“Not all bounces are bad”

Alice

This title is derived from a quote from Cat Young of Solve the Web, who kindly came to the Appletree offices last week to give us a quick tour of Google Analytics. And it was her statement “not all bounces are bad” that stuck the most in my mind.

Let me explain what a bounce is.  It is the action of website visitors who don’t continue further from their entrance page to another page on the website, resulting in leaving the website altogether. This action is recorded as a bounce by Google Analytics, and there is a general consensus that bounces are not a good thing.

But visitors have many reasons for looking at a website. The fact that they leave the website immediately from the same page, sometimes within a few seconds, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong one. Obviously if Google Analytics shows they spent 0 seconds on the site, it was probably more likely to be an errant visit, but consider how long does it take to look up a telephone number, check on an email address, or find out the URL of a blog? This is particularly relevant if all this information is immediately available on the entrance (or landing) page.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how long a visitor spends on that page, 1 second or 1 hour, if they leave the website without venturing to another page it is classified as a bounce. This also means that ‘squeeze pages’ (specially formulated landing pages) for email campaigns and other internet marketing activities are destined to only show up as bounces on Google Analytics. These webpages are especially designed not to contain irrelevant links to elsewhere in case they distract the visitor’s concentration to its purpose. Their main function is to create a conversion: get the visitor to buy something, sign up to an event, or download a file.

Therefore you can see why bounces aren’t all bad, sometimes they are inevitable. If your website is purely for reference purposes, a source of relevant information about your company or your industry, and your webpages are beautifully designed to provide that information easily, effectively and immediately, your extremely grateful visitor will only reward you with a bounce.

Here’s something for you to think about: how do I stop visitors from bouncing? How do I rearrange my navigation on the landing page (which might not necessarily be the index page) to encourage visitors to venture further into the website? What added value to I provide my visitors to encourage this? Would they be adequately satisfied for being diverted from becoming bounces? Are all bounces bad anyway?

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What does a website review involve?

Alice

I’m doing several website reviews this week. The main brief is to find out whether each website attracts the right kind of customer, and whether the right message is being put across.

The first thing I look for is whether I understand what the main subject, niche or industry the website is representing. This may be obvious, but some businesses get so bogged down with trying to describe what their business is all about, flourishing as many jargonised words as possible in order to appear impressive, the true concept can be totally clouded and almost impossible to comprehend.

I have seen some websites that don’t even mention the actual subject, eg the word ‘marketing’ on a marketing site, within the first paragraph – in some cases not even on the front page! This is because the authors are so full of their business, they omit the keyword that matters most; it’s almost that because they have the subject in their brain, they assume the website visitors will also have it in their brains too!

The next thing I look for is what the website can offer me. Just me, an everyday, ordinary person who just happened to come across their site. This doesn’t mean banging on about how wonderful the business is, how long it has been running for, how much experience it has, bla bla bla – it’s about what the business can offer me to make my life better.

To be honest, visitors don’t give a tinker’s toot about your business, they only want what they can get out of it for themselves. Customers are notoriously selfish, self-centered and greedy, therefore you must take advantage of these traits and change the way you deliver your product or service. This means you must work out the benefits of what you are offering, and plug those in an easy-to-understand language and layout.

For example, if your business is about printing, why not work out, through marketing research, exactly what your customers want, and give it to them. Such as, offer a simple ordering system for quick and easy business cards, or for several thousand leaflets to promote a pizza bar; adapt your services to make it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want.

Then I assess the website’s call to actions. This involves how visitors respond to these three options:

1) the visitor goes further into the site to find out more (a conversion from the index page);

2) the visitor signs up to something such as a newsletter or gives their contact details for a special report or e-book (collection of data for future communications);

3) the visitor disappears (a bounce).

Of course the website owner doesn’t want the third option to happen, so how the index page is constructed should be geared towards the visitor deciding on one of the first two options. This means the main content should act like a signpost to the benefits the website is offering, how the business recognises the pain or problems the customer has, and what solutions it can provide.

The navigation should be designed so that the visitor doesn’t have to think about what to do next, he just clicks on an obvious link to find out more; and the sign up forms for the contact details need to be so compelling and accessible, combined with the necessary incentives, the visitor provides his information effortlessly, and receives his prize quickly and efficiently.

So, take a look at your website and see if it complies with these criteria, and if it doesn’t, then get in contact for a website review.

How links benefit blogs

Alice

Blogs thrive on links. In fact, blogs are full of links, contained mostly in the content of the sidebars, both internal (navigation around the blog) and external (destination exits or entry from referral sites). You can tell which are links on this blog because they are underlined and your cursor changes when you mouse over them.

Think of links as doors or portals for gaining access to elsewhere. You can see this is how search engine spiders travel through, to and from blogs and websites, and humans can too. Because links are interactive, they both allow access and attract activity to and within the blog. The power of links are such that connections with the right kind of high-ranking website or blog can boost your rankings in the search engines, tags (keywords) interact with what is up-to-date within the search engines, categories aid archiving as well as search engine optimisation, and each post’s permalink is used with subscriptions to search engine readers, and RSS feeds to social networking sites, blogs and other resources.

A blog’s links come in many guises: the blog’s domain name, the post’s headline which becomes a permalink, contextual links (keyphrases linked to relevant destinations) within posts, the tags (keywords) and categories (topics) after the post, comments (links to the commenters), the blogroll or list of links to recommended websites, and RSS feeding your new material to a subscribed audience.

