green symmetry 1One of the fun part of my professional life is all the email I get from you. Yes it is an insignificant amount of work but it means I learn a lot about what's on your mind, what you find hard, what you find easy, what challenges bedevil you.

At the moment the "could you help me" / "what do you think I should do" emails are around 50 a day.

[My one small request is that you do a search on before you email me, sometimes that also works pretty well.]

Here are some questions from the last couple weeks that were interesting enough to share with you.

    #1: Bounces on a "non-bounceable" Page. How Come?

    #2: Bounce Rate in Omniture. Why Not?

    #3: Decent Funnel Abandonment Rate. How Much?

    #4: Rock Steady New vs. Returning Visitors Ratio. Why?

    #5: Sudden Data Drop! Help Me!?!

The questions and answers are below, I hope you find them to be of value.

#1: Bounces on a "non-bounceable" Page. How Come?

How can an a page that is not accessible without coming from a previous page can have a "bounce rate"? It should only have an exit rate, isn't it? That page is not a landing page.

This is a good one, don't cha love riddles?

Many people wonder how their page deep in the site can have bounce rates. Or say their shopping cart page, that's usually not even indexed by the search engine!

Here are some reasons I have found for this problem in my experience:

It turns out that people will bookmark pages on your site during their visit and then visit during bookmarks and then bounce! The session already started so you get a "single page view session" and you have a bounce.

More than once the culprit was that people in the company had bookmarked pages and were visiting it as there were changes happening to see if the changes went live or looked good. They see one page and bounce (damn!).

Another time it was that someone had bookmarked it and sent it around on email, all those clickthrus showed up as "direct" and bounce. Ditto for this tweet crazy world (if they short url the wrong page!).

Of course other times you think the page is "unindexable" but not all robots will respect your robots.txt file instructions.


Update: Long sessions can cause you to see Bounces on "non-bounceable" pages. Your visitor comes to your site. Browses. And, say, adds to cart. Goes to gossip for 30 mins. Comes back. Reloads the page. Leaves. Boom! Just caused a bounce. : ) Won't happen a lot, but certainly does happen.

And once, just once for me, a delightful person had set up a program (javascript executing program!) to go ping a deep page in the site to make sure the site was up! Of course that showed up as bounces, but by segmenting that page we found a nice clean pattern and then the culprit.

Those are some reasons in my humble experience. How about you? Have you run into this? What did you find?

BTW if you want to understand the reasons go to your page level analysis reports (in any tool) and look at the Entrance Sources & Keywords, Navigation Summary for clues. Or send a email around your company and ask if someone's been visiting it or had included it in a irrelevant email blast to customers.

#2: Bounce Rate in Omniture. Why Not?

I can't find Bounce Rate in Site Catalyst, can you please tell me how to create the reports you had on your blog / presentations?

It is not even funny how often I get this question.

Omniture does not have the metric Bounce Rate in the set of metrics that it provides by default in the application. Perhaps in the next release it will make the cut.

omnitureThough as you know Omniture can compute anything you want, so you can absolutely create your own custom metric and apply it all the many many reports available to you in Site Catalyst. I know it can be done because I have done it myself.

But I am not an Omniture "expert" so I'll request my peer blogger Adam Greco to write a post on the official Omniture blog that covers two things:

1) How to create the bounce rate metric in Site Catalyst.

2) How to create two reports I constantly present in this context: Top Landing Pages (Visits & Bounce Rates for each). Keywords – Paid & Organic splits (Visits, Bounce Rates, Conversions).

I'll link to Adam's post when he writes it, and then I'll have a link handy to send to all of you ask me how to do this (so often!).

[If you are a Omniture Customer you should regularly be reading Adam's Inside SiteCatalyst blog, it is very good.]

Update: Adam has very kindly responded to my request, here's his post: Bounce Rates [Inside Omniture SiteCatalyst]. Thanks Adam!

#3: Decent Funnel Abandonment Rate. How Much?

What is the best way to tell when you are performing well with your funnel reports?

I understand that funnel reports can be used to find leaks. Obviously you will never get 100%, but how can you justify when your pages are optimized good enough?

No complaints? There has to be a better quantifiable way.

