Thinking Outside the Bounce

soccer ball bounce

Two of the most widely used metrics for measuring a landing page's effectiveness are bounce rate and conversion rate.

Remember that bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors entering that page who left the site without going to any other pages. Conversion rate is simply the percentage of visitors to that page that converted to customers.

Usually there's an opposite relationship between a page's bounce rate and its conversion rate. In other words, as the bounce rate of a page increases, the conversion rate for that page decreases.

Think of it this way … If a high percentage of your visitors are bouncing off your landing page and exiting your site, that page is not going to be very successful at converting those visitors to buyers.

And conversely, if the page has a low bounce rate, in general that means we're doing a good job of identifying with the visitor's needs and we're in a better position to get the visitor to buy our product or service.

Graphically, if you plotted the bounce rates and conversion rates for the landing pages of your web site, you'd expect the results to look something like this:

So why should we care about bounce rate if we're only really interested in conversions?

Just Show Me the Money

Many times I'm asked why we bother analyzing a page's bounce rate when it's the conversion that really counts. If a page converts well, should we care if it has a high bounce rate?

Well, let's dig a little deeper into the relationship between these 2 metrics and see how analyzing them together can improve conversions. First, it's best to think of bounce rate as a measurement of visitor engagement, while a page's conversion rate should be viewed as a transaction rate defining buying potential.

The example chart below shows an actual plot of a site's conversion rate and bounce rate for every landing page on its site. Each blue point on this chart corresponds to the conversion rate and bounce rate for a particular landing page in the website.

We can see that, in general, the points on the chart follow a path from the upper left to the lower right, confirming the belief that as bounce rate falls, conversion rate tends to increase.

The Bounce-Conversion Grid

We can start to identify opportunities for improvement by studying the relationship between our landing pages' bounce and conversion rate.

On the following page we've broken the plot area into 4 quadrants around the approximate center point of all of the pages' metrics.

The Bounce-Conversion Grid

Below we've broken the plot area into 4 quadrants around the approximate center point of all of the pages' metrics.

Landing pages whose bounce rate and conversion rate metrics fall within quadrants B and D reflect the common pattern we'd expect; falling conversion rates as bounce rates increase.

Let's focus on the other 2 quadrants that display an uncommon relationship between bounce and conversion rates and see what we can learn from the elements on those landing pages.

Opportunity Quadrants

Take a look at the landing pages reflected below within Quadrant A and notice that despite their high bounce rate, they manage to do a better than average job of converting. In our example site, we only have 5 landing pages that fall within that quadrant.

Quadrant A landing pages don't seem to do a very good job of engaging the visitor, however the lower than average percentage of visitors who don't exit the site tend to convert at a higher rate than the average for the site.

You should look closely at any landing pages found in Quadrant A and note the attributes that tend to compel the visitors to convert. What can be learned from these pages? Additionally, if we improve the relatively poor bounce rate, will we see a further increase in conversion rates?

Perhaps a greater opportunity for conversion improvement is a landing page found in Quadrant C. Here we're seeing pages where we're doing a good job of engaging the visitor (low bounce rate), but doing a relatively poor job of converting visitors to buyers or leads.

Why is it that visitors who land on these pages will tend to have a higher level of engagement and navigate through the site, yet are less likely to convert?

Here are some reasons to consider:

  • It could mean that information on the page isn’t consistent with information presented during the checkout process
  • Your keywords are not well-defined, either too broad, or you need to employ more negative keywords to better match your products and services. When visitors land on your site, they navigate throughout your site looking for products or services you may not offer, resulting in a low bounce rate and low conversion rate.
  • Your PPC ad creative misleads readers into believing you offer solutions to their needs, but when they land on your page, they don’t find what they’re expecting … forcing them to further navigate through your site.
  • Perhaps the visitor encounters surprise shipping, availability or delivery information for that product that was not well communicated on the landing page
  • Maybe the product on that page really needs customer service call interaction – stress that call to action on the landing page
  • Are you enticing the visitor to visit other pages in your site, which muddies the original offer or message?
  • Are you requiring the visitor to visit another page to view important product features or benefits?
  • Is there a sense of urgency communicated in the offer?
  • Maybe those pages are just promoting lower converting products
  • Are your analytics properly setup on that page?
  • Are you adequately measuring call-in sales from those pages and factoring that into your conversion rate?

Remember that your web analytics do not include any call-in conversions. If you do have web visitors place orders over the phone, you need to install call analytics for your site. You can set up call analytics to measure conversions by engine, campaign and keyword. For more information, visit our Call Analytics page.

By analyzing your pages' bounce rates and conversion rates together, you'll be able to identify the characteristics of high engaging low converting landing pages, and be better able to leverage that information to increase your visitor to buyer conversion rates.

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