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If you are anything like me, you’ve made your fair share impulsive purchases online.
Unlike trekking into brick-and-mortar, I never get on the Internet with the intent of pulling out my credit card. Yet, inevitably, I’ve got two food delivery subscriptions and a blouse from the JCrew factory store shipping out tomorrow.
Are your visitors like me? How much of your business comes from impulsive behavior?  Most importantly, are you converting your impulse visitors before their craving to buy passes?
In this post, I will show you how to quantify the number of impulse buyers on your site using Google Analytics, and I will also share strategies on how to get them to convert.

The Impulsive Buyer

We define an impulsive buyer as someone who is poised to take action. These are our spontaneous buyers, more likely to be relational than transactional. They may not be impulsive in life, but are behaving in their spontaneous mode on your site right now.
What makes an impulsive buyer impulsive?

        

  • They perceive the risk of taking action as low.
  •     

  • They perceive the value of taking action as high.
  •     

  • They perceive the cost of shopping as high.
  •     

  • FOMO: Fear of missing out may drive their behavior.
  •     

  • Familiarity with your products makes a purchase decision easy.
  •     

  • Repeat buyers simply restocking will act as if they are impulsive.

For these visitors, leaving a browsing session without having pulled the financial trigger is like leaving the confessional before they’ve received their prescription of penitential prayers. It’s a complete waste of time and fundamentally misses the point of the exercise.
For these buyers, you should dedicate a portion of your site to mitigating risk, building value, pointing the way to purchase, creating scarcity, and spelling out the facts.
[pullquote]Impulse buyers aren’t the crazed shoppers that can be found assaulting each other in the Walmart on Black Friday.[/pullquote] These buyers may be thoughtful and methodical in their approach. However, they will buy from someone today, unless no alternatives present themselves.
If they don’t buy from you now, they will most likely not return.

Finding Impulse Buyers in the Data

Impulse buyers don’t announce themselves upon arrival at your website, but they leave footprints in your digital sand. To start, we’re looking for those one-hit wonders, the drive-by shoppers. Google Analytics tracks this behavior for us with the “Time to Purchase” report.

Where to find time to purchase in Google Analytics

Where to find time to purchase in Google Analytics


Impluse buyers are, by definition, those visitors who purchase within their first visit. Thus, we want to know which transactions are completed on our site within a single session.
The number of sessions it takes to convert

The number of sessions it takes to convert


For an ecommerce website, a single-session percentage of more than 80% indicates that quick buying behavior is contributing to your overall conversion rate. You’re probably serving your impulse buyers well.
If single-session conversions make up less than 60% of your total transactions, one of two things is happening.

        

  1. You are selling something that methodical customers are going to purchase, such as appliances or a college education.

OR

        

  1. You are not satisfying the impulse-buyers’ craving before it passes.

Google Analytics makes it easy to track impulse buyers on your site. Create an advanced segment for