Avoiding the Bounce House: Optimizing your Search Marketing Campaign

bounce_house1.jpgGetting solid rankings is a lot of work, and properly organizing keywords and landing pages is no trivial task either. Why not make the most out of it once you have started getting the traffic? After beginning a successful PPC or SEO campaign, it’s time to maximize the returns from it.

There are a lot of metrics that search marketers can track, but these are the three that deliver 80% of my results: Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate, and Return on Investment (ROI).

Bounce Rate – The best way for me to tell if the campaign is working well, or the traffic I am getting is quality traffic, is by watching the bounce rate. High bounce rates tell me that the user is not finding what he or she is looking for. It could mean one of two things: the landing page content is not compelling or useful enough, or simply that you're getting the wrong kind of visitor.

When you do PPC marketing, it is not uncommon to have some irrelevant keywords sneak into your campaign. This is especially true if you are using broad phrases to get matches. Adding negative keywords is a highly useful practice to filter out the irrelevant keywords—and irrelevant visitors—from your campaign. It will also reduce the overall cost of PPC.

Instead of looking at each keyword one at a time to see if they are relevant, I simply use Google Analytics and sort them by bounce rate. The lower the bounce rate, the better the connection between the keywords typed in and the landing page, as well as the quality of the content on the landing page.

Assuming I made sure the keywords are properly organized and are landing on the right pages of my site, keywords with a bounce rate of 90% and up are candidates for removal.

I take care to list bounce rate first because if the traffic is irrelevant, or if the quality of the landing page is low, the other metrics will not matter much.

Conversion Rate – Whatever the purpose of your site, you likely want to persuade visitors to take some action: fill out a form, buy a product, download software, subscribe to your RSS feed, and so on. You need to measure how effectively your copy is converting traffic into customers. This is what we call the conversion rate. Small improvements in your conversion rate can result in significant improvements to your bottom line. For example, let's say you get 10,000 visitors a day and turn out only 100 subscribers from those (1%). Improving your conversion rate to 2% means that you will double your number of subscribers to 200. Without such changes, you would need to attract 10,000 additional visitors just to match those numbers—sounds like a lot more work!

Clearly measuring and improving your conversion rate should be one of the most important aspects of your search marketing campaign. Small changes produce big results. The best way to improve conversion is to build the campaign to convert from the start. Select and target relevant keywords and lead those searchers to landing pages giving them specific and compelling content. If they find exactly what they are looking for, chances are you will too—in the form of a higher conversion rate.

Return on Investment – After making sure that you are leading relevant traffic to compelling pages that are optimized for conversion, you want to make sure that you are getting your money's worth. It doesn't necessarily matter if the campaign is greased to the max with lots of leads or sales. If, at the end of the day, the cost of each lead or sale surpasses the money you are able to collect (from sales, commissions, ad clicks, etc.), it’s just not worth it.

Although I listed ROI last, you definitely want to make sure your campaign is profitable from the start, or, if you only care about branding, that the expenses are well under control.

For PPC, it’s easy to tell the ongoing costs: the cost per click. I measure SEO campaigns in the same way, although it takes a bit more work to calculate. This is in part because SEO campaigns take at least a few months to start seeing meaningful results. You have to spend a lot of time building links.

To calculate SEO cost-per-click, what I do is add up all the costs of content creation and link acquisition for those months, including staff costs, and divide by the organic clicks those sites are receiving. Initially, the cost per click will be extremely high, as it takes time for the site to get good rankings. Eventually, when the rankings arrive, the costs go down to near zero, and are ridiculously cheap compared to PPC. Only then can you accurately measure SEO’s return on investment.

Again, whether you use PPC or SEO, determine your ongoing costs, how much you make per action (sale, download, etc.) and how many clicks it takes to get a conversion. I usually target for at least 80-100% ROI for PPC campaigns. For a successful SEO campaign, it is not uncommon to achieve a ROI of 500-800% once the websites start ranking.

What are your key performance metrics?


4 replies
  1. Mutiny Design
    Mutiny Design says:

    I didn't realise that you could sort by bounce rate in Google Analytics; will have to check that out.

    Likewise, I think ROI is the most important, then conversion, then bounce rate.

    The bounce rate can be a bit deceptive. Most of my sites get serious traffic from design galleries ( such as CSS Remix ) and this traffic pushes the bounce rate up by up to 50% – 60% because most of the hits only stay on your page for a few seconds. The CSS galleries are my favourite quick fix for quality links. About a week ago, I was on the homepage of a PR9 gallery :). If you redesign your site often you can really juice them. Even just a handful of gallery links will give you a PR4 and really successful designs can get a few hundred links (including second-hand links). Keeping on the bounce rate topic, the purpose of my homepage is for people to only be there for about 30 seconds and I don't care if they go straight back to the SERPS so long as I get a quote request.

    One thing a lot of sites don't do is to actually track the source of orders and enquiries. Currently I am working on a search engine related arm of a PHP framework. In this I have an object I create that contains all the information about your visitor – source, keyword searched for, browser etc. I just create a new session with this object if one doesn't exist and regurgitate it into a database when they order/enquire. This is my favourite performance metric. Its also useful for finding out if your competitors are sending you fake enquiries if you know their IP or they have their own hostname. Unfortunately you can't see their face when you return their enquiry to them 😛

  2. Hamlet Batista
    Hamlet Batista says:

    Mutiny – Remember that I am talking about traffic that has a bounce rate of 90% or more.

    keywords with a bounce rate of 90% and up are candidates for removal.

    What would be the point of measuring ROI and conversion rate when a bounce rate of 90-100% tells you the visitor is not interested?

    Bounce rates of 50-60% are not that bad.


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