  • Your blog’s URL, domain name or web address is a link. People are divided whether keywords should be part of your URL or whether it should just reflect your branding, be rememberable and easy to spell. This is the main form of access to your blog.
  • Each post’s headline automatically becomes a permalink, leading to the post’s individual page and URL. This is where keywords become important for search engine optimisation, as well as using marketing psychology to make the reader click on it and read the post.
  • When using links within your post, creating them as ‘contextual’ is much more effective. Contextual links are when a phrase within the post is highlighted to become a link, and the relevance of the destination is paramount to increase success.
  • After you’ve completed writing your post, carefully select relevant tags (keywords) and categories (topics) to boost your search engine optimisation. If you have a .org blog with the All-in-one-SEO plugin, don’t forget to fill in the extra SEO fields to aid promotion of your post.
  • You should encourage comments to your blog, as they are also considered new material by the search engines as well as the links they generate. And you could increase traffic to your blog by commenting sympathetically and appropriately on other blogs within your niche.
  • The blogroll is a list of links to important, relevant and recommended websites and other resources. If you can arrange a reciprocal link, then that will not only boost your search engine rankings, but increase your audience too.
  • And of course, RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, works totally on links. RSS creates a subscription service to deliver new posts to email in-boxes and search engine readers as soon as they’re published. It also feeds your posts as a permalink to social networking sites, each with the post’s title and link back to your blog.

5 tips for webpage success

Alice

There are many factors that should go into a webpage. I see so many that lack even the fundamentals, resulting in a boring, uninspiring, even an useless product. Consider these tips below to give your website the kick-ass it needs:

1. No hierarchy. The index or homepage is not the most important, all webpages should be considered equal. In fact, treat each one as an individual homepage for its particular subject. This is because an internet spider will send a visitor direct to a relevant page if it fits their search criteria, and analytics show many websites are not entered via the homepage. 

2. Optimise each page. Keywords pay an important factor in every webpage, and should be present almost everywhere in the correct amounts. Put them in the page title, metatag descriptions, headline, subhead, content, incentive, call to action, navigation – but be aware, anything more than 10% saturation or both spiders and humans will be turned off and benefits missed.

3. Initial reactions. Each webpage has a 3 second margin to make the correct impression to the visitor before they decide to continue or leave, and an important element is recognition. Within a second the visitor should realise this is the correct page they are looking for: it’s the right subject, it matches my search, it provides good information, I understand the content, it’s easy to find what I’m looking for, I know exactly what to do to fulfil the reason for entering this webpage.

4. Positive performance. A webpage might just as well be a cheese sandwich if it doesn’t fulfil its purpose. Why do you need it? Information based, marketing, selling something, providing a service, explaining a procedure, gateway to somewhere else? Each should have a prominent call to action, or the visitor will do nothing (except leave). The navigation should be obvious, intuitive, commanding, helpful – a button should look like it’s just waiting to be clicked on, not a flat uninspiring image.

5. Add an incentive. By human nature we’re all greedy, as well as cautious. Both these factors can be used to your advantage: provide a good reason why the visitor should take up your call to action. Is there an early-bird offer? What benefits will your customers get? Do you provide a follow-up service? Will multiple sales result in a discount? And to counteract indecision: Do you have a guarantee? What testimonials of previous happy customers do you have? Who can endorse your service/product? What return on investment is there?

There’s a lot here to take on board, so don’t feel you need to charge ahead to incorporate them all at once. You need to be aware of the reasons why, and whether they would work for your website or company, and what marketing strategy do you have behind these actions. Shoving up anything to fulfil these criteria without proper thought could cause damage, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. But getting it right from the beginning could make an extreme and very exciting difference!

Webcopy: it’s not just words

Alice

I had a bit of a rude awakening the other day when an expert told me off about my webcopy.

My trouble is I think visually, which sometimes I concentrate too much on how a website should look. This isn’t necessarily how pretty it is, but how the visitor views the page when they enter the site – but that’s a subject for another post…

I was working on unravelling some webcopy for a client, bringing it out of its corporate mode and into the customers’ point of view, using bullet points for quick scanning properties, working on the call to action to command a response, and thinking hard about the headline.

It’s important to put into practice these questions visitors might think when writing webcopy: ‘Is this the right website?’ leading to ‘Does this page contain the information I need?’ and then ‘Now what can I do here?’ – making sure there is suitable navigation to back you up.

But the well-meaning expert pointed out to me the lack of keywords, not only in the headline and the copy, but also the page title as well. Since this webcopy was for a specific landing page for an Adwords campaign, it’s important to be aware of matching up keywords with those used in the adverts themselves.

There were other factors to consider as well: give the spiders and therefore the search engines enough fodder to work on, so at least 200 words using no more than 10% of keywords, thinking at the same time to make it readable and focused totally on the audience’s point of view. There is nothing worse than a piece of text totally given way to keywords, it can be desperately boring to the initiated and a turn off for the rest.

And there should be a goal set up for your campaign – where do you want your visitor to go to, eg a contact form – and Google Analytics can easily trace these actions, to prove whether the call to action is working in conjunction with the number of bounces from your landing page.

So there’s a lot to think about when writing a webpage – hopefully making you aware that this kind of writing is not easy!