Let’s talk about Landing Pages and Bounce Rates

So do you know what a landing page is?  It’s amazing how many people that I talk to that don’t quite understand this subject.  Landing pages are a very important element to actually marketing online.  Landing pages allow you to segment your audience, track a specific segment, send individuals to relevant information and many other things.  Although Wikipedia gives a little bit more of an advertising definition of a landing page, I would simply define it as:

A landing page is the first page that a visitor arrives on your site when they click a link or type in a URL to a browser.

When many people think of a landing page the most obvious one that comes to mind is your homepage and all in all this is your main landing page, but there are many other pages on your site that become the first page a visitor will see and many reasons for this being the first page that they see.

Reasons someone first lands on your site on a page other than your homepage

  • Search Engines – What’s important to look at in analytics is that if a certain search term is generating a lot of landing page hits or a certain page is generating a lot of landing page hits then this page should warrant additional attention to optimize.  Keeping your audience and location of the site in mind maybe this page could be optimized with better call to action steps.  If it’s an admission page are your schedule a visit and apply options apparent, do they stand out?  Maybe it’s an alumni page so are there obvious links to ways to get them better connected?  How about a news article that is generating a bunch of search engine traffic, well maybe a link to your quick facts page makes sense?
  • Direct Traffic – Direct traffic is the sort that is typed into a web browser directly.  This sort of traffic usually comes from either a bookmark that an individual has or most likely they type in the URL to their browser.  Most of the time this traffic is directed through non-web or traditional means.  This sort of landing page is one that many people don’t really think about setting up but can potentially be THE MOST IMPORTANT to track.  Yes it is possible to easily direct traditional traffic to a specific landing page on your site, and this is really worth its own post.  Coming soon…
  • Referring Sites – Sites out on the web do link to deep content and it is possible that a first time visitor could see one of these pages as their first experience with your website.  It’s worth revisiting this page to make sure that it is being effective.  Maybe you even got a deep link on another site to a specific page on your site?  What is the reason for this direct link to deep content?  Is this page ready to convert those visitors properly?
  • Email Marketing – In this case you are driving traffic to a specific page deeper in your site.  So why did you send them to that page?  Are these campaigns creating sticky visits, lower bounce rate with more page views and longer time on site?  Have you prepared these landing pages to properly handle these targeted visitors?  Besides viewing this specific content what else do you want them to do?
  • RSS – This is something that you can look at to figure out if you’re RSS subscribers are clicking through to the articles or going anywhere else.  Many people enjoy reading RSS through a reader, but not everyone.  To my knowledge there isn’t an easy way to track this sort of traffic besides setting up your feeds through Feedburner.  While I’m mentioning it you SHOULD have all your feeds setup through Feedburner anyway.  It’s an additional step to track this data, but it can and should be done.

Bounce Rate finally becomes important

So now that we have looked at all the various means that individuals can directly link to your site what data should we be monitoring?  Looking at bounce rate on landing pages provide a lot of insight as to where they go or if they simply leave your site.  By definition a bounce occurs when someone visits a site and then leaves without visiting any other page.  So if you are sending visitors to a page by any of the methods listed above and it has a bounce rate of 95% then that means that landing page traffic simply isn’t staying engaged or they are receiving what they came for and leaving.

Note: Bounce rate applies ONLY to page traffic is it is the first page that they visited, otherwise it becomes an exit rate.  A bounce is always an exit, but an exit is not always a bounce because a visitor might have visited five other pages then left when they arrived at this final page qualifying as an exit.

Bounce rate tells you how effective you’re landing pages are at accomplishing their goals.  If a visitor just landing on a page to read a news article that’s one thing, but if you directed them to this page to make a gift then we have a clearly defined goal that we are going after.  Knowing how well this landing page is “converting” becomes quite valuable.

Final Tips

As I’ve mentioned you should be tracking your Landing Pages.  If it’s a mail campaign then send them a short URL to a redirector that applies tracking parameters to the URL.  If you are sending prospective students to a page that isn’t linked anywhere, but is the start of your funnel then why not go ahead and segment and tag them as a “prospective student”?  Check out my post about Tagging and Tracking for tips about how to do this in Google Analytics.

Also on specific conversion pages remember you have a very clear and specific goal that you want this visitor to accomplish.  Remember in the example above we wanted the visitor to make a gift.  Because this is the point of this landing page keep the noise and options to a minimum, AKA have as few links as possible.  If on this gifts page you have links to photo galleries, profiles, and upcoming events then you’re only increasing the chance that these “distractions” could cause your visitor to not convert.  This is bad.  Keep those links higher up on your site or if you really want these to visit these things then be sure to include them on the thank you page after they have given.

Want More?  Some Additional Links

Here are a few great articles I pulled from my Delicious Account tagged Landing Pages.

  • Landing Page Tutorials and Case Studies
  • Let’s Talk Landing Pages
  • Seal the Deal: 10 Tips for Writing the Ultimate Landing Page
  • How to Optimize your Landing Page

14 Responses to “Let’s talk about Landing Pages and Bounce Rates”

  1. Says:

    A great post. Clear and concise. Should help a lot of site owners make better use of their landing pages and track their visitors more effectively. Your suggestion that landing pages should have as few links as possible is gold.

  2. Says:

    Thanks for this post on landing pages. I particularly liked your coverage of bounce rates.

    I also liked the idea that any page visitors enter your site through is a landing page. I hadn’t thought of it like that before.


    Linda P. Morton

  3. Says:

    You should have linked to they have hundreds if not thousands of articles and posts about conversion/landing pages/more.

    And also https://www.marketingexperiments.com/ - sign up for their newsletter and get invited to their free bi-weekly webinars about conversion.

  4. Says:

    Really thoughtful post on analytics — I find myself caught between direct recruitment (interviews, high school visits) and managing some our web efforts. This is really helpful as I work on moving us forward.

  5. Says:

    Hey Andrew,
    Thanks for leaving a comment! I’m glad that it is helpful. If I remember right your doing a good bit of email marketing right? Then Landing Pages becomes really important. If you have a link on your email to apply or schedule a visit then you want to keep that page fairly straightforward. You might even create a specific landing pages for your email campaign that aren’t linked off your site. This can help you track this sort of visitor and make sure that they don’t bounce off the funnel. Good Luck!

  6. Says:

    Great post, Kyle. If you’re a Google Adwords user, I’d recommend their Website Optimizer tool as well.

    This allows you to conduct an A/B (or multivariate) test of all your landing pages to determine which ones convert at a better rate. Definitely a great tool for enhance your page designs, and it’s free of course.

  7. Says:

    Bounce rate is such a weird metric that has different meanings across different platforms. The web analytics association will say one definition while google will say another. The problem is that with ajax and alike, its getting harder to gauge BR with traditional tagging. Its going to be even harder to execute multivariate testing with rich media applications

  8. Says:

    This is my second time i come here. I found a lot of fascinating stuff in your pages especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your content, I assume I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Sustain the good work.

  9. Says:

    Multivariate testing is usually employed in order to ascertain which content or creative variation produces the best improvement in the defined goals of a website, whether that be user registrations or successful completion of a checkout process

  10. Says:

    Thank you it was very informative. During the early times I start web design/development, I really thought landing pages is cool and I wanted to have one to every project that I have.

    I’ll be following most of your posts.


  11. Says:

    On some sites, I have found, there is a great bounce rate, but this is because the phone numbers have been optimized in such a way that people ring them over filling out a form online, which means…a high bounce rate.

    So, a high bounce rate because of people calling a phone number…should Google use bounce rate as a metric in this situation? I think not.

  12. Says:

    Thanks for sharing that information. Clear and Concise as others have said.


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