Don’t try to lower your bounce rate

When developing a conversion optimization strategy for new clients, determining website goals is obviously important. The Conversion Optimization goal should be selected based on how well it supports the website goals. This is often an area where there’s confusion about what are the priority metrics to improve.

Your Business Goals should determine your Website Goals, which should be prioritized to determine your top Conversion Optimization Goal.

Business goals to Conversion optimization goal
Strategic Conversion Optimization goal development

Many of the metrics found in your standard Web Analytics setup are not appropriate goals for optimization, even though they may be relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your website.

Bounce Rate, for example, is a common KPI and an indicator of the Relevance of a particular page to visitors entering the site. If your site-wide bounce rate is 43% and a popular entry page is 56%, for example, the page may not be meeting the expectations of incoming visitors.

A higher bounce rate isn’t necessarily a problem.

Example #1: In one case, the page in question may have a high natural search ranking for non-revenue-producing keywords, bringing in non-target visitors. Those non-target visitors aren’t hurting you and can be disregarded (unless you can figure out a new way of engaging them in a relevant offer). Your true bounce rate for your target visitors may be lower than you think.

Example #2: In another case, your page may actually be doing a better job of communicating your message, so more visitors that aren’t ready to convert can leave rather than navigating the site to try and figure out what you sell. This also isn’t a bad thing and may still allow for a relatively high lead generation or purchase conversion rate.

But, a high bounce rate can suggest a problem, too.
So, shouldn’t you try to lower a high bounce rate with testing if you can?

No.

If you set bounce rate reduction as your A/B test or Multivariate optimization goal, you could hurt your true revenue-producing goals.

Here’s how your bounce rate could be lowered without improving revenue:

  • Changing a single landing page into a multi-page microsite experience
  • Moving some information, like pricing, onto a second page
  • Simply adding links to popular news or blog content
  • Replacing productive offers with free offers that may have lower revenue-producing value

If you were to test these as test variations, you could easily lower your bounce rate and believe your test was a success. But that new page may have hurt revenue production while “improving” your bounce rate. Do you see how you could inadvertently hurt your results?

So, what should you measure?

Your conversion optimization goal should be as close to revenue as possible, ideally recorded after a purchase. Although the most relevant goal will depend on your website goals, here are some typical conversion optimization goals that lead to revenue improvement:

  • Ecommerce purchase conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Return on Ad Spend
  • Revenue per visitor
  • Lead generation inquiry conversion rate
  • Software download conversion rate
  • Trial registration conversion rate
  • Click-to-call conversion rate
  • Click-to-chat conversion rate
  • Request a quote conversion rate
  • Request a demo conversion rate

Start with your Business Goals, then determine how your website goals should support that. Only then will you be able to prioritize and select the right Conversion Optimization Goal for your situation.

3 Comments

  1. Niels Welten July 12, 2013 at 5:01 am - Reply

    I have two questions about the process of defining conversion goals:

    1) What do you consider as useful Conversion Goals for companies with a multichannel strategy? Their company goals do not solely focus on sales, but also have service related and local (like traffic-to-store) targets.

    You stated that conversion goals need to be as close to revenue as possible, but that isn’t always easy in the case of companies with a multichannel approach.

    2) Do you find Task completion Rate a Conversion Goal? Or is this more a usability metric and therefore not suitable to use as Conversion Goal.

  2. Chris Goward July 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Good questions, Niels.
    1. When I say “as close as possible” in some cases, that means an early stage online lead. It may not be possible to track any closer to revenue than that.

    When multiple channels are involved, it becomes more important to create relative values of each type of lead. Can the company calculate an average value for a location visit or a service-related lead? The key is to not become paralyzed by inaccuracy but use the best data that’s available.

    2. It may depend on what the task is. Does it contribute to revenue or is it the best indicator of interest that’s available? If not, it’s just a vanity metric and isn’t worth optimizing for. Optimizing for purely usability tasks are naval-gazing projects that miss the goal of conversion optimization. But, if the task is important to the business, it’s worth testing to improve!

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