Search Engine Targeting and Bounce Rate

Search Engine Targeting and Bounce Rate

I thought I’d cover a few ideas that I’ve been kicking around on search engine targeting. As those of you who’ve been regular readers of OpTempo for a while recognize I’ve been doing a lot of product review and niche overview posts here over the past two months. I’ve also been doing some experimenting on some other blogs. Plus I’ve read some articles about bounce rate that caught my attention. So, I’m combining these two trains of thought into a long rambling post.

Every Page a Landing Page

A Landing Page

First, it is important to consider every page a potential landing page when designing your blog, whether it’s a niche blog or a social blog or a combination of the two. Why is this the case?

User patterns have changed considerably over the past 5 years with the rise of Google and a general increase in the way people use it to search the Internet. The way it was back in the early days, circa 1998-1999,  was that you would expect a visitor to arrive at your home page and explore your site from there.

But today, people are increasingly impatient with exploring a site. They’ve become very task oriented which means they want to find what they want quickly. They want to either complete their task on your site or move on to the next step as fast as possible. Task oriented visitors will be on a mission to find the answer to what they’re searching for.
Boring Memo WordPress theme

In a niche marketing blog or post, that means having your selling proposition front and center. You want them to click away to a site where you’ll get paid as quickly as possible. This is why ‘ugly’ blogs, like the Blogger Minima template or my Boring Memo WordPress theme, that have dull content work so well. They simply serve as a sign pointing the way to the answer and, with any luck and good planning, 10 to 20 percent of the visitors will follow the path you’ve laid before them.

For a social flagship blog, you aren’t looking so much for search visitors as much as you’re looking for referral and direct visitors but search visitors can help build a loyal audience over time. If your blog consistently provides the answers that searchers are looking for then you have a good chance to convert them. For this to happen you should avoid annoying distractions, such as advertising before the article, ’subscribe to my feed’ plugins, jumbo headers and RSS graphics, an overly busy theme, excessive animations and widgets and so forth. The writing should be scanable and easily digestible if you’re targeting search visitors to any degree.

The bottom line is to get to the point quickly when you’re targeting Google search visitors. The point may be a well placed compelling advertising block or intriguing opening paragraphs or graphics but you have to grab their attention quickly without being annoying or unfocused about it.

Bounce Rate - Good, Bad and Ugly

Some people, particularly certain A-List social bloggers, preach about how a low bounce rate, the percentage of visitors who leave a site after a single page view, is of utmost important to a blog. Not surprisingly, they often try to link this to you buying a premium WordPress theme from them or through an affiliate link of theirs. Wonder why? What do they leave out in their proposition about bounce rates?

The thing is that there are good bounces, bad bounces and, well, ugly bounces.
good bounce

Good bounces are bounces that result in an affiliate sale or a PPC advertising click. These are the bread and butter for a niche blog and can help make even a social flagship blog more profitable. If a bounce means you make money it’s a good bounce. If a bounce is to subscribe to FeedBurner on your social flagship blog it’s a good bounce. Any exit that produces a result that you want is a good bounce.
bad bounce

Bad bounces are bounces out that you don’t want. This means that you aren’t answering the visitor’s question or making it too difficult or annoying to find. For example, a bad bounce is one where the visitor came from Google search or a referring site and hit the back button quickly. Your site failed to convert them into either a buyer or a reader, depending on which you wanted.
ugly bounce

Ugly bounces come from social networks like StumbleUpon, Digg, EntreCard or others like them. These visits are useless almost all of the time so far as converting to sales or readers and a very high bounce rate from this kind of visitor should be expected. You shouldn’t be concerned about bounce rates from this traffic nor should you try to actively seek it. It simply doesn’t do you much good in terms of reaching your goals.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t take a high bounce rate to be a problem with your blog nor should a low bounce rate indicate that your blog is successful. What you should consider is the results you’re getting in terms of sales, in terms of readers, in terms of your goals for your blog.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found landing on this article helpful and interesting and that you didn’t bounce away too quick. If you have any thoughts or questions about it please leave a comment.

The photos and clipart in this article are courtesy of iClipArt. Yearly memberships are currently on sale for $29 rather than the regular $99/year.


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Comment by Buy Gothic Dresses
2008-07-12 15:13:31

You make a very good point; most of my niche sites, whether AdSense or BANS, are designed to move visitors through quickly to an action that will make me some money. But solely measuring bounce rate gives an overly optimistic picture if those speedy bouncers aren’t buying.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 09:24:23

Hi Gothic,

The quality of the landing page you send them to plays a big role in the conversion as you might expect. With eBay listings such as you have on your Gothic Dresses BANS site it’s really up to how well the eBay sellers do their job. If they have poor descriptions or ugly landing pages this means you may get the click but not the conversion. Unfortunately, as a search marketer, there isn’t much you can do about that.

