Is bounce rate the ultimate metric?

octobre, 26, 2009

It’s definitely fashionable to talk about Bounce Rate these days. If I’m to do some bad-mouthing here I’d say that this is because it happens to be the only metric people understand (and it’s handed out to them by Google Analytics)!

Jakob Nielsen seems to reflect what the majority of people think. I shall comment after I’ve quoted him:

1. “Given growing bounce rates, we must stop using “unique visitors” as a metric for site success”.

Ok…but I’d like to know why? And what’s the connection between the first part of the sentence and the second?  In fact, saying that the Unique Visitor metric is uninteresting because a UV is counted even if he leaves the website fast is like saying that: “the UV is bad because the bounce rate is good” High?

2. “bouncers should be considered as a negative statistic; the site failed to engage them enough to entice even a second pageview”.

So what’s wrong with that if the aim of the site doesn’t include making the reader return? If I have an informative website, and the reader spends a lot of time on it, does that mean I have a quality website?  Here again, context has to be taken into consideration.

3. “To measure site success, you should count only loyal users who return repeatedly”.

That takes the biscuit!  To measure the success of a site we have to count the money that ends up in our pockets! Using as many of the available metrics as possible you have to try to maximise the amount of money you pocket by using multivariate testing (at worst A/B testing).

That said, here are a few easy tricks that can be used if you want to reduce the Bounce Rate.

1. Create an intra site path towards the important information. This means writing two-page articles with the important information on the second page.

2. Use the target=” _Blank” for you links (or rel=”external), that way your site is permanently visible to your user; and this gives you an extra chance of keeping him or her.

3. Create a website that contains things that will encourage your user to stay on it! Ah, I can hear a little voice whispering in my ear that that is easier said than done…OK, I agree, but it is possibly the only thing that works!

4. Don’t forget that the visitor follows simple psychological rules, so if your graphic design is complex he will find it difficult to find the links that allow him to stay with you.  A big fat flashing button marked “Next Page” will be clicked more often than some abstruse pictogram half hidden in the middle of a picture.

Lastly, don’t forget that what matters in the end is maximising the objectives you’ve given yourself, and not fashionable metrics!

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Picture: courtesy of Abby Blank