The Importance of Bounce Rate

I was recently at an Online Marketing Bootcamp where Avinash Kaushik spoke (Kaushik writes a blog called Occam’s Razor) on the importance of Google Analytics (GA). He talked in detail about all the different aspects of how to use GA effectively for your business. What I would like to talk about today is the importance of Bounce Rate within GA.

I once worked for a lodging company, we’ll call it Company A for the sake of anonymity, whose bounce rate was at 74% when I got there. At first glance I didn’t think much of it because the visits to our site kept increasing as time went on. But as I dug deeper, I realized that yes, our visits were increasing but none of those visitors were staying on our site longer than 30 seconds. Avinash described bounce rate best at the bootcamp; if you have a high bounce rate, it’s like someone “coming to your site, puking on it and leaving.” (If that image doesn’t stick in your head nothing will). What it meant for us was that 74% of the people visiting the site were leaving within the first 30 seconds. No matter how you look at it, that can’t be good.

Company A, did 50% of their bookings through online booking engines which they paid a percentage for. If visitors booked on their site, they paid nothing and most of the time selling rooms at rack rate. So it was my job to get people to the site and entice them to book right there online paying rack rate without costing Company A any service fees. Sounds easy enough right?

But what is a lowly marketing manager to do without a budget for website redevelopment? What we did was, we hired a freelance designer to “refresh” the homepage. Which meant we basically made the pictures more compelling and the call to action stronger and kept within the theme of the original site so that the homepage would still flow with the rest of the site.

With a little brightening of the same homepage photo the photo became much more compelling. We put a box on the right with a stronger call to action (Check Availability & Book Online) with activities and lifestyle photos rotating just below it. Underneath that we included boxes that highlighted updates for guests, dining and featured news to let the guests know all that we had to offer.

Just these small, inexpensive changes, decreased Company A’s bounce rate from 74% to 34% within a month. And visitors were going directly to the accommodations and then rates page which is exactly where we wanted them to go.

As a small business it’s difficult, if not impossible, to have a yearly redevelopment budget for your website but just keeping abreast of your sites analytics, current trends and what your customers are doing and making adjustments accordingly, can make a world a difference in your marketing efforts.

For more information on Google Analytics check out Avinash’s book Web Analytics, An Hour a Day. It’s easy to read (especially if you’re not a tech head) and can truly help you monitor your site stats and make informed decisions that can help your business grow.

Performing ongoing SEO

Each morning as I drink my coffee, I go through the 4-5 eNewsletters I get in my inbox. I wanted to share an article from one I got this morning as it directly relates to yesterday’s blog entry. It’s called There’s No Secret Recipe to SEO. The article is pretty much a guideline to get you started on your SEO strategy (very similar to what I wrote about yesterday) but digs a little deeper into link building, social media marketing and reporting which is so important in your SEO campaign.

Though I didn’t go into much detail on these tools yesterday, I plan to in the coming weeks as I too will be setting up some social media marketing and linking strategies and will share with you my experience as I go.

Developing SEO Web Content

I am currently in the process of launching my website for my first entrepreneurial venture. I am starting a business in content development to help businesses better promote their brand online through various tools such as Search Engine Optimized (SEO) web content, social media strategy, blogging and public relations.

As I am putting the finishing touches on my own web content, I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve done so you too can better market your brand online and increase your online visibility.

By the time you’re ready to begin building a new site (or redesigning an old site), one can assume that you have already established your business, have a message, know your target audience and have a story to tell about your business. Now it’s time to start writing. Here is a list of how to get started:

1.    Develop a keyword list – This is a list of search terms you think your target audience will search on to find your site. There are various tools to help you with this process such as Wordtracker and Google and many more.
2.    Create a keyword spreadsheet – create a spreadsheet or word document with a list of all the pages on your site (if your site is huge just work on the key pages that you want to get picked up in the search engines). Make a list of which keywords belong on which page. Remember relevant content is king. The keywords you choose must coincide with the content on that given page. I find it helpful to have the list in front of me while I’m writing that page.
3.    Begin writing – I usually write the content first and then incorporate the keywords for that page into the content. Be sure to always keep in mind your message and your target audience. Keep your visitors in mind first and foremost as they are ultimately what is going to drive your business. (Plus making our site search engine friendly is only part of the marketing mix).
4.    Title tags, Meta tags and Alt tags – Once you have created engaging and compelling copy that appeals to both your target audience and is keyword rich, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and incorporate your keywords into what I call “the background” of your site. It is visible to your visitor but only in the background.
a.    Title Tags – The title tag is the page title you see at the top of your web browser when you open a page. This serves as the title to your page and should incorporate some of your keywords. Be sure it is relevant to each page.
b.    Image Alt Tags – All your images should have keyword rich alt tags. These are the titles you see when you hover over a picture.
c.    Meta Description – This is the description that is served up on a search results page. Be sure it is keyword rich and readable to the user as this is sort of an advertisement to get people to click on your site.
d.    H1 tags – This is the title to your content and not only should introduce what your page will be about but also incorporates your keywords so it is attracting the web crawlers.

