Before I get started with this post, if you aren’t using an analytics program, you are wasting your time as an internet marketer or SEO. Without the data that an analytics program provides, their is no reliable way to analyze the effects of the time you have spent working on a website. So, if you have a blog or website that isn’t using an analytics program, stop reading this post and go install Google Analytics. While there are many other free, paid and even open source analytics programs, I’ve always felt that Google Analytics provides the most user friendly data for someone who is starting their journey into the wonderful world of web analytics.
If you are still reading this post, I’m going to assume that you have Google Analytics or another analytics program installed on the blog(s) or website(s) you are working on.
When it comes to web analytics, most people simply don’t take full advantage of the data that they have at their disposal. The data that an analytics program collects is only as useful as the person who is analyzing it. If all you do is look at how many unique visitors and pageviews you get every month, you are overlooking a ton of useful data. While bragging about pageviews may be the most common way to attract new advertisers (especially those that are still stuck in the television advertising mindset of “the more eyeballs, the better”), anyone who has a basic knowledge of internet marketing understands that a single RSS subscriber can be more valuable than a one-time flood of social media visitors that scan one page of your website for seven seconds and then head to their next destination.
So, if it’s not pageviews or even unique visitors that you should be looking at, what analytics data should you be reviewing? Although I could dedicate an entire blog to analytics, I want to address the analytics metric that I (and many others) feel is the most important.
If you are going to spend your time looking at only one analytics metric, it should be the bounce rate. If you are like many other analytics newbies that don’t know what the term bounce rate even means, it is the percentage of visitors who visit only one page of your website and then leave without viewing any other pages. Regardless of whether they type in a different URL, hit the back button or close their browser window, if they don’t look at more than one page on your website, they will make your bounce rate higher. The higher your bounce rate is, the less engaged visitors are when they visit a page of your website.
Although it would be great if everyone could have a bounce under ten percent, it’s almost never going to happen. As analytics expert Avinash Kaushik wrote, “it is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying.”
Since this post is about getting the most out of your analytics program, it’s important to emphasize that you need to do more than simply look at your bounce rate each month. You should be analyzing the bounce rates for specific pages that play a key role in your website. Here are two concrete examples you can take and apply to your own project(s):
PPC Landing Page: Although it’s not SEO, as I’ve previously emphasized, PPC is important. If you are running an PPC campaign, you obviously need to focus on the bounce rate. Whether you are trying to sell your visitor a product or get them to sign up for a newsletter, you obviously want them to go past the landing page and through the rest of the transaction process. If your bounce rate is high, you need to use PPC split testing to get to the bottom of why people aren’t staying on your site. However, the one exception to this rule is if you are trying to get them to call a phone number, a high bounce rate may not be a bad thing. In this case, you need to be using offline phone call tracking.
Homepage: Since it’s the main source of traffic for almost every website, this one sounds obvious. However, far too many people fail to evaluate their website and find ways to go deeper. When it comes to the homepage, I’ve always found Crazy Egg is the best companion for your bounce rate data. Crazy Egg allows you to actually see what people are clicking on your homepage, and many times, the areas they are clicking may surprise. On one of my own websites, I noticed a large percentage of visitors were clicking several images on my homepage. By linking these images to relevant inner pages of my website, I was able to significantly lower my bounce rate. Once these visitors made it to the second page, a majority visited additional pages and spent quite a bit of time exploring my website.