Are Bounce Rates Important?

Recently accountantSEO have seen several conversations in various marketing forums and emails about bounce rates and what is a good or poor bounce rate so we thought we would put together a few thoughts about it as it relates to accountant’s websites.

What is bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that visit your site and leave the site without visiting any other page so, if you have 100 visitors with 20 of them landing on a page (any page) and then leaving the site you would have a 20% bounce rate.  The visitor could be leaving your site in any one of several ways :-

  1. They click the “back” button and go back to the page they have come from (usually a page of search results).
  2. They close the browser window or tab
  3. They type a new URL (web address) into the browser address bar
  4. They do nothing and remain on the page (most bounce rate calculations kick in if the visitor doesn’t change their page in 30 minutes or so, although some software will reduce the time to as little as 15 minutes).

What is a good bounce rate?

There are various figures bandied about the web for the bounce rate that you should be “aiming at” – these vary from as little as 2% to as much as 50%.   The problem with all of the figures you will see is that they are “guesstimates” and as we will show you below there is no one figure that you can say above that is bad and below that is good.

When thinking about bounce rates you need to consider several elements.

First, how statistically valid are the figures?  You may have a page that has had 4 visitors in a set time period and each of these have looked at a second page – this means that your bounce rate for those visitors is zero.  The question here though is how valid is it to judge something on 4 visitors – I am sure that you have all seen adverts on the tv that say things like 92% of 37 people asked say that their hair feels better , would you really trust something that only 34 people (37 * 0.92) say works?  Of course this is less of a problem when you have 1,000s of visitors to a page as you can be more sure that the figure is statistically correct, however there are still problems with this as you will see.

Secondly, what were people looking for when they visited your page?  If, for example, you are looking at the bounce rate for your contact page we would suggest that the majority of people would be looking for your contact details (address, phone, fax or email), as long as the contact page lists this information why should people then click on other pages of your site?  By giving them the information that they need the bounce rate will be relatively high – so you need to think about how what people were looking for affects the statistics.

Thirdly, and this is similar to the point we have just covered, what does your page look like?  If someone comes to your site looking for VAT advice do you talk about VAT on the page they have landed on?  Does the page have your contact details on (phone number / email address)?  If so then it’s more than possible that the visitor will contact you via one of these methods and leave the site  – being a “bounce” in the process.  It is considered good internet marketing for websites such as those for Accountants, to list the contact details on every page (often clearly displayed in the header or footer of the page) as this helps people contact you easily.

Should I worry about bounce rate then?

Our view is that as long as you understand the factors that can affect the bounce rate and are comparing like for like then it’s a useful indication of changes to your visitor profile, but it’s not a figure that you can just do a quick check on as there are too many factors involved.  So on the balance of things, unless you have the time to spare on really digging into the details we wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Do you look at your bounce rates?  Do you understand what they are telling you?  We would be delighted to hear from you with your views, just fill in the comment box below.

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SEO is Easy…

This was a comment that was made to us by a new client recently who was in third position in Google for a phrase that was important to them.

It seems that the client had looked at the pages that were above him and had then looked at the source code for those pages and had seen lots of keywords in the meta tag.  He then decided to combine both keyword meta tags (working on the principle that if each only had 50% of the words by having them all it would mean that his site covered 100%) and wanted us to “add the meta tag to each and every page on the site” along with the comment that “SEO is easy”.

We had to tell him that sadly SEO is not a case of just plugging keywords into a meta tag (that option stopped back in 2005).  If you don’t believe us then have a look at some of this background reading :-

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html (Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking – comment at the bottom of the page : Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.)

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=79812 (a list of meta tags that Google knows – comment at the bottom of the page : remember that Google will ignore meta tags it doesn’t know.)

Or, from a non-Google source http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2067564/How-To-Use-HTML-Meta-Tags  “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the “keywords” meta tag was a critical element for early search engines. Much like the dinosaurs, this tag is a fossil from ancient search engine times.The only search engine that looks at the keywords anymore is Microsoft’s Bing – and they use it to help detect spam.”

It was also pointed out that it’s believed that there are over 200 factors that Google uses to rank pages (it doesn’t rank sites) – these include :-

Page content

  • Is the phrase on the page (for example if you want the page to feature for payroll services you should at least mention payroll on the page)
  • How often is the phrase (and synonyms) repeated – this doesn’t mean that you need to stuff the page with the phrase though
  • Where the phrase appears on the page (is it at the top of the page or only at the bottom of the page)
  • How often the page is updated (there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the searchers will find what Google found)
  • Age of the page

Links to the page (external)

  • Number of links
  • Wording of links (do they all use the phrase you are targeting or do some of them say things like “click here” or your business name).
  • Relevancy of links (does the page the link is on talk about the service/product you provide or is it just a list of random links).
  • Age of links
  • How quickly the links to the page are increasing
  • The “importance” of the page/domain that the link is on
  • Can the page that the link is on be reached by normal navigation or only by a search
  • Is there evidence that the link has been paid for (this is a no-no in the eyes of Google unless it is marked as such so they can discount any value that the link might pass)
  • The type of link (follow / no-follow / redirect via a counter script)

