone back 10 years – it’s still as valid an online marketing metric today as it has ever been – or is it?
I’ve long been a fan of keeping an eye on bounce rates when analysing campaign performance and have often used it to identify what I perceived to be problem landing pages on my sites.
A fairly substantial discussion took place in the Coast Digital online marketing office recently as to why the bounce rate on a particular landing page had increased substantially. Opinions varied tremendously leading me to the conclusion that my unswerving belief in bounce rates as a definitive website performance metric, was at best, flawed.
The idea that was floated in the office was that visitors bouncing from a landing page can do so for a huge number of subjective reasons that are not directly under the site owner’s control. Therefore it was argued, no matter how attractive, well-written, targeted and relevant the page was, there were also a lot of external factors that could contribute.
It’s been my belief during my time as an online marketing professional, that high bounce rates could be reduced by making sure the landing page offered sufficient incentive and opportunity for the visitor to delve further into the site, and also that it was relevant to the ad/link/keyphrase that had delivered the visitor in the first place.
But let’s face it, different types of visitor bounce for different reasons. Unless we can identify very clearly defined groups of visitors and provide them with their own tailored version of a page, then even the most ardent fan of bounce rate as a useful metric would struggle to prevail in a discussion about the metric’s relevance.
I’m now beginning to come to the conclusion that it is very useful as a guide, like many other metrics. But is it really necessary to take action on a landing page (sometimes based on one person’s opinion) just because your bounce rate has crept up on that page?
I’ll still keep an eye on bounces for all my online marketing activity, but I’m not going to blindly recommend page changes unless I have combined evidence that the page is underperforming.
I guess the discussion will run and run . . . and the conversion rate optimisation exponents will scream ‘Test, test, test’!! – I’ll cover that in another post at another time!
Feel free to try and convince me either way on bounce rates – are they really a metric that should be followed and acted on without hesitation? Or are they simply too subjective to act upon with any degree of confidence?