Recently, I wrote a blog post detailing why I stopped fretting about a high bounce rate on my blog. If you haven’t read it, take a second and pop over to the link and catch up. A few days after publishing it, I received a question from a fellow blogger asking:
Okay, so if bounce rate doesn’t matter, then what metric do you use to determine whether people like your content?
Thanks for the question, Mike.
Bounce Rate Is Not Completely Dead To Me
First, it’s not that bounce rate doesn’t matter at all. It’s still a valuable metric and I still pay attention to it.
It’s just that I don’t worry so much about the fact that people are coming to my site to find an answer to a question, reading the article, hopefully finding a solution, and then going on with their lives.
I’m okay with that.
The reason I haven’t written off bounce rate completely is because it can still give you an idea as to whether people are finding a variety of content on your site.
Let’s face it, if someone comes to my site to learn how to post a Facebook post to Twitter, they might also benefit from some of my other Facebook tips like teaching them how to post a Tweet to Facebook.
For that reason, I include links to some of those other social media tips at the bottom of many of my articles. If someone clicks to one of those posts, then my bounce rate goes down and I’m happy.
So a declining bounce rate, even by a tenth of a percent can be a good signal to me that I’m succeeding in my efforts to continually optimizing the user experience.
The other reason, I haven’t written of bounce rate as a metric is because it’s 1/2 of a very important combination of metrics.
Bounce Rate Alone, Doesn’t Mean A Lot. But If You Combine It With…
Imagine a situation where a user Googles a search term and then heads over to the first page in the search result. If the user is being sent to a site, views one page for 30 seconds, and then bounces out…that’s probably not a good thing.
They either didn’t find what they were looking for or the user experience was so bad that they left.
But what if the user is sent to the site, views one page for seven minutes, and then bounces out? Totally different situation, right?
Seven minutes is a loooong time to digest a blog article and that MUST meant that the content was valuable.
Either that or the user took a nap…totally different challenge to solve.
Assuming that the visitor didn’t doze off while reading my post, then the answer to Mike’s question above is “Average Time On Page“. As an example, take a look at this screen capture that shows my top five articles for the last week.
Yep…my top article has an average time on page of more than seven minutes and the lowest in my top five is still around 3 and a half minutes.
What that tells me is that people are taking time to read through the post in detail. Whether it’s the solution, itself, or the comments below it, the visitor is taking the time to actually read and digest the content.
Who knows, maybe they are solving the problem in another browser. Maybe they are leaving a comment. All I know is they are spending time with the article that I wrote and that makes me happy 🙂
So, What Lessons Can You Take From This And Apply To Your Blog?
From my perspective, there are three main takeaways.
1) More Content Is Better, When It Helps Accomplish The Task – I know, I know. In this age of social media, people just want short post that are quick and to-the-point, right.
People want enough content from an article so it either educates them about the topic or helps them solve a problem. If you’re writing a recipe post, give them the details about the background of the recipe and every detail they need to be successful in their execution of the dish.
You don’t need to give them the history of every spice that they’ll be using. If, however, you’re writing a blog post on the history of Paprika and it’s roots and origins…sure, give them the detail.
2) Bounce Rate Is Still Valuable, And You Should Probably Pay Attention To It (especially if you are new blogger) – If your bounce rates are high and your average time on page metric is low, you might have a problem. Either your users aren’t interested in what you’re saying or you’re just not saying enough.
Longer posts are usually, but not always, more helpful to your readers. Don’t be afraid to go into detail…as long as it’s relevant.
Write some longer posts. Go into more detail. Share some history. Who knows, maybe people will stick around longer and maybe they’ll even click over to another post.
In that case, your bounce rate goes down and your average time on page goes up.
3) Have An Intent For Each Piece Of Content – Some visitors don’t want to read. Some want to watch videos. Others want to view information in a more graphical format.
As an example, take a look at this infographic about social media explained through coffee. If you clicked over to that link and read through the infographic, it probably took you all of 90 seconds.
If you had found that page via Google, clicked to it, read it, and then left, that’s okay. My feelings wouldn’t be hurt that you increased my bounce rate AND decreased my average time on page.
My purpose wasn’t to educate your or instruct you. It wasn’t to educate you on the history of social networking or the influence of coffee on history since the Roman times. The intent of that post was simply to give you a chuckle.
If it worked, great. Unfortunately, there’s no “chuckles per page” metric in Google Analytics, so I’ll just have to enjoy the fact that people keep sharing the infographic…a signal to me that they like it.
The Key Message – Choose What Metrics Matter For Your Blog
When it comes down to it, you have to choose the purpose behind your blog. Are you a photographer who wants to share your images with the world? Then the key metrics might be views, social engagements (like, shares, etc…), and maybe time on site.
Is your blog a recipe site and you want to share your amazing culinary creations with your visitors? Maybe comments about the successes with the recipe are key, along with average time on page (while they try to replicate your success) and maybe getting people to sign up for your email list so they get more recipes in the future.
My point is there are TON of metrics that you can try to use to evaluate the success or failure of a post or your site overall. Rather than trying to understand every metric out there, chose four or five.
Over time, you will probably evolve which metrics matter to you for reasons that are very personal to your blog.
It’s your blog, measure it in a way that its meaningful to you.
Let me know if there are questions I can answer. I love getting questions like the one that kicked off the post via my contact form or via comments.
Update based on a few pieces of feedback
This post is focusing on a question about a specific metric – namely bounce rate. As a couple of readers have pointed out, there are many metrics by which to measure your blog. This post isn’t intended to be an end-all-be-all guide to measuring your blog, it’s a response to what metric can be used to understand content value, especially when bounce rate isn’t used.