SEO is only part of the online marketing mix. There are many other tools you can utilize to bring up your organic search rankings such as linking strategies, blogs, social media and networking strategies and submitting press releases and story ideas to online newswires and publications.

I hope this has helped you get started. It’s always an ongoing process but one that can bring you great rewards.

Email, Cell phones, computers and Facebook

There was actually a time without email, cellphones, computers and without Facebook. Really. I was there and I’m not sure how we survived. Having the world truly at our fingertips was only in Sci Fi. Today it’s the norm.

This morning I watched my stepdaughter search for her school on Google Earth. She knows her way around a keyboard and she knows how to navigate through a website. If it wasn’t so fascinating it would be down right scary. She is only 5! When I was her age, we had 8-track tapes, she has satellite radio. Yes, years ago to connect with friends and family, we used a telephone. You know, the almost obsolete “land line.” Today we can talk on the phone while driving, waiting in line at the grocery store or even while trying on clothes in the dressing room of any given clothing store. Today we can connect with whomever we want whenever we want using whatever tool we choose. And isn’t it great?!

I have a cell phone, an IM address, more than 2 email addresses, a handful of blogs (both professional and personal), and websites, a MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn account, and the list goes on.  It’s amazing how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.  I’ve reconnected with highschool friends, learned how to play the djembe and shared photos and videos, I’ve made new friends, shared music and I’ve gotten job offers and made new business connections all from the confines of my living room.

Now I ask you again; how did we ever survive before email, cell phones, computers and Facebook?

Creating a social media marketing plan

Social media marketing is simple, it’s viral marketing or what I call ‘online PR.’ The goal is to get people talking about your product. Sound easy? It can be. Businesses, especially small ones, should be utilizing social media to help create word of mouth and to promote their product organically. Yet, how does a businesses with limited resources best utilize this medium?

As you probably know, there are many social networks out there and more popping up each day. So which ones should you choose? This year 37% of adult Internet population and 70% of teens were using social networks at least once a month. By the year 2011, those numbers will rise to 1⁄2 of the adult online population and 85% of teens, according to eMarketer.com. With the rise of social media networks still climbing I thought its imperative to have a presence online. The two biggest social networking sites I suggested to use are Facebook and MySpace.

Facebook
In the Burlington, Vermont area alone, there are almost 29,000 people currently using Facebook.

Here are some ways to utilize this social network:

  • Create and maintain a Facebook profile and invite friends to join it. Find people who are interested in activities that relate to your product. Using Facebook is a great way to get the word out instantaneously when you have news or events, etc., to report.
  • Create and maintain a specific group that is proactive in encouraging people to participate. Some ways to do that include the following:
  • Post and encourage the posting of daily photos
  • Create a contest for best photo. The winner gets their photo posted on the main website and/or some sort of discount for visiting your business.
  • Post any events that are happening relating to your product.
  • Offer a discount for group members on a given day to print out from Facebook and redeem at our business.
  • There is a place within the networks tab to post local events. Utilize this to post any special events or happenings and encourage people to visit.
  • Surf discussion topics throughout the network and post comments to help gain some presence and legitimacy.

MySpace
Among the top 20 social networking sites, MySpace is visited 82% of the time, according to Hitwise. Create a presence in MySpace.

  • Create and maintain a user profile
  • Find and invite friends to join
  • Post daily photos
  • Post any special events and send out flyers to all friends on the network/friends list.
  • Create and maintain a blog within MySpace to talk about current events and other things going on related to your busines, etc.

BLOGGING
Another inexpensive tool for businesses to take advantage of is Blogging. According to eMarketer, 61% of the blog readers are over the age of 30, and 75% make more than $45,000 a year. And according to Perseus, 92% of bloggers are under the age of 30. This covers a lot of ground. Companies need to create a presence among the blogosphere by initiating the following but be careful with this one. Create a blog only if you can maintain it.

  • Create and maintain a blog with high quality content that bloggers will want to link to.
  • Syndicate it with an RSS feed or email sign-up
  • Link it to your website and vice versa as well as the newly created MySpace profile and Facebook
  • Link it to related websites and ask them to link back
  • Reach out to other blogs and establish relationships with bloggers who blog about topics related to your industry
  • Monitor the blogosphere and comment where appropriate
  • Create a picture slide show and update it frequently

A blog compliments your website and will help promote your product in an informal and organic way. This can be used in place of a newsletter as visitors can sign up for email announcements and RSS feeds that go directly to their computers giving information to a targeted group interested in your product.

When it comes to social media some companies may be afraid of losing some control by encouraging consumers to talk about their product instead of controlling their own message. However, the use of social media can work twofold for you; 1. With limited resources it’s an inexpensive way to create a buzz in the marketplace and, 2. you can find out directly how consumers view your product and respond and adjust accordingly.

Utilizing social networking sites and blogs will help create a buzz and will compliment marketing efforts without gobbling up your budget. It also creates a more grassroots campaign and encourages your customers to talk about your product. The cost really only includes the resources of someone dedicated to your online visibility. And your return could far outweigh that cost.