Last month I presented the importance of knowing your website performance numbers. Knowing these numbers enables you to decide where to focus your efforts, including time and money to increase your website sales. This month, I want to target a common problem web businesses face that are getting visitors, yet not moving them beyond an entry page.
Depending on the traffic source (e.g. natural search, paid search, email) and the type of website (e.g. ecommerce, subscription, lead generation) an entry page could be any web page within your website, although the primary one is the home page. Your home page serves a critical purpose. Typically it represents the entry point for 70% or more of your website visitors. Because it is the web page directly associated with a direct domain name browser query (www.yourdomain.com) it receives visitors from offline marketing channels like word of mouth referrals, publicity, and magazines, as well as from online marketing efforts.
You will know if your entry page is not accomplishing its purpose by reviewing your website analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) and specifically looking for a performance metric called the "bounce rate." A bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (e.g. visits where a person leaves your site from the entry page.) In essence, a bounce rate is a measure of visit quality. It indicates whether your visitors are or are not connecting with your website in a way that they sense will fulfill their purpose for visiting. A high bounce rate percentage is bad; a low one, good.
On average, you want to achieve and sustain a bounce rate of less than 30% - ideally 20% or even lower. The inverse of the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors moving forward into your website and closer to converting into a prospect or buyer. A bounce rate is calculable for every traffic source and every traffic sources' bounce rate will be higher or lower than others depending on its keyword, ad copy, marketing communications or image relevance with the entry page. If a specific traffic source consistently causes a high bounce rate then you should re-evaluate its structure. Either you need to make it more relevant to your website or adjust your website (possibly through using separate landing pages) to make it more relevant with the visitors from the traffic source. Your objective is to reduce your bounce rates so more visitors move closer to a final action whether it is a sale, an email opt-in, or a subscription.
There are several important functions that an entry page must successfully perform in order to achieve and maintain a low bounce rate. More importantly, by performing these functions well, you will increase the odds of attracting and motivating more visitors to convert into prospects and buyers. Some of these functions include:
Communicate Your Value Proposition
Does your entry page clearly state what benefit your business, product or service provides and how it is differentiated from other similar providers? Through my experience working with hundreds of businesses, a missing, vague, undifferentiated or unattractive value proposition has attributed a fair amount of problems with keeping visitors locked unto an entry page. Your value proposition should re-affirm the visitor's decision for clicking through and motivate them to move deeper into the site.
Set Clear and Intuitive Navigation
By studying your customers, products and services you should have a good sense of what visitors are searching for when they arrive on your entry page. The navigational text links and images you display and where you display them should connect to the reasons why the visitor is on your website. A lot of the difficulty here comes from identifying and selecting the right words and phrases that create immediate relevance and attention.
I have heard time frames ranging from six to ten seconds that a visitor will spend on an entry page before either moving forward or bouncing out. My experience shows a wider time range but most experts agree that you have less than thirty seconds to make a strong first impression.
Therefore, for keyword search traffic use your analytics program to identify the keywords that cause the highest bounce rates. Question why these particular keywords are not generating positive responses and what on your entry page is not making a relevant connection between the keyword and the page elements. Do any of these keywords represent high traffic volume opportunities, where if you reduced their bounce rates, you would drastically increase the number of potential leads or sales?
Next, identify the keywords that have the lowest bounce rates. What element(s) on the web page are relevant and motivating visitors from these keywords to move deeper into the website? Use a site overlay report (available through Google Analytics) to determine where these visitors are clicking.
Finally by studying the gap between the high bounce and the low bounce keywords, you can define strategies for reducing your bounce rates. Depending on your assessment, you may decide to drop specific keywords (or traffic sources) because they aren't relevant or to optimize their ad copy with stronger offers, more effective targeting or different placements.
On the other hand, you may elect to alter your web page. If you discovered that visitors arriving on the lower bounce rate keywords click through images versus links then adding additional images related to the high bounce keywords could improve the situation. Or from your assessment you may have discovered that the high bounce rate keywords are not effectively represented in your navigational text links, even though similar keywords are but visitors are not making the connection. By re-phrasing your navigation text link or even re-arranging the navigation link order to draw more awareness could reduce the bounce rate.
Present Credibility and Trust Factors
A study by led by Dr. Gitte Lindgaard at Carleton University in Ontario discovered that visitors make first impressions about a website quickly and it affects their entire website experience. The study found that "Web designers have as little as 50 milliseconds to capture the interest of potential customers. Through the halo effect, first impressions can influence subsequent judgments of website credibility and buying decisions." Although a first impression doesn't immediately attribute to a bounce, it does set the buying mood for the visitor's experience.
Making a good first impression means clearly stating your contact information (e.g. phone number, physical address) and adding credibility factors like SSL certificates (GeoTrust, Authorize.net, VeriSign) as well as links to specific policies including returns, customer service, shipping, and guarantees/warranties. Visitors evaluate your website against the others they have experienced. Although visitors are smart enough to understand the reasons why Amazon.com looks different than a small business website, they still expect convenience and require a sense of trustworthiness before committing to do business with you.
Clearly Communicate Call-to-Actions
Marketing 101 instructs marketers to follow the acronym AIDA - meaning gain Awareness, generate Interest, arouse Desire and get the Action. Your home page should follow this instruction by clearly drawing your visitor's attention toward call-to-actions.
Visitors move beyond your entry page using primarily one of three features: (1) navigational text links, (2) banner images or (3) on-site search. It is important to design your home page where each of these features is clearly displayed. It is surprising to see how high bounce rates fade away when even simple design changes are performed such as altering the color and size of navigational text links, increasing the quality of a banner image, or adding more white space around the on-site search function.
Increasing website leads or sales is a process. By optimizing each step within the process you will pull more visitors through to the final step when sales are closed or leads are generated. A situation where visitors are not moving beyond an entry page interrupts the process.
If you follow these strategies starting with a thorough assessment of your bounce rate by traffic source and critically question why the bounces are occurring, you will jumpstart the process of turning more visitors into a prospects or buyers. Don't waste any more opportunities. Attack your high bounce rates and get the process moving full speed toward more leads, more sales.
Kevin Gold is managing partner of Enhanced Concepts, a leading conversion marketing firm specializing in turning web visitors into leads and sales through proven web marketing strategies. Kevin is a contributor to multiple national publications and editor of the blog, www.BlahtoBling.com - improving the online customer experience to increase web site sales. Learn more at www.EnhancedConcepts.com.
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