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How Bounce Rates Influence SEO ROI

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Posted by steve on March 13, 2011 at 9:08 am

An often-overlooked facet of on-line marketing, both paid and SEO, is the bounce rate of the web site.  Just to ensure we’re all on the same page, bounce rate is the measure of visitors that hit one page and leave.  In general, it is widely accepted that a bounce rate of less than 30% is excellent (meaning 70% of your traffic visits more than one page).  Statistically, that may be true, but don’t wrap yourself in the comfort of your 29% bounce rate!  PPC and SEO experts deal primarily with technical aspects of your site, whereas bounce rates relate to design and aesthetics (which aren’t really their specialty). 

In point of fact, bounce rate is a statistic that has immediate and definite effects on the return of any marketing initiative.   As a quick case study, let’s look at a few affordable modern furniture retailers – stores like West Elm, Eurway and ModernFurniture.com.  As a premier catalog, design and furniture retailer West Elm is known for design, which is reflected in their web site’s bounce rate.  As of this writing the 1-month bounce rates (according to Alexa.com) for the three sites are as follows:

West Elm: 21%

Eurway: 31.6%

ModernFurniture: 41.5%

Be aware that ModernFurniture is ranked #1 organically for the highly competitive search term “modern furniture.”  Obviously, from an SEO standpoint they know what they’re doing.  What is easy to overlook, however, is the fact West Elm can expect similar or better returns with 25% less traffic!  Why?  Consider the fact that 41 in every hundred visitors never make it past ModernFurniture’s home page, leaving only 59 shoppers.  To obtain that same 59 shoppers, West Elm only needs 75 unique visitors.  Extrapolate from there!  Every dollar West Elm spends on marketing yields a 25% higher return simply because their site is better designed to retain the traffic yielded by any marketing efforts. (Note: This article is looking only at web metrics.  West Elm actually outsells most modern furniture retailers due to catalog and off-line marketing initiatives.) 

So why is West Elm’s bounce rate so much better?  To determine that you will need to evaluate the design of the web sites.  Imagine you are shopping for a new modern sofa or couch; look at all three sites and decide how you would order them based on these dynamics: 

  • How appealing is the color palette of the web page?  
  • How many elements on the page are calling for attention (the fewer, the better)? 
  • How obvious is the navigation of the web site? 

You have to agree that from best to worst for all three questions, the answer is West Elm, Eurway, ModernFurniture.  Every customer that visits those sites thinks that same thing, as evidenced by the bounce rates.

So, look at your site and your competitors.  How can you improve your ROI by reducing your bounce rate?

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