Nov 6, 2012

Landing page fail: why I came to your site and bounced

There is an art to crafting a good homepage (or landing page) for a website. A good homepage is a fine balance of visual interest, capture strategy, just enough information (and the right information!), and just the right amount of sass. Find that balance and you've got a killer mouse trap; miss that balance and you'll lose your audience.

And the first way to tell is by looking in your Analytics at a number called your "bounce rate".

What is the bounce rate?

As defined by Google on their Google Analytics support page:

The Bounce Rate is the percentage of bounced visits to your site.

A bounce is calculated as a single-page view or single-event trigger in a session or visit.

The following situations qualify as bounces:
  • A user clicks on a link deep into your site sent by a friend, reads the information on the page, and closes the browser.
  • A user comes to your home page, looks around for a minute or two, and immediately leaves.
  • A user comes directly to a reference page on your site from a web search, leaves the page available in the browser while completing other tasks in other browser windows and the session times out.

While there are exceptions, for the most part a bounce means your site failed to convert.


Why are people bouncing?

While not a definitive list, people are bouncing because:
  • You scared them off, perhaps by having tons of advertising and things flying around the web page
  • You overwhelmed them with so much content their brain exploded and they left
  • They had no idea how to navigate your site or find what they were looking for
  • They came to your site in error (thought it was one thing, turned out it wasn't)
Three of these four reasons are not neutral occurrences; not to be rude, but they are your problems of your making.

(Yes, if someone opens a web page in your site and sites there reading it for a long time causing the session to timeout, that counts as a bounce, but it is a metric that you can adjust)


How can I fix my bounce rate?

Fixing your bounce rate generally requires that you take a hard look at your site's content, design, and layout. It requires a hefty amount of introspection and truly having a critical eye for analyzing and identifying your site's failures. Hiring an information architect and usability strategist to help you analyze your digital strategy can be a wise, and inexpensive consultation.

The purpose of the architect/strategist will be to dissect the various ways that people are coming to your site, why they're coming to your site, and draw big circles around the site's problem areas and ways that it is failing to convert.

So take a look at your site's Analytics and your bounce rate. Just how high is that number site-wide? How high is that number when broken down along your different traffic sources?

Then ask yourself why and can it be better.