This article was first published on March 28, 2016, and last updated in November 2019.
Many marketers focus 90% of their analytics attention on metrics like CTA click-through rates, blog post views, and social media reach.
These metrics are very important, of course. However, if you concern yourself with these to the exclusion of all else, you will fail to examine other important measurements. One such set of metrics you may overlook—to your detriment—is where and when visitors drop off your site and head elsewhere.
You may say, “I want to know how to bring customers in! I don’t care where they exit!”
Well, we are here to change your mind.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing reports: “[M]ost sources say that it costs between 4 and 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.” The same is almost certainly true of website visitors. In other words, visitors you already have are 4 to 10 times as valuable as those you have not yet snagged. You have already invested in bringing them to your website so it is easier to build off of that experience. This means that much more of your focus should be on retaining the website visitors you already have instead of simply driving new traffic.
Google Analytics gives you a crucial look at where your customers are dropping off. With that information, you can make the necessary changes to plug the holes, increase your visitor retention rate, and improve your bottom line.
The first step is to identify your high bounce pages. A “bounce” is where a visitor enters your site on a certain page, and then leaves your site without visiting any other pages.
High bounce pages may or may not be problematic. Google’s Analytics Help page explains: “[U]sers might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in going to other pages.”
To determine whether high bounce pages require changes, you first need to identify them, and then analyze them to see if you can spot problems.
In Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior>Site Content>All Pages. Click the Bounce Rate column to sort the data appropriately. From the Sort Type drop menu, choose Weighted, so that you aren’t just looking at a series of pages that received only one hit and have 100 percent bounce rates.
When you have a list of high traffic or important pages with high bounce rates, take the following steps:
- Step into the Users Shoes: Evaluate the pages as if you had never been there before and look for red flags. Does the page load slowly? Are images or product links broken? Is the product or content unappealing or not as described?
- Incentivize Users to Stay: Add links to other content or products you think your visitors might like, or implement Exit Intent Software.
- View Site on Mobile Devices: If the page is inconvenient for use on devices other than a laptop or desktop, you should consider optimizing it for mobile use.
- Identify Source: Choose Source/Medium as a Secondary Dimension. If a source you pay for is driving a lot of traffic that bounces, perhaps you should rethink that campaign.
Bounce rates are important, but remember that there might be many reasons for a bounce; one reason may simply be that you have satisfied your visitors’ needs.
The next step to discovering where your visitors are dropping off your site is to identify your highest exit rate pages.
Many people confuse “exit rates” with “bounce rates.” The difference is that a bounce visitor enters your site and leaves from the same page without further navigation. Exit rates, on the other hand, measure the number and percentage of times a page is the last page in a series your visitor views before exiting your site.
High exit rate pages, like bounce pages, may or may not indicate a problem. Your responsibility, as with bounce pages, is to assess the high exit pages carefully for features that might be driving your visitors away.
To find the metric in Google Analytics, navigate to Content > Site Content > Exit Pages. There you will find the total number of exits, exit percentages, and the number of page views.
Do as you did above, by putting yourself in the user’s shoes and trying to identify any problem areas. Add links to encourage visitors to visit other pages on your site instead of leaving. Finally, view the site on mobile to make sure it is usable.
WebAnalyticsWorld.net summarizes: “Top exit page analysis is a good way to highlight areas that may need focus, but it is important to understand that there are more factors to site exit than just poor usability or communication. When using the Exit Report, it’s vital to note what roles each page may be playing in onsite and offsite conversion and factoring that into your marketing decisions.”
ABANDONED SHOPPING CARTS
For owners of ecommerce sites or blogs that sell products, one of the most frustrating concerns is the abandoned shopping cart. You were so close to a sale!
If your site has a multi-step checkout, Google Analytics gives you a clever way to determine where in the process your customer decided to leave.
Kissmetrics explains how to set up a “goal” in Google Analytics using a Goal Funnel: “To do so, click on the settings wheel icon, and click on Goals. Create a new goal with the Goal Type of ‘URL Destination.’ After you enter the basic goal details, including the final URL of the checkout process (usually a thank you for your order page), then check the Use funnel box to enter each of the URLs that correspond to the steps a visitor must take when purchasing an item.”
Once you have set this up, you can receive reports that display when customers are abandoning their cart. Using the report, you can evaluate the checkout process on your site.
For instance, if people are leaving your site on the payment page, you may need to make some changes. Are you adding additional charges? Do you not accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AmEx, or PayPal?
As before, when you discover the pages where your visitors are dropping off, spend some time looking at them to discover if you have a problem.
Once you have determined which pages are causing visitors to exit, you can make a list of them and start taking action.
However, as Nicole Kohler at Woo Themes warns: “Before doing anything else, you may want to eliminate any pages from this list that should be sending customers away. For example, a ‘thank you’ or order confirmation page may have a high exit rate, but you’d expect most customers who finish a purchase to leave your site. And a low time on page on a FAQ page could indicate that your visitors are finding answers to their questions immediately, and that’s a good thing!”
That being said, if you find something on a drop off page that is clearly out of whack, you can start making changes at once.
However, if you are uncertain whether your new copy or new set of images will improve or worsen your results, Kohler suggests the following: “[Y]ou can always run an A/B test. This will compare the existing version of your page or website against a test version to see which…keeps more of them on your website.”
This way, you can be relatively certain whether a potential change will help or hurt performance.
Ready to start optimizing your website to better convert traffic into customers? Now that you have Google Analytics, you can see which pages need some help. Learn more about Boostability’s SEO services where we optimize pages to help with conversions.