Internal links to the page

  • Wording of the links
  • How easy the navigation is for the search engines to follow (the general rule is that the search engines [and human visitors] need to be able to reach any page of the site within 3 clicks of any other page of the site)

Other factors

  • Age of the domain
  • Where the domain is hosted (country)
  •  Where the firm is based (the latest Google update emphasises the location of the site even more than it used to do)
  • How quickly the page loads
  •  Social Media (a recent addition)
    • Are there any tweets pointing to the site/page
    • Are tweets retweeted by other people
    • Are other social media venues (eg Facebook) lining to the site/page and are the links from other people
    • Is there a blog and if so how frequently is it updated.
    • If there is a blog does it link to other pages on the site
  • Are there any errors (page not found for example) on the site.

There are many other factors at play and each of these can vary from day-to-day (Google makes over 500 tweaks to the importance of the factors in the course of a year).

We then carried out a very basic analysis of the number of links both to the clients page and also to the page in the first place of the results.  This showed that the client’s page had 51 back links from 49 different domains while the page in 1st place had over 900 back links.  If you think of a link as being a “vote” for a page then you can see that could be one reason why the top page was where it was.

Of course, we are not saying that links are the only reason that the client’s competitor was at the top of the search results, but we are saying that SEO is not easy.

If you run SEO campaigns for clients, or even work on SEO on your own site, what do you think – is it easy?

What you Can’t do on Facebook Business Pages

While not technically part of SEO, we have been speaking to several clients recently here at accountantSEO about business pages on Facebook and how to use them so we took a detailed look at the rules and that has generated this article.

The first question to ask is does your firm have a Facebook page?  You may have been told that you need one for your marketing and while there is some doubt about the effectiveness of Facebook pages for professional services this is not what this blog post is about.

The next question, and the most important one in this post is – do you know that Facebook may delete your page without warning if it breaches the terms and conditions that you agreed to when you created your business page?

You may not have read the pages and pages of terms and conditions (very few people do with most of them just ticking the box) but this is no excuse and it’s definitely a case of “ignorance is not bliss”.  Facebook says “We reserve the right to reject or remove pages for any reason” and they are not kidding, there is no warning either – you could log in one day and find that it’s gone, along with all the followers that you have painstakingly gathered.

Some of the more common rules that are broken every day and can lead to your page being deleted are :-

  • The cover photo (the big image at the top of the page) can’t be used as an advert.  Typical examples of what is considered an advert are :-
    • Including contact details (so remove website addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and so on).  If the image contains anything that could be considered as a way to contact you Facebook could treat the image as an advert.
    • Including purchase information or prices.   This is less likely to be a problem for firms of Accountants than pages for retail businesses but don’t have anything that says, for example, “Accountancy packages from £50 per month”.
    • Including calls to action.  Remove that “Contact us now” wording from the image.
    • Asking for people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines
  • The cover image should also not be one that you do not own or have the rights to use, that is deceptive or misleading.  Make sure that if it’s not a photo you have taken that you have a licence to use it – don’t just grab an image from Google and use it without permission (this is a breach of copyright law anyway).
  • While on the subject of the cover image it needs to be 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall (a slightly odd size) and be under 100 Kb in file size.

Other and much more common things that can cause your page to be deleted are termed promotion rules.  Look at almost any Facebook business page and you will see at least one of these rules being broken (but just because everyone else does it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for you to do so).

You can’t run any sort of promotion, sweepstake or competition on your page that uses Facebook’s features or functionality (“like this post / share this photo / upload your photo to this page / comment on this post” for example). Similarly you mustn’t hold Facebook responsible – you must include something like “This promotion is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated by Facebook”.

The competition must be more that just liking your page or sending you a photo – while the liking can be part of the competition the entrant must do more than that (you might want to look at a custom app or page where people have to answer a question for example).

Another thing you can’t do is to use the “like” button as a way of voting – just the most likes of a photo is not ok, nor is a competition that relies on other functionality such as a “the person that invites the most new followers”.

Oddly, for a competition that you would be holding on Facebook you can’t tell the winners that they have won using Facebook – so you can’t send them a message, post on a page (theirs or yours) or even use Facebook chat to notify them that they have won.

Finally, your page name and Facebook business user name must reflect your business name, it can’t just be a generic word (such as accountants).  The page name also can’t be all in capitals (unless your organisations name is an acronym – HSBC for example).  You also can’t use characters such as bullet points, excessive punctuation or trademark symbols in the page name.

We hope that this brief guide has helped and will stop your Facebook page from being deleted.  The best advice we can give you is to read the terms and conditions, and go back to them on a regular basis as they are updated often and just because your page is ok now it may fall foul of the rules next month or the month after.