Thursday, August 6, 2009

Keep Ém On Site Longer: 10 Tips

10 Tips To Lower Your Bounce Rate

A site’s bounce rate is a measurement of the number of visitors who stopped by the site but immediately clicked off to another site, aka, bounced. There are lots of reasons web users boing from one site to another, which means there are lots of things you can do to lower your bounce rate and keep visitors on site long enough to convert.

Here are ten tips to help you take the spring out of your web site.

1. Don’t assume the visitor lands on the home page. A visitor can enter from a number of access points. For instance, by conducting a search for a A324 converter, the visitor might land on the product page for said converter. (There’s no such thing, btw.)

This means that many different pages may be the doorway to your site so treat each page as a home page. Read on for design suggestions from your web host.

2. Keep critical information above the fold. Above the fold is an old newspaper term that described the newspaper’s front page “above the fold.” This is where the most important (or sensational) news is placed in newspapers today.

In website terms, above the fold is everything seen by the visitor without the visitor having to scroll – prime site space. Your most important information should appear here. A recent study on how different groups of people use the web showed that the 50 and older crowd don’t scroll as much as their web-wise grandkids so if you want it read, keep it above the fold.

3. Web users scan your site pages from upper left to lower right. So, what visitors first see in the upper left corner of their browsers will often determine if they stay or boing, boing, boing.

4. Create compelling headlines. “Who else wants to make a million dollars before bedtime” and other web clichés do not compel visitors to stick around to read your long-form, Dan Kennedy template sales letter. Headlines create interest among human readers and search engine spiders who recognize headlines as important text. So make your point in and add keywords to headlines.

5. Layout your home page in a three column format. Using three columns, you can create three headlines above the fold. If two headlines don’t capture the attention of the visitor, maybe the third one will.

Again, also useful in optimizing your site so make sure to build keywords into your headlines to keep everything in sync and max the utility of both the site text and your top tier keywords.

6. A picture IS worth a thousand words. A visual image (not just text) above the fold naturally draws the eye and attention of visitors so a small image or an image banner is helpful in breaking up blocks of text, and starts off the visitor slowly. A walloping pile of text, no matter how compelling, isn’t going to appeal to those “on-the-fence” visitors looking for a specific service, product, message or arcania.

A couple of points. First, if you’re using a photo, make it a photo worth seeing – a photo that instantly delivers your site’s message. Google “pre-fab homes.” You won’t see innocuous clip art. You see beauty shots of the prefab on a snowy evening with a warm fire going in the fireplace. So don’t waste pixels. Maximize every one.

Charts and graphs are a terrific way to transmit a lot of information in the blink of an eye. You can write pages of text testifying that your stock picking formula is the best, or you can create a chart showing your online portfolio delivering gains of 150% a year. A chart showing rising value (whatever the product or service) makes a strong statement very quickly.

Charts and graphs are also useful in making complex information more accessible to the reader. Your typical visitor won’t read through pages and pages of company financial statements but s/he will make a buying decision based on proof in image form.

7. Make navigation simple enough for a well-trained chimp. If the visitor is confused, even for a moment, you’ll see a bounce. Life is too short to “figure out” how this works. We’ve grown extremely impatient in the digital age and if it even LOOKS hard, boing.

Keep your navigation bar in the same place throughout the site and provide the option to return to the home page from every page of the site. A visitor may get lost and want to start over, learn more or use the links on the homepage to further explore the site.

8. Appeal to the drives of your ideal buyer. Needs-driven buyers have already determined that they’ll make a purchase and pay a lot if the purchase meets their needs. For example, there are a million books for sale on the web telling you how to avoid foreclosure “even if the sheriff is knocking on the door!!!!”

Okay, now that’s a needs-driven buyer. Facing foreclosure. Sherriff at the door – that site visitor will pay $99 for an e-book download if s/he believes the product provides (or is) the answer to his or her foreclosure problems. That’s a needs-driven buyer – a prospect who needs what you market – products or services. These buyers are less concerned about how cool and stylish your site is, how many interactive features it has and so on. These people are looking for solutions and benefits.

Other on-line shoppers are more casual in their buying habits. For example, many browse the web to comparison shop for prices and then run off to the big box store to make the actual purchase. Or, they just may bounce to a competitor site to make their online purchase. It’s a very fickle marketplace. But…

… if something catches the eye and addresses the drives of your demographic bulls-eye, your bounce rate decreases quickly. This means:

  • Know your target demographic. Describe your perfect buyer.

  • Know your products – inside and out.

  • Know the motivations of your ideal buyer – need, the desire for prestige, acceptance, to be part of something larger (to belong) – what motivates your buyer? Example? A site selling acne cures should appeal to the consumer’s natural drive to improve his or her appearance in order to better “fit in.” The human desire to belong and to be accepted is what fuels the cosmetics industry, the fashion industry and other “personal signature” industries.

So, the owner of the acne cure site can create three distinct headlines that address the drives of buyers of skin care products and place them above the fold: (1) Look Better The Natural Way, (2) Why Dermagel Really Works and (3) Stop Covering Up – three headlines aimed with laser precision at a site selling acne cures and other sensitive skin care products.

9. Real information. Not sales hype. If site visitors discover useful information that will directly benefit them on each search engine accessible page of your site, they’re much more likely to stick around and learn a little something.

Sure, if you’re operating on razor-thin margins and “Low Cost” is your prime selling point (WE BEAT ANY PRICE ON THE WEB) then that needs prominent, “can’t-be-missed” display on the home page – somewhere. But to lower your bounce rate, add a little informational content or a big link to your site’s information bank, blog or archives. There’s plenty of opportunity to make a sale once the visitor has begun to explore your site for additional, useful information.

10. Don’t follow the herd. 6,000 new websites hit the W3 each and every day. There are over one billion active websites worldwide. And if your online sporting goods warehouse site looks like every other sporting goods warehouse site you’ll continue to see a higher than acceptable bounce rate. You’ll never get your bounce rate to zero. All you can hope for is to lower it.

One last humbling fact: the average web user decides whether to stay on a site or move on in less than six seconds. Six seconds!!! That’s how long you have to compel the visitor to stay on your site before bouncing off to some other site.

Six seconds. How can your site grab attention in just six seconds? That’s the challenge we all face as site owners.

If your site visitors are bouncing like ping-pong balls, give me a call and let's find away to keep them on site long enough to close the sale.

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