I love this question because we as Analysts (/Marketers) tend to obsess about things and don't often think of the law of diminishing returns.

It is important to know that how low can you go often depends in the type of business, and it also depends on the type of funnel (for some you want to get to 5% if you possibly can).

If you are doing this in a dedicated way then I encourage you to plot the funnel abandonment over time.

You'll start to see that initially, as you move from 80% abandonment to 60% you can probably do that quickly. Low cost.

It will be a bit hard to move to 40%.

law of diminishing returns

Then you'll start to note that with time (and effort) your graph is flattening out, say at 30%.

That's probably your point of diminishing returns. At this point you can do a cost benefit analysis and see if its worth it.

If you want to do more then you should "segment like hell" (different traffic types, offers, campaigns what not) and try to find improvements you can make for specific sources (for us it was affiliate traffic!) and move away from the aggregate.

Once you apply this type of thinking you can optimize for your own internal maxima and move on to other bigger things (remember there is no shortage of good work).

#4: Rock Steady New vs. Returning Visitors Ratio. Why?

I'm stuck in one area. For our major media site we have a consistent ratio of:

New Visits: 25%
Return Visits: 75%

We want to grow, but also maintain a healthy growth cycle. Our overall visits, uniques and pageviews have been increasing by about 10% month over month, but we are still maintaining the same new vs. return ratio.

Do you have any insight on what a healthy new vs. return ratio is?

Another riddle wrapped in a enigma. : )

The healthy ratio for any site will depend on so many different factors. I have often stressed that what works for best buy does not work for circuit city (well at least not any more!).

Hence it is imprudent to think that there is optimal ratio to shoot for.

steady balance

But in the case of this media site my suspicion is that while the overall ratio stays the same (while page views are increasing) the ratio of different visitor segments might be shifting quite a bit.

So step #1 would be to look for the ratio of New vs Returning Visits for the search traffic (paid or organic) first, because for so many media sites search dominates acquisition strategy.

Then also look at the metrics for top referring urls, same idea.

Take the investigation a step further and look at the content consumption for different parts of the website. Do more of the New people read the Op Ed and for some reason all returning people read entertainment news?

Something like this…

content vs visit distribution1

[See this post for the story behind the above picture: Deliberate, Dig, Understand, Throw A Feast!]

I would really drill down in various sections of the web analytics reports to see if I can find segments that might be attracting and retaining new (or returning) visitors.

As we have frequently harped on here, looking at the Visitor Loyalty and Recency reports can be very actionable.

Net net at the end of the exercise:

You'll get a understanding of if the overall is telling the truth of there are pockets where the ratio is very different (and why?).

Looking at content consumption will help you understand what the patterns are for various types of content.


#5: Sudden Data Drop! Help Me!?!

I have had a web analytics tool on my site for some time. I am curious because my numbers go down rather than up even though I get a reasonable amount of views to website.

The numbers went up to about 800 and then started to go down again. Now its at 450 ish.

Also countries that once showed having had views no longer do. Can you explain this to me please? Thank you.

I share this with you to impress upon you the enormity of the tasks that get trust on me.

As you can imagine there is no way that I can answer this question (and above is 100% of the information I have!).

But I did try. Here's my reply. . . .

There is not enough information in your email to explain what might be happening. My recommendation would be that you reach out to your web analytics vendor and share your website and other details and perhaps they can shed some light.

But when I look at things like this I start with the referring urls report for the current month and the one before to see if any referrers have unusual drops in traffic, ditto for search engines and keywords.

heading in the wrong direction

If any campaigns running before have expired now – that can also cause your traffic to drop by lots very fast.

Finally if the javascript tags have disappeared off the site or are missing from any newly launched pages that could also be an issue. Check with your web master / tech gods if any major launches have happened (or they got rid of your tag because the footer is gone).

See I tried.

What would your advice be to this kind soul?

I would very much love to have your feedback on all five issues. What did you think of my guidance? Do you have a different answer?

Ok here's a challenge: What's the toughest web metrics / data / analytics question you have ever gotten?

If I get a bunch maybe I'll pitch and see if I can answer some. If. : )

Thanks so much.

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