A Guest Post by Warren Davies from GenerallyThinking.com.
It’s pretty clear that if we want to be pro bloggers, we can’t rely purely on producing fantastic content. We have to optimise our pages for search engines, build backlinks from relevant sources, as well as putting our heart and soul into our content to make it as valuable as possible for the reader.
But what if the reader gets what they want from the post and then leaves? Well, that’s nice of us to solve their problem, but it’s not going to help us earn the money and freedom we want!
We need to entice first time visitors further into our blogs, expose them to its different areas and articles, make them feel like a kid in a candy store when they see all the information inside!
One way we can do this is through a landing page analysis – to see which pages people are landing on, checking the metrics for these pages, and then optimising them so that they are better placed to convert first time visitors into regular readers. Here’s a 4 step plan.
Step 1 – Identify Problem Pages
This is easy to do with Google Analytics – just go to Content -> Top Landing Pages, and check the chart at the bottom of the page. These are the pages that visitors are most likely to enter your site through. Now check the column to the far right – Bounce Rate. This is the percentage of visitors who leave your site without looking at another page on your blog. They hit the landing page, get what they want (or not) then leave.
If you have any high bounce rates in this section (80%+), you’re missing out on further page views from these first-time visitors. This is vital; pulling readers further into your site is essential to converting visitors to subscribers and/or sales.
Step 2 – Analysis
Before we start optimising the page, we need to do some more research. Here are the two main things you can do:
- Click on the name of each post, and look at the Time on Page. Is it significantly lower than the time it takes to read the article? If so, it’s likely that the reader is not finding the answer to the question they had when they clicked through.
- Ask them. Set up a Poll on the page, entitled “Help me improve this article: What information were you asking for?” Give a few options, and don’t forget to add ‘something else’ as an option. Alternatively, a simple “Did you find the information you were looking for?” can be useful. Experiment with putting it at the top and bottom of the post, to see if people are reading the whole article before bouncing.
- Check the entrance sources for the post on Google Analytics. Are people mostly finding the article through Google images? This might account for the high bounce rate.
Step 3 – Optimise
You should now have some ideas on how you might optimise the article. Perhaps there’s more information you want to add, maybe you want to shorten it, or then again maybe you want to make it more appealing and add more images. Then again, maybe the site design is unattractive, or there are too many ads or other annoying things on the page. Whatever you do, don’t assume; test.
Also, do ensure that there are links and pathways to other content on your site! This is essential. Maybe your related posts plug-in and category list are not effective – you might have to tell/coax your reader into looking deeper.
If you have several ideas on how to optimise the page, you may want to use Google Web Optimiser to run several new versions of the page. Each visitor will be randomly directed to one of your test pages, and you can compare the metrics against each other at the end of the test.
Step 4 – Check Results
One week should be a good enough time frame to compare the before and after effects. Going back to Google Analytics, bring up the Content Detail page for the entrance article you’ve been playing with. Set the date for the week leading up to the day you edited the page (but not including that day). Copy and paste the stats into a text editor or Excel; the main ones you’re interested in are Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Exit %. Then set the date for the seven days after you optimsed the article. Again, copy and paste the results, and compare.
How did you do? If you were successful, you may have seen an increase in the Time on Page – although maybe not – but certainly a decrease in the Bounce Rate and Exit %. This would indicate that more readers are looking further into your site – congratulations!
What if there was no difference? Then go back to step 2. Conduct further research on how you might improve the page. Ensure you have links to other content on your blog, and that the wording of your article makes these links seem like essential further reading.
What’s a ‘good’ bounce rate?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all figure to aim for. It depends on many factors. A bounce could mean the visitor literally only wanted one piece of information, and left because they got it. The ambiguity of the keyword you’re targeting will be important. If you’re getting a high bounce rate from an 8-word keyphrase, it’s probably a worse situation than the same bounce rate for a 2-word keyphrase. Your domain name could play a role too – ‘Problogger’ is pretty clear, but would an article on, say, ‘marketingtips’ be specific to blogging, or to offline marketing? Maybe you’d have to read it to find out.
Having said that, bounce rates over 80% generally mean there’s work to be done.
Landing Page Analysis – A Case Study
I performed a landing page analysis analysis on GenerallyThinking.com, my psychology blog. My top landing page by far was my post on personal strengths and weaknesses. This article proved hugely successful with search engines, and accounts for 25% of the overall traffic of the site! However, the bounce rate and time on page were dismal, as you can see below:
- Time on Page – 00:01:35
- Bounce Rate – 86.67%
- Exit % – 82.98%
I ran a WP-Poll asking what people were looking for at the bottom of the page, and got no results. I put it to the top of the page, and got a few replies, but still not many. Clearly, people weren’t reading to the bottom – there was a need unfulfilled. The data I collected from the poll indicated that people wanted more information on strengths than I was offering – the article was too focused on weaknesses.
So, I ripped out the section on how to manage and work around your weaknesses completely, and posted it as a new article. Then I re-wrote the post as a portal, giving a basic overview of personal strengths and weaknesses, including how and why they could be identified – but not giving too much away. I preferred to point to other articles on my site that cover these topics in depth.
I uploaded the new page, waited, and then tested the results as described above. Here they are:
- Time on Page – 00:02:31
- Bounce Rate – 66.67%
- Exit % – 66.20%
Fantastic! Time on Page increased by a minute, bounce rate reduced by 20% and Exit % reduced by nearly the same amount. A little more tweaking and playing with images might improve things further.
(By the way, if Darren will forgive the flagrant self-promotion that article’s worth a read actually – what successful entrepreneur would say personal development is not an important part of their craft?)
How much could you improve your site by performing an entrance analysis? Remember – don’t make assumptions; test and measure everything!
Warren Davies is a positive psychology student at the University of East London, who runs a psychology blog at GenerallyThinking.com.