Understanding When “Useless” Metrics are Useful
Knowing when certain metrics valuable and when they aren’t is a key part of developing a strong SEO strategy. And when it comes to bounce rate, time on site, and pages per visit, it can be hard to know when these metrics will be useful to you and when to skip them.
Below we’ll tell you more about when these metrics are most useful and when you should ignore them.
Before we get started, let’s review the definitions of these metrics.
Bounce rate is simply the average percentage of people who landed on a page on your website but left rather than looking at more pages.
Pages per visit (PPV) tracks how many pages the average user visits after landing on a particular page on your website.
Time on site tracks how much time a user spends on your website. It can be inaccurate because people leave their screens to do all kinds of things while they’re on a page.
When Not to Use These Metrics
A lot of people think that bounce rate, time on site, and pages per visit are useless metrics across the board. While this isn’t true, there are some occasions when they are definitely less useful to you.
First, you don’t want to assume that any of these metrics is a sign of success, and you especially don’t want to consider them over and above more meaningful conversion actions like completion of forms, or purchases. Ideally, you should be optimizing for conversion actions.
You also want to avoid comparing these metrics against those of non-relevant competitors. For example, there are a lot of reasons why you can’t compare a site that is product- and purchase-driven to a site that focuses on media. For PPV, for example, a media site should keep users’ attention for longer. The same goes for time on site: a content-oriented site will likely have longer time-on-site stats because most product marketers set up their sites and strategies so purchases happen quickly. Learning through comparison isn’t a bad idea, but only compare your numbers against similar types of businesses.
Finally, consider the sources of traffic that bring users to your site. For example, if someone arrives at your site from a Facebook link, it’s likely that the bounce rate will be high, that the number of pages per visit will be low, and that not much time will be spent on site. This is because this is typical behavior for Twitter or Facebook.
If, on the other hand, the user made contact with your site via a Google search, the bounce rate should be lower, pages per visit should be higher, and they should spend more time on your site. In a nutshell, always make sure to account for the avenue used to reach you whenever you look at these metrics.
When to Pay Attention
Just as there are many scenarios when you can ignore certain metrics, there are times when they can be incredibly useful.
One meaningful way to use them is as a diagnostic tool to evaluate your conversion funnel. Whenever you adjust a metric within your conversion funnel, you’ll want to look not only at how it impacts conversions, but whether users are spending more or less time on your site, whether they’re visiting more or fewer pages, or whether the bounce rate has gone up or down.
For example, let’s say you raised the price of a specific product and noticed that the bounce rate and number of pages per visit remained unchanged while people spent less time on the pricing page. In addition, you see that conversions went down. Although it may seem easy to assume that pricing was the problem, since people made it to the pricing page and to the conversion page, the price isn’t likely the problem. This is just one example of how you can use these metrics comprehensively to better understand rises and falls in conversion rates.
You can also usefully rely on these metrics to learn whether changing behaviors were created by internal or external changes. For example, if you look at pages per visit on your blog, you’ll learn whether people have read your blog and then checked out other parts of your site. If they have, this could be an indication that your blog is providing value to them. If, on the other hand, you notice that your blog readership has dropped, or that people are quickly navigating away from your blog, you can decide whether you need to improve your content.
And finally, you can learn a lot by comparing these metrics with those of competitors in your industry that have a similar focus and similar website pages. To do this, you can look at industry surveys or data from Jumpshot or other sources. If competitors’ numbers are better than yours, it could be worthwhile to do some additional research to find out where they might be doing a better job. This will prevent you from simply assuming that your competitors’ methods are best practices, and give you good reason to look with deeper insight into where your strategies are lacking.
To learn more about how to analyze your metrics, contact Blueprint Internet Marketing at 1.888.533.4886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.