2008-07-12 21:15:47

What I do see though with eBay is that I get lots of clicks but no sales: what’s a decent clicks/sales ratio for eBay? I am assuming the ratio will be better if I have very well targetted traffic? Lissie

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 09:31:53

Hi Lissie,

You should see a conversion rate of about 15-25 percent on average. Higher priced items (over $200) tend to have a lower conversion rate but will make you more money as long as they’re converting steadily. Certain categories will produce more ACRU’s than others so you have to figure this in as well.

If your traffic is targeted around a buying keyword like ‘cheap’, ‘discount’ or ‘inexpensive’ you’ll see better click-thrus and conversions than you will for more generic terms that bring in both lookers and buyers such as ‘review’ or ‘info’. For example, I recently made this change to one of my sites and traffic has gone up by 4 times and conversions by about 6 times.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-12 22:26:07

hi Frank, good article and great use of images. At first I wondered what the first two images were about. Then I realized, ah ha, the first person has a bow and arrow to target something and the second person has a basketball to bounce. Very clever. Then as I read and saw more images, I though, I’ve got to leave a comment and ask Frank where he’s getting these. Then I see at the bottom, you’ve read my mind. If only I could insert a picture of a mind reader here! Very good analysis of bounce rates, and that the percentage doesn’t matter unless you know “why” your readers are bouncing! ~ Steve

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 09:35:55

Hi Steve,

I like to use inline images in my posts, it’s kind of my ‘trademark’. It does take time though since I usually have to photoshop them into the right sizes and so forth so I’ve gotten where I only do it for special feature posts like this one.

iClipArt is a good source and at $29 a year it’s a good value but I wouldn’t pay $99/year for it. I also have a huge collection of clip art and royalty free photos that I’ve bought over the past 20 years or so.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-13 17:43:17

hi Frank, just for giggles I decided to check out iClipArt and seach for “mind reader”, but I didn’t find anything. I then thought to try “fortune teller” but only got one picture, and it wasn’t the style of your images above. My biggest gripe with stock photography websites is knowing how and what to search for. How long did it take you to find the images that you used in this article? i agree that inserting pictures in articles takes more time, but if it is well done, I think it makes for a much higher quality article! ~ Steve

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 17:53:52

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a member of iClipart a little over a year and they’ve steadily improved their search and the quantity of their content. One trick is to search related tags and you’ll usually find something, if they have it. I think they’ll continue to add content and improve the search, particularly via tags.

It took me about 10-15 minutes to find the pictures for this article along with about 4-5 others I didn’t use. I probably spent another 10-15 minutes doing pre-processing of them. That’s why I don’t do this kind of post as often.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-14 10:38:06

hi Frank, I tried looking for “fortune teller” again. I wish it would search all of the categories at once (i.e. clip art, photos, etc). Anyway, I think your stuff was under “photo objects” based on the look of your images, so I looked there and didn’t find anything. I was hoping to see a tag (I think this is a related term, i.e. “did you mean”) but nothing there either! So then I tried “trade show booths” and got nothing, but it did suggest trying “trade show booth” which I clicked, and got nothing as well! Argghhh!!! I like, but they charge by the image, though I think they have a subscription deal now. As you point out, finding images and then formating them to insert in articles can take time. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but if I was reviewing iClipart I would say I wish they had a universal search function, and more alternative suggestions! ~ Steve

Comment by jfc
2008-07-15 11:06:22

I agree Steve, they should have a universal search option but I have to admit that I haven’t checked out their ‘advanced search’ yet so it may be in there and I just haven’t found it.

And I did use photo objects for everything but the ship graphic. They’re a new addition at iClipart and don’t have as many selections available yet.

Comment by Rhys
2008-07-12 22:40:06

Hi Frank!

All good stuff to ponder on. Thanks.

The bad side of the high bounce factor is that G sees your Adsense impressions as valueless and puts you on a low penal rate per click as a result.

It is worth solving this (Show ads only to search traffic), I know my CTR and earnings climbed up again when I addressed this.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 09:44:13

Hi Rhys,

You actually want a high bounce rate on an Adsense marketing site as long as a good 20% of the bounce is going to the Adsense target site and converting when they get there. That’s how you make money with Adsense.

Now, if you’re getting a lot of ‘ugly’ traffic that doesn’t click ads and who clicks them just to ‘help’ but bounces away from the advertiser’s site quickly this can lower your CTR and conversion rate and result in your Adsense account being smart priced.

However, you can have an Adsense site that gets a lot ‘good’ search traffic but doesn’t click ads that much (common in tech niches). But the clicks that do happen are sincere and result in a positive for the advertiser so you don’t get smartpriced in spite of a very low CTR.

Comment by Link Building Bible
2008-07-13 00:06:40

Thanks man, i needed this. I also noticed that there are ways to manipulate bounce rate. I went from having 6 posts on my front page to 3, and my bounce rate lowered….

I also have an ajax script on my dofollow blog search engine page, and so those who come to that page, pretty much always bounce, unless they click through to link building bible.

So yah, it’s good that you pointed out the differences.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 09:48:03


It’s amazing how different traffic bounces.

