Microsite No More: Clearing the Digital Kudzu
BOUNCE RATE . . .killer of web ROI. When we think of measuring effectiveness of our interactive campaigns we tend to focus on impressions and click-throughs, but the real underlying indicator is bounce rate. Regardless of your success in attracting eyeballs to your website, if you consistently maintain a high bounce rate, you’re actually likely doing more harm than good.
“Bounce Rate” can have a highly technical definition, but in layman’s terms let’s just say that a “bounce” is essentially a visitor that lands on your website doesn’t stay there any significant amount of time. Sometimes this is due to user error – clicking the wrong link, entering the wrong address, etc. However, more often a bounce comes as the result of a user not relatively immediately finding information that is relevant to their query, not interacting further with your site, and “bouncing” right off your URL.
Yes, it’s important. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason to.
A decent bounce rate is less than 40% (4 out of 10 visitors to your site do not remain on a landing page or interact with the site). An average bounce rate is around 65%. Analytic services (e.g. Google) reads your site’s bounce rate and uses such as a metric when calculating site relevance, which is a determining factor in how highly (or not) search engines rank your site in search results.
As with all things digital, there are best practices that help you lower your bounce rate and increase your site’s relevance. A major factor is, of course, content. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason it. So having content in place that users are looking for is one of the “no-duhs” (as the kids said when I was in school).
So if content is the “artistic” side of making your site relevant, the way in which the information is served to your audience would be the technical side. Traditionally, this has been the trickier aspect to get right. Even to the point of website best practices contradicting other website best practices.
Clearing the Digital Kudzu.
A cardinal rule of website design is to not overload the user with information on the homepage. Keep it clean, simple, and visually engaging. Problem is, how can your expect to serve relevant information for specific search queries if that’s the case? A solution to this problem came in the form of Micro-sites and custom landing pages. Search queries or other advertising would drive users to content-specific landing pages that would then link viewers back to your main website, or relevant sections on your website.
Technically, this worked. Practically, it was the digital equivalent of bringing in kudzu to control land erosion.
So the issue of serving relevancy was nominally solved, but landing pages and micro sites created more work. A lot more work (just ask your friendly neighborhood web developer). And from a branding standpoint, it often had the result of producing more brand confusion, and less awareness for the brand itself. No good. Throw into the mix the rapid proliferation of mobile devices – which necessitated the need for mobile versions of websites – and the problem was only compounded.
So to in order to maintain optimum user experience combined with effective brand promotion and organizational efficiency, we needed to find a way to clear the digital kudzu. The overgrowth of mobile sites, micro sites, and landing pages needed to go. The ability to reduce bounce rates need to stay.
Intelligent Responsive Content (IRC)
New technologies have emerged which seem to be a good solution that addresses each side of the problem. Collectively, I’ll call the approach “Intelligent Responsive Content,” or IRC. We’ve been implementing IRC solutions for clients now for several months, and have documented success with the approach.
In an IRC model, the technology addresses two aspects. The manner in which the content is served – particularly to the homepage – is dynamic and user-defined. Not to get too technical here, (you can contact me if you have further questions), but basically your website determines what content a user sees based on a series of “if/then” scenarios. The “if’s” can be derived from a series of factors – nature of search query (what did the user search for), manner in which they reached your site (display ad, facebook post, linked article, search engine, etc.), even aspects like geographic location, time of day, etc. One of more of these variables is then associated with a “then” that tells the site to service specific content.
For instance, let’s say you own a company that makes various products, including a Flux Capacitor. Let’s also pretend that the Flux Capacitor has a large profit margin, but represents a small portion of your overall business. It doesn’t make much sense to feature the product on your home page, but sales are still highly profitable to small group of people. You want to make sure that if someone if looking for a Flux Capacitor, they can find it on your site.
An IRC system can identify this person through their own actions – i.e. they search for Flux Capacitors on Google, or they read an article about Flux Capacitors, or they see a Facebook post that your company makes great Flux Capacitors. Then if that person comes inbound to your site, the technology behind IRC reads their intent, and “serves” information on your home – text, or visual – related to Flux Capacitors. Being hit with highly relevant information immediately will reduce bounce rate and also increase conversions.This system functions from code, with the content being served dynamically. Thus, you are able to have the effect of a custom landing page or micro site without having to maintain separate landing pages and microsites. One URL, multiple versions of the information on your site.
That’s the “I” component of IRC. The “R,” being “responsive,” is a relatively simple way of making your site mobile friendly without having to maintain separate mobile sites. Again, through a coding process, your site can recognize the browser window size of an inbound visitor, and re-order the information on your site for optimal viewing. So your information can be presented in customized layouts for smart phones, tablets, mini-tablets, and desktop screens.
A lot of Kudzu grew up around the Internet. IRC strategies can help to clear the vines.