Sep
8
2008

Website Changes That Improve Bounce Rate And Time On Site

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Google Analytics is one of the most common tools associated with web mastering analytics these days. But for all the people using it on their site, I cant help but notice how many people don’t understand it.

Furthermore, those who understand terminology, like “bounce rate”, “visits” and “time on site” probably don’t know what to do to their site to improve them. The definitions of those are commonly found all over the internet, however, most of those tutorials don’t cover easy, proactive, and automated changes on a dynamic page by page level. So in the following video I’ve tried to accomplish the following things:

  1. Focus more on what you can do to improve stats rather than explain what they mean
  2. How to access data in ways you might not have before.
  3. Give you things to do on your site directly improve particular stats and overall quality on your site.

I also provided a lot more detail in the text below the video which might be helpful if I was too brief in the video.

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Quick Link From The Video

Text Version Of The Video

I tried to spend more time going in depth with the teaks I’ve made to my own sites instead of the mechanics of analytics itself which you can find several how-to’s and tutorials on already.

Site Details

I’ve been running the site which I’m showing in the video for over five years. It is a content based site. I do not offer services on it or have a login/user system. I also don’t have any forums on it. Straight content! I’m not saying this is good or bad – just providing an overview of the sites details. This setup will not work for everyone.

Visitor Trending And Redesigning

Take note that the general trend of visitors is on an incline even though I have more or less not touched the site in two years. Simple things keep it sustained. That’s the beauty of automating websites and providing quality content on the site to begin with. However, I do have a redesign planned for it in the next year. That’s more so that I can continue expanding my own topics of interests on it. Also I know a whole lot more about automating websites now then I did five years ago. I could leave it as is right now, and it would still continue to grow. But what fun would that be.

Note: If you run a site with a lot of visitors already, the smallest tweaks could make or break the site in terms of exponential growth of traffic.

Definitions

These stats on the front page are things we see every time you login and should be fairly familiar with them:

  • Visits – Includes all hits that are: direct hits, referrals (from other sites), and search engine traffic. A visit is considered a unique session which expires after 30 minutes of activity on your site. If the same visitor comes back an hour later, they may be counted as another visit.
  • Bounce Rate – A 100% bounce rate means people are coming to your site and clicking off of it before it even has a chance to fully load.
  • Time On Site – How long those non-bounced users ended up staying on the site.
  • Pageviews – How many different pages a visitor views on the site. It includes reloading of the page
  • Average Pageviews – Average number of pages a visitor views during their time on the site.

Bounce Rate & Time On Site

Of all the definitions above, bounce rate is one of the things people know the least of but can do the most about. Bounce rate is a reflection of how useful your site is to the people that come to it. The goal is, to retain those visitors even if their initial entry page is not exactly what they were looking for and to further increase the time existing users are spending on your site. As you can see, a lot of these stats are intertwined with each other. Usually if you do something for one, you’re doing something for the other.

Decreasing your Bounce Rate And Increasing Time On Site – This page covers 5 steps to enhance some of your own internal link baiting which will help decrease bounce rates, increase pageviews, and thus increase the time a visitor spends on your site.

MMORPGEXPOSED Example

  • Create widgets like “Users That Liked This Page Also Liked These Pages” or “Similar Articles” which is readily available as a plug-in for WordPress. Link output that analyzes traffic is a bit harder and not available as a Wordpress plugin, but I will probably provide the code I use for this in a later post and a possible solution to integrate it into WordPress.
  • Use breadcrumbs for easy navigation within a content category – You want pageviews and time on site to go up, but not at the cost of users getting lost on your website. Your bounce rate wont go up at this point, but your average pageviews might be between 1.5 and 2 if users are getting frustrated with the navigation.
  • Add “sort by” functionality and provide content by date, popularity, or in some cases alphabetizing if applicable.
  • Include relevant info on links by telling a user which pages they have already visited. a:visited is a CSS style that designers have stopped using because a lot of times the site doesn’t look good anymore. A check mark or image provides the same functionality and doesn’t require you to change your link color after a person has clicked on it.

Error Pages Cause People To Leave Sites

Your bounce rate might be high because people come to error pages on your website and then leave! Maybe someone linked to you incorrectly? There’s really nothing you can do about that. You should however take advantage of that visitor so they stay on your site a while.

  • Provide alternative content – Popular links on your site in general
  • Page/URL check – Analyze the URL. A lot of sites use a “URL Slug”. That is something-that-looks-like-this. Its an SEO technique which is helpful for your search engine rankings. If you’re also sending the date in that URL, or perhaps a page id, the user might be spelling the slug wrong. You can code custome site so that on error pages, it does “research” using what is provided and sends a response back to the user with options based on that. For example, look up and return the title/link for the ID of the content that’s being passed in the bad URL. Or if you’re using a date scheme, report all the posts that were created in that day, week, month. Try to keep that list at about 10.
  • Use Google Webmaster Tools to find out what page have an error on your site and then correct them.
  • When using custom error pages. Include proper header status information. More on that here: SEO & Error 404 Pages – Header Status Checks.

