16 August 2016

Bounces: The Key Measure Of Web Marketing Success

Robert Stead
Written by Robert Stead

Robert is a highly skilled Business to Business marketing director with over 13 years interim and part time experience. A believer in the “if you cannot measure the improvement it doesn’t exist” approach to marketing; completely focused, pragmatic and practical. Energetic, friendly and culturally adept, Robert has substantial European and international experience and is able to engage with the whole business, not just the marketing function. With a good strategic and operational marketing balance, Robert is always happy to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. Marketing Centre Marketing Director of the year 2014.

Imagine; to get customers through the door, a restaurant has taken out a full-page newspaper advert at great expense. That evening, it’s clear that the ad has been successful – dozens of new visitors are indeed coming through the door. Sadly, they are taking one look at the tired decoration, the grubby tablecloths and the disinterested staff, and walk straight back out again.

Instead of turning leads into customers, the restaurant has created dozens of potential diners who will never return, no matter how tempting future ads or offers are. Worse still, the restaurant has paid good money to do this.

This happens every day online, with businesses ploughing thousands of pounds into SEO and PPC campaigns to bring visitors to their websites, only for the prospects to click the ‘Back’ button within seconds. This is what’s known as a ‘bounce’, and it’s key to improving your web success – potentially saving businesses thousands of pounds of costs in the process.  

Why bounces matter

The ‘bounce rate’ is the percentage of visitors who land on a website and then ‘bounce’ straight back off again. They don’t dwell on the page; they don’t spend time reading the content, and they don’t navigate to other pages on the site - they pop in and pop straight back out again.

That’s why every business should monitor their bounce performance. Less scrupulous SEO agencies will gloss over the bounce rate for their clients’ sites and instead trumpet the raw visitor numbers – this is misleading at best and downright damaging at worst.

Why? Because focusing on high visitor numbers could lead to business owners thinking that their website is compelling, and their SEO or PPC strategy is successful, whereas their bounce rate could highlight the exact opposite. Visitor figures will tell you how many people clicked a link to arrive at your site, but the bounce rate will tell you how many of those visitors actually engaged with the content.

The latter is a far better indicator of a successful site. One business we recently worked with spent £15,000 each year on PPC advertising, achieving a 90p cost per click per visitor their site. Better than average, however 85% of visitors bounced straight off, the cost per useful click was much higher.

Understanding what bounces mean, and why they matter, is key to boosting website ROI. Tools such as  Google Analytics, which is free and easy to use, can be set up by most web hosting providers to provide a suite of useful statistics. This allows business owners to look at their number of online visitors, where those visitors come from and what the bounce rate is. By multiplying the number of visitors by the bounce rate, it is possible to estimate the number of worthwhile visits.

Consider a website that gets 1000 visitors a week. At a 50% bounce rate, that would be 500 useful visits, but an 85% bounce rate means that only 150 of the visits were useful - that’s only 30% the value. It’s also important to look at these figures split between organic (i.e. free search results, inbound links, social media and email newsletters) and paid traffic.  

Reducing bounce rates

So, what does good bounce rate look like? For B2B businesses, a bounce rate of around 60% is common. A rate higher than this would indicate that the web content needs some attention. There are a few common problems guaranteed to damage bounce rates:
  • Websites not optimised for mobile – With 60% of internet traffic  coming from mobile devices (a figure which will continue to rise), any website that does not present a compelling (or at least usable)  mobile experience will quickly have visitors reaching for the ‘Back’ button.
  • Content-free copy – When building a new website, the content can sometimes play second fiddle to the design. The actual words on the page may be left to junior marketing staff, who simply fill space with the buzzwords-du-jour. This will be an instant turn-off for any visitor looking for fresh insight and evidence of sector savvy.  Quality content will make a website sticky and encourage visitors to dwell a while.
  • Misguided SEO – Keyword-focussed SEO may be detrimental to bounce rates. Even with the  waning power of keywords, loading a page with irrelevant keywords to move up the organic search results in Google will essentially con visitors into clicking through to a site. Visitors will not take kindly to this. While there’s no ‘secret sauce’ for SEO,  content is still king.
  • Imprecise PPC campaigns – Like SEO keywords, PPC search terms need to be relevant to the content they are linking to, or once again the visitor will move away quickly. The danger here is that money is being wasted on these click-throughs. Let’s look at this further.

The cost of high bounce rates

There is no point paying to get people to visit a site if they’re not going to be interested in the content when they arrive. When studying site analytics, the PPC bounce rate should be at least 15% better than the organic bounce rate and certainly less than 50% overall. A high PPC bounce rate could be caused by something as simple as linking all PPC ads to the homepage, rather than to dedicated subject-specific pages that are filled with relevant quality content.

The Marketing Centre worked on one site with a 72% organic bounce rate and an 85% PPC bounce rate. This meant that only 15% of the PPC budget was spent on people who were interested in the business, so the effective cost per useful visitor was 6.7 times more than the cost per click. Recognising this, we saved the business thousands of pounds by adapting their PPC strategy and content, generating a hugely positive effect.

You may also like: Is SEO right for my business?

If a business wants to keep its bounce rate down, it needs to put some paint on the walls, launder its tablecloths and train its staff… By which we mean that every business should make sure that its website works well on mobile, features compelling content and focuses on organic and PPC search terms that are relevant to the content being linked to.

Businesses who fail to do so, and who ignore their bounce rate could be sitting on thousands of pounds of wasted cash. Who can afford to do that?  

To find out how your marketing efforts shape up, take our  Marketing 360 Healthcheck.  


Image via Unsplash.

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