Recently, if you heard curse words while enjoying your coffee and pastry at Panera….it might have been my fault.
The other day, I was helping another aspiring blogger understand some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that I use when evaluating which posts “work” and which ones don’t. We were sharing coffee and going through Google Analytics when she literally yelled (and I mean YELLED):
Holy Cr@p! Look At Your Bounce Rates!
Sorry older couple at the next table who looked irritated. It’s my fault.
Having not really cared about bounce rates for a while, now, I clicked back to the GA page where my bounce rates were displayed and…yes…my bounce rates are high.
“How high?” you might ask.
HIGH! REALLY HIGH!
As you can see below, on a monthly basis my bounce rate hovers somewhere in the low 80s.
First off, I’m not sure I consider myself a successful blogger. I’m still working at it. I get paid to do it, which is nice…but that could literally all go away if Google decided my site sucked, so let’s just say it’s a constant work in progress.
But An 80% Bounce Rate…Isn’t 50% The Target That Most Bloggers Shoot For?
Sure. It’s not a great metric. It’s not something I have gone around bragging about. I certainly haven’t put together any WordCamp presentations about it…although I might after finishing this blog post. But there’s a real reason that I have stopped worrying about it. I stopped fixating over it. I just stopped paying attention to it. The reason I stopped is:
The only way to build a successful blog is to write about what you care about and give your readers what they want.
Let me explain. For a long time, I cared a lot about bounce rate. I stressed over it. I set a target to get my bounce rate to 40% and I tried everything I could. I tried pop-overs, and pop-unders, hell…at one time I might have tried Pop-Tarts (mmmm…Pop-Tarts).
I used every trick that SEO “experts” recommended. I used “read this next” plugins. You can still see one at the bottom of each blog post that entices readers to go to the previous blog post.
I worked by tail off to get to 40%….and it didn’t happen. I failed.
In fact, all it did was make me miserable and make me not want to blog anymore. For some reason, I was consumed by this ridiculous metric and it was literally giving me a reason to stop writing…to stop answering questions that my readers asked via email…to stop helping people who were Googling questions and not finding solutions.
I even took a break from writing for about 6 months because I was so frustrated by my inability to reach the artificially set 40% goal.
It was that break that gave me the understanding about why bounce rate doesn’t matter. For me, anyway.
You see, after taking that break for 6 months, I re-visited my analytics and noticed something interesting. Even with me not writing, I was still getting traffic. In fact, not only was I getting traffic, I was continuing to get comments on my posts. People were still searching for answers and they were commenting about what was working and what wasn’t.
To see what I mean, look at the comments on my post about turning off the stupid Facebook Messenger icon when there are no unread messages. People were sharing their own solutions and helping each other.
Their search for answers didn’t stop just because I stopped writing. And people were searching for answers that my posts (and the comments added by readers) were providing. In fact, the posts that were receiving the most traffic were those that directly answered people’s questions. They gave step-by-step solutions on how to solve problems.
Hold the phone…
THAT’S WHY MY BOUNCE RATE IS SO FREAKING HIGH!!!
Yep, people were Googling a problem like “how do I post photos from my desktop to Instagram” or “how do I change from the mobile view on Twitter to the desktop view on my tablet” or “how do I save a conversation from Skype”.
They were trying to find the solutions to their challenges and then, once they had the solution, they would go back to their lives. They weren’t looking to read more content, the were looking to go on with life.
Wow…That’s actually kinda cool.
I was helping people…
IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE ANALYTICS!!!
I clearly remembering looking at those metrics, sitting back in my chair, and smiling. I immediately started a HUGE list of solution-focused posts that I wanted to write. I went back through my inbox and answered every question that was asked and identified whether I could turn the answer into a blog post.
I was back on-track…despite an 80% bounce rate. In fact, I’m kinda proud of my 80% bounce rate. So, to all you so called “experts”…SUCK IT!
So A High Bounce Rate Is A Good Thing?
Well, yes. In my case.
Because that’s the goal of my blog. Help people understand the complexities of social media and help them solve their problems. If I can do that in a single page, wicked cool. If they come to my site, get the answer they are looking for, and then bug out to go live life, then I’m happy.
But What If They Just Don’t Like Your Content?
That’s a fair question. Maybe they don’t. But other readers do. Again, it’s in the numbers. 60,000+ session each month says that there a lot of people out there who are willing to give my content a try. Even if half of them find the answer they are looking for, I’ll take that.
In reality, though, many of my posts come directly from questions that people ask me via email or face-to-face. The fact that they are willing to ask and usually like my answers, signals to me that there are other people out there who could benefit from the answers.
So, regardless of what the bounce rate looks like, if the traffic numbers keep growing, I’ll keep on answering any questions that come my way.
So, As An Aspiring Blogger, Should I Care About Bounce Rate?
That’s the million dollar question and the answer is simple. NO!
If you are getting started in blogging, you should ignore the metrics. You should 100% ignore every single one of these metrics:
- page views
…and every other metric out there. Instead, you should care about the content you are writing. Write something that you are passionate about. Blog about your kids. Write about your pets. Share stories about you car.
Find your niche that other people will care about. Find ways to document the questions that people have about the topic and then write posts that answer those questions.
Like pets? Blog about pet accessories and supplies. But do it in a way that people searching for answers will likely find your posts.
Have kids? Write about what it’s like to work, and write, and take care of kids.
Again…find your audience in people who need your content.
But Without An Audience, Aren’t I Just Writing For Me?
Yes. And that’s okay. It took me two years before I felt like my blog had gained traction. Those two years were fueled by the fact that I liked the topic I was writing about, along with a lot of coffee and peanut M&Ms.
Writing about social media and technology was interesting to me, so I kept on writing. If I hadn’t been interested in the topics, then this blog would have gone the same way as the dodo bird and 600,000 other blogs on the Web that died because the author lost interest.
So, for those of you out there that found this blog using one of these queries:
- How do I reduce my blog bounce rate?
- What is a good bounce rate for a blog?
- Should I care about the bounce rate for my blog?
- how do you reduce your bounce rate
- What should an ideal bounce rate be?
Consider whether you are really asking the right question. Instead of focusing on that one metric, ask yourself whether you are writing content that interests you and might help people solve questions that they have.
Agree? Disagree? Think my bounce rate is laughable? Have a tip that helped you drop your bounce rate? Just leave a comment…I read them all 🙂
Update – If Bounce Rate Doesn’t Matter, What Metric Does?
One of my readers asked a great follow-up question to this post. Feel free to check out my answer in this post.