Site Review

Website usability is key to keeping visitors around. Sometimes doing a review of a site that’s been around for a while is require to rejuvenate traffic. Especially if its undergone partial changes in functionality and had a lot of new content.

  • Non-bias look into your own site – Ever try and use your own site for what you expect your visitors to be using it for? Do this not just when the site go lives, but at least twice a month depending on the frequency of updates and additions. Especially on custom sites. Play dumb. If you knew nothing about your topic, or if you didn’t organize the site yourself, would you be able to find your way? Would it be useful to you?
  • Check your work! Testing and navigation is important after you make any addition or change to a site.
  • Get a a few friends to look at your site. It helps if they’re interested in the topic of the site. Learn to take positive criticism. Don’t take what they say as fact. Its all their opinion. However it may be the opinion of the majority of your users or something you’ve never considered before.
  • Put a poll on your site and ask visitors what they’d like to see improved. What are they looking for? (tip: you can use analytics to find out what they’re looking for by analyzing search engine data). If they ask for something you’re currently offering then its time for a redesign. Providing too many links (too many options) is sometimes psycologically overwhealming. Some users might see it as “work” to read through links that dont pertain to them. See the post/video on Marketing And Psychology – Understanding Visitors And Buyers for a better understanding of this concept.
  • Font sizes and colors – Do the colors for headings, links, and general text differentiate themselves when they show up? It may be confusing to visitors if your header sections are the same size of your content text. Or if your links are a very similar color to your content text.

Active Use Of Google Analytics

Web analytic tools should be used to optimize your site. Yes, stats are pretty to look at. They’re even prettier when you use them to find gaps in your site, improve them, and make a website even better! This also only breaks the surface of what you can do. In coming posts, I’ll tackle other improvements that you’ll be able to uncover based on different ways of viewing Google Analytics data.

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15 Responses to Website Changes That Improve Bounce Rate And Time On Site

  1. Great video, very informative and I love the use of real-site examples that a lot of people don’t use in their own videos. I’ve been looking for ways to reduce bounce rate and increase visitor “exploration” and time spent on my e-commerce site (Hoping it’ll convert to more product orders.) and I think I’ve gotten some great ideas as far as the navigation on my page that could help keep a visitor clicking, so to speak! Thanks!

  2. Great detailed description of tools needed. Thanks for your post.
    Mike

  3. This is a great video, i wasn’t sure what bounce rates meant , nice work on this.

  4. Thanks for the great video. One step is getting vistors, but that’s not so great if they leave quickly. I think headlines make a big difference. If you catch their eye they’ll click thru. Then, you need strong content (of course).

  5. This is a great post that I’ll be bookmarking. I hadn’t fully understood the concept of bounce rate so I’m glad you clarified it.

    I like the idea of “Similar pages/Pages other visitors liked.” This seems to go hand in hand with the ideas that Amazon has used and that really helps you to enhance the number of pages visitors see. I will have to try this one.

  6. Nice job utilizing video to make your post really clear. The error pages is such a big thing that I’d never really thought of before. People come to your site and when other sites link to wrong pages, I usually just say that’s their problem and ignore it. However, those are all potential visitors and going a long way to making them feel welcome can really help your site’s success.

  7. Hey Rob, great video man, I was surprised at how much traffic the website gets! Thats very impressive, I wish I had those kinds of numbers. Right now my best website is doing a bounce rate of 55.94% with an average time of 2:28 spent on the website.

  8. @Fish – Those arent bad stats at all. Page views is also important in that mix. Try adding a “popular content” widget and get rid of at least one of the ads you have at the top of your page. That should help your bounce rate fairly quickly.

  9. Great tutorial really. A very useful tutorial for those learning to use Google analytics for site visibility. Good work.

  10. Google Optimizer is a good way to check bounce rate but quite time consuming.

  11. You have an awful lot of visits for a site you don’t work on very often. Getting quantity of visits is usually much, much harder than lowering bounce rates for me.

  12. @Erica – Thats partly due to the nature of the site. A large portion of traffic on that site is topsite based though. Most people come to topsites, click on a few links and leave. Giving me a rather high bounce rate. Though, they are more likely to come back again the next day and again, only view one page for a site like that.

    I also rank fairly well in google for a few terms on those pages.

  13. good video , Bounce rate is very important factor .but don’t you think title should be reducing bounce rate rather then tips to improve bounce rate ??

  14. Great video. Not sure it applies to my main site, but it got me thinking.

  15. Very very thankful for informative video. some times get enough visits but often having problem with bounce rate. hopefully video works for me.

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