The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Sense of Blog Bounce Rate


Understanding Blog Bounce Rate This is the fourth post in my series on Bounce Rate, which is one of my favorite metrics in web analytics. Many online marketers are concerned with Bounce Rate, which makes a lot of sense since you can learn a lot from this metric… I've recently received many questions about Bounce Rate and how it relates to blog posts, so I thought it would be a good idea to address this topic in a post of my own. Let’s call it “adding context to your blog's bounce rate”.

There are 4 components to this post:
1. Your Blog Philosophy and Goals
2. Your Writing Style and How It Matches the Drivers of Your Readers
3. Related Content
4. Track and Learn

Your Blog Philosophy and Goals:
Determine the goal for your blog. BEFORE you start to analyze bounce rate for your blog posts, you should think about your overall blog philosophy and determine your goals. For example, is your goal to educate readers and to answer questions, are you trying to generate a large readership, will your blog help you sell products or services, is it a key mechanism for getting people to contact you, are you interested in building high search engine rankings, etc? Clearly understanding your goals will help you bring context to the bounce rate of your blog posts. To give a quick example, if your goal is to provide breaking news to your readers, then bounce rate might not be as important as you think. Why? Well, if someone finds your blog post about the latest widget update and they quickly visit the post, check out the breaking news, and then leave, is that bad? No, but that’s technically a bounce. Or, if they find your blog post and immediately choose to subscribe to your RSS feed, is that good or bad? It all depends on your goal... So, stop reading this post for a few seconds and think about the goal of your blog. Then write it down on a sticky note and place that on your desk somewhere you can easily see it. We’ll be referring back to it shortly.

The Angle of Your Blog Posts and the Key Drivers of Your Readers:
Now, let’s take a look at some different types of content and how they match up with the key drivers of your readers. There are a lot of reasons why people visit blog posts and you should try and understand your readers as much as possible in order to provide the best possible experience for them, which in turn, should lead to supporting the goal of your blog. Again, we need to bring context to your bounce rate situation. Note, there are obviously many types of blog posts, but the ones listed below are based on my experience helping clients and working on my own blogs.

Different Types of Blog Posts and Their Effect on Bounce Rate (based on my experience)

1. Educational Posts (Teaching Your Readers Something of Value)
Blog posts that teach your readers something of value. If you know that your readers want to learn something from you, then you have a great chance to provide additional educational content on your blog that would interest them. The key here is to understand what specific topics your readers are interested in based on your analysis, then write high quality posts that focus on that topic, and then provide links to relevant content on your blog. If you understand what your readers want to learn, then there's a good chance they will consume a lot of content on your blog that relates to that topic. And, they will appreciate it…finding your blog a great source of information about an important topic for them.

Educational Posts = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

2. Focused Entertainment and Isolated Stories
Bill Maher Throws Audience Member Out and Receives over 2000 diggs for it. Some readers simply enjoy finding interesting posts, even if they are very focused and/or isolated. They might love funny blog posts, shocking or disturbing blog posts, unique stories, entertaining posts, misc. facts, weird photos, parodies, etc. If you provide blog posts like this, you might notice higher bounce rates for that specific content. It’s not that readers don’t like you or your posts, it’s just the nature of the content. That said, you still might notice a lot of activity and links (which is a good thing). Think about it, let’s say someone is on digg and clicks through a story to view a video of Bill Maher kicking people out of his audience. You wrote a great post about what happened and how this affects journalists that work in Live TV. You might notice a high bounce rate with this type of post, since the focus might be on finding and watching the video and not on the blog or blog author in question. At this point, look at the sticky note I told you to create a few minutes ago and see how it matches up with the goal of your blog… You might have built 1000 links to your blog from that one post, but no RSS subscriptions. Is that good or bad? Good for organic search, but bad for building readership. Again, it depends on your goal...

Focused Entertainment = Good Chance of High Bounce Rate, but More Eyeballs and Links

3. Product and Service Reviews
Blog posts that provide product or service reviews. Providing reviews based on your expertise is a great way to build a loyal following. The beauty of the web (and blogging and social media), is that you can find reviews from normal, everyday people who will typically give you an honest opinion of a product or service. Readers interested in reviews tend to also follow related content until they have the confidence to make an informed decision. For example, if you review an iPhone and then also review a Blackberry Curve, there’s a great chance readers looking for this type of content will read both posts (as long as you let them know the additional content is there!) More on this later. It makes sense if you think about it. Put yourself in their shoes…you are about to spend a few hundred dollars, you aren’t sure if it’s right for you, and you just found a person like you providing a real-world review without marketing spin. There's a reason that Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is as hot as it is now.... Just make sure you find the right blogger…

Product or Service Reviews = Excellent Chance of Low Bounce Rate

4. Blog Posts that Benchmark
Blog posts that benchmark. We’ve all wanted to find blog posts explaining the best way to do something, right? (whether it's for business or personal use) For example, some visitors may be looking for the best way to launch a new business or the best way to improve their golf game. These readers are looking to find the best methods in the industry (whatever industry you are writing about), they want to know which is the best company or who is the top person, how they do it, and how to reproduce that effort in their own life. For example, someone may find your post about how to best run a fundraiser. This type of reader will be more apt to check out related posts, such as how to best organize your fundraising team, which marketing methods work best, and the top venues in your region to hold the fundraiser kickoff. You get the picture…

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Low Bounce Rate

5. Keep Me Posted
Breaking news on your blog.This type of content involves providing quick posts about something you just learned about. For example, when Google Analytics recently announced a series of upgrades, many bloggers who are focused on web analytics wrote quick posts letting their readers know. These posts might show a higher bounce rate than others. Again, it makes a lot of sense… you are quickly letting people know about breaking news so they will probably check out your post quickly and be on their way. You can definitely gain a following by doing this, since you are the source of new information, but you can’t expect these posts to be sticky. That said, these readers might subscribe to your feed, since you keep them posted. :-)

Benchmarking = Good Chance of Higher Bounce Rate, but High RSS Subscriptions

Note, there are obviously additional types of posts and drivers for blog readers, but I’ll keep this post manageable and stop here. Again, these are based on my experience. The main point is to understand the angle of your posts and how these posts match up with what your readers are looking for (what drives them to read blog posts).

The Anti-Bounce
Providing related content is the anti-bounce rate. There is a common thread that’s been running throughout this post…related content. For bloggers that are just starting out, unfortunately, you'll need to write faster. ;-) Once you've created great content on your blog, the next step is to analyze your web analytics and then provide killer content that’s relevant to key posts on your blog. The third step is to make sure readers can find your related content! This can be done in several ways:

Ways to Provide Related Content:
1. Inline Links, or links within the blog post content (my favorite)
2. A list of related posts at the end of the blog post in question
3. Tagging your posts
4. Utilizing your sidebar to provide additional links
5. Providing search functionality

Each of these techniques can work, but I’m a bigger fan of inline links, links below your post, and tagging. In my opinion, inline links actually provide better context for the reader, but that’s just my opinion. For example, I’ve also written blog posts about how to lower your bounce rate. This inline link gives my readers some context.

A Quick Note About Tracking Outbound Clicks and Content Navigation
Tracking outbound clicks and content navigation in your web analytics package. Using your web analytics package, you should definitely track as much as you can to determine behaviors that affect your bounce rate and consumption of blog content. For example, if you track outbound clicks, you can see which external links your readers find most important. This can help you determine which topics are hot and possibly what to focus on in future posts. For example, if you wrote a post about how to better your golf score and you notice a lot of readers clicking on a link to Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible, then maybe your next post should focus on the short game (your golf game within 100 yards). Simple example, but you get the point! BTW, reading Dave's books lowered my golf score by 10 strokes. :)

Web Analytics Note: Google Analytics will soon support tracking of outbound clicks natively. This will make your life a lot easier... rather than manually tagging each outbound link!

Content Navigation is also important to analyze. This is where you can target a blog post in your analytics package and view how visitors got to that specific post and then also view where they go after reading the post. So, you might see 60% of the visitors to a blog post landed on that blog post (the first interaction with your site in a session). Then 80% of those readers went to related posts, 10% bounced, and 10% subscribed to your RSS feed. Viewing content navigation can help you determine how readers behave on your site in relation to the type of blog post you provide.

It’s All About Context
In closing, it’s hard to simply look at Bounce Rate for your blog without understanding the other factors involved. You need context. A high bounce rate a on a blog post might actually make sense, as weird as that sounds. If you start by mapping out a goal for your blog, pay attention to how you write your posts, understand how that matches the drivers of your readers, provide related content easily within your blog posts, and track everything at a granular level, then you can begin to understand blog content and reader behavior. Phew, that’s a mouthful!

Now, in the spirit of this blog post, definitely check out the other posts that are part of my Bounce Rate series! :-)

* Bounce Rate and Exit Rate

* Why is My Homepage Bounce Rate So High?

* 5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROAS

GG

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5 Comments:

  • At 2:55 AM, Blogger Aurelius Tjin said…

    Yes, I agree that context does matter.

    That was a very good read. Nice post!

    Thanks.

     
  • At 5:57 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks Aurelius. Glad you liked the post.

    I definitely think understanding context with a metric like Bounce Rate is critical to making key changes on a website or blog.

    It's the difference between reading your web analytics report versus analyzing it. :)

     
  • At 7:03 AM, Blogger Felex Tan said…

    It is a awesome info that can help readers to understand the cause of bounce rate and the way to reduce it.thanks

     
  • At 7:45 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Felex.

    I’m glad you liked my post. Be sure to check out my other posts about bounce rate. It's still my favorite metric in web marketing. You can learn a lot from bounce rate, and quickly...

    GG

     
  • At 2:44 AM, Anonymous Jens P. Berget said…

    I have been struggling with a way too high bounce rate for a long time, it's been as high as 88% as average over a few months.

    Now, I am finally experiencing some results from my efforts to lower it. My first goal is to get it as low as 50% (that's not easy, because I write about Internet marketing... and a lot of people are looking for ways to earn money when they arrive at my blog).

    I have included a few new features to help me lower the bounce rate, such as links in the sidebar to "the best of my writing", as well as new navigation and better internal linking structure.

    - jens -

     

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