Reducing Bounce Rates with the Personal Touch
Quite a few months ago I wrote a post on what I considered to be the best hidden features and tools to be found in OSX. Much to my surprise, the article quickly hit the front page of digg.com and became very popular. In fact, that one article still provides more than 50% of this site’s traffic through links from other blogs, bookmarking and, even this far down the line, visits from digg.com and Stumble Upon. I’ve run reasonably popular sites in the past, but this was a new experience, there was a single point of entry. I also discovered a very high bounce rate for these visitors, it was in the region of 85-90%. This meant that I was receiving a large amount of traffic and then immediately losing it. This was obviously a worry, so I took a more practical approach to keeping at least some of this traffic and managed to get quite a few of you to stick around, here’s how I did it.
When the post first went up, the design of the site was very, very different. I just had the standard category links int he sidebar and a link to the latest posts. This wasn’t working. The click-through rate from this post onto other posts was very low. My first step was to recategorise the post under the”Apple” tag, where it previously only sat in the “5 Things” category, a series of posts that I am continuing to this day. I realised that the other 5 Things posts may be completely unrelated to this post and would therefore be unlikely to cause visitors to stick around. I’d like to quickly explain my reason for the initial categorisation. Initially, I had read an article that suggested the more pages that linked to a blog post, the worse it would do in the Google SERPS. Specifically, it would cause it to appear as a supplemental result. I installed a plugin in an attempt to counteract this and reclassified all applicable posts. And this helped. The number of views of my “Apple” category went up significantly, as did views of the most recent posts.
This was still a drop in the ocean, and the bounce rate remained at or around the 85% mark. This led me to my next conclusion, there wasn’t enough relevant content to support this one standout post. So I made a concerted effort to concentrate on Apple related posts for a month or so, just to build up a respectable catalogue of related content. Of course, this won’t bring in visitors in and of itself, so I tried out a few different methods of linking the content. My first attempt was a “Related Posts” WordPress Plugin, which didn’t achieve the expected results. There was a benefit, but it was small. I wasn’t sure whether this was down to a poor selection of related content on the part of the plugin, or something else. So I replaced the plugin with manual links to posts I thought users would find enjoyable, a personal selection if you will. Once again, this provided another slight improvement, which actually just reflected a more consistent click-through rate as opposed to any real gain.
However, the number one, top of my list, biggest and most beneficial change was to move these links to within the body of the post. In addition to now having some solid, related content, I created manual links and placed them at the end of the post. This act alone reduced the bounce rate on this post to 70% and vastly increased the views to the other posts. The only problem with this approach is that it’s entirely manual. There may be tools you can use to generate links to related content but really, it’s the location (inside the post) and the context (surrounded with non-generic wording) that can’t be automatically created. But it’s definately worth your time to invest in doing something like this on your blog. And remember, if the visitors are already on your blog you know that 1) They like your content and 2) you know, to a certain degree, what they like. Use these to your advantage.
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