Articles like this one have a low bounce rate while my product reviews have a high one, with a decent percentage exiting to go to eBay, which I like of course.

As for the home page thing, that’s why I’ve come to like magazine style themes like I use here on OpTempo for social flagship blogs. It encourages stickiness much like a news site like CNN. For niche marketing blogs, I take a different approach, generally going with single article home pages.

Comment by Lin
2008-07-13 10:00:37

Hiya Frank, I’m really glad you’ve done this post. I’ve been paying close attention to the cause of high bounce rate and discovered Entrecard is crap and it’s now removed from my site. I’m very proud of the fact that many of my posts have a low bounce rate and G searchers are staying around for a much longer period of time to dig deep into archived posts, especially those discussing “helping vs. enabling” and child sexual abuse.

It’s been interesting to see how traffic has greatly increased and subscriber numbers continue to increase, and I’m so pleased about that. And, since I’ve always loved your images, I’ve already gone ahead and bought the iClipArt through your link. Whoohooo, I love the images you use, and the price is right at the moment, cause I wouldn’t pay 99.00 for it. Yippeee!

Comment by jfc
2008-07-13 17:48:34

Hi Lin,

The low bounce rate for an important informational blog like yours is important. It indicates that people get something important out of reading it, something I’m sure you want.

Comment by Sonni Carr
2008-07-13 23:09:52

Hi Frank,
I got here from Griz’s site. I thought I’d check out your blog and I’m glad I did. Good post, not to worry you weren’t rambling. I’m a new blogger running around checking out sites. My blog isn’t a monetized blog it’s about chasing dreams. I just write what I want to write and sometimes ramble. Cheers!

Comment by jfc
2008-07-15 11:13:28

Hi Sonni,

Don’t worry about monetizing if you don’t want to do this on your main flagship blog.

Comment by Cect 168 Phones
2008-07-14 00:42:00

I have a pretty high bounce rate on my site and, thank goodness, sales are pretty strong on it. I suspect that on some of the other niches I work with, the keywords I’m targeting are a little too broads o the sales ratio is lower.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-15 11:15:31

Hi Cect,

A high bounce rate with good sales after the bounce is great.

Keywords are quite important though. I recently refocused one of my existing blogs around a new keyword combo and greatly increased the number of visitors, the bounce rate and the number of EPN commissions.

Comment by Terry Didcott
2008-07-18 15:10:29

Hi Frank, I liked the post, it certainly gave me some to think about especially with my eBay sites.

Like Lissie, I also get pretty varying results from them, as some get lots of clicks but no bids, while others convert well. I’ll certainly look at manipulating the keywords in the poorer sites to incorporate cheap, discount etc to see where that takes them.


Comment by zania
2008-07-25 15:33:47

Hi Frank,
Interesting post, which confirms my suspicions.
I began in adult and on most of my blogs, a high bounce rate is a necessity. I don’t want visitors hanging around too long; I want them to click on the ‘free video’ link and sign up with a sponsor.

Conversely, I find that those who stay around, and even sign up for my rss feed, hardly ever sign up with my sponsors. But why should they?
But then adult isn’t really social… not in the usual way anyhow :)

As to Stumblers et al. Yes, those bounce rates are Ugly and I guess, to be expected.
But what I did find recently, was that one of my mainstream blogs which had been in the sandbox came out with a bang after receiving thousands of visits from Stumbleupon, consistently over a few days.

Of course, I guess I will have to keep up the momentum to make sure Google doesn’t see this as a fluke and sandboxes the blog again.
Which is a bit of a pain really…

Am I right thinking this?

Comment by Sebastyne
2008-07-28 00:55:15

Is there a downside to bounce rate in terms of search engine position for example? I am using EntreCard on my blog, and have been on the fence about it the whole time. It certainly makes the bounce rate go through the roof, (without EC the rate is 0%, but with it, it can go as high as 100%) but at the same time EC is one of the biggest senders of traffic to my site. While most of it is useless traffic, I have kept it so far hoping that there would be one or two returning visitors in the end… (My blog is quite new and recreational rather than professional so.)

However I am interested if there is a reason for concern other than how it gives you an idea what people do on your site?

Comment by jfc
2008-07-29 12:00:29

Hi Sebastyne,

The objective of most, but not 100%, of EntreCard users is to click the drop button and leave. A small percentage will stick around if something catches their eye. There’s no downside to this traffic from a pure traffic perspective, however, it can hurt your Adsense earnings and perhaps harm other types of advertising as well.

Comment by Peter Answers
2008-08-19 17:25:18

Seems like bounce rate is important if you want people to stick around, but sometimes its OK to have a crappy looking site if they bounce out to an ad, right?

2009-01-28 23:28:50

bounce rate is important if you want people to stick around.good artical tanks for having such bounce rate tips thanks

Comment by Camping Lights
2009-04-01 09:31:06

Entrecard not only upped my bounce rate that seemed to directly reduce the amount of searh engine traffic I was getting -I think google discounted the site because of the bounce -got rid of entrecard and the search engine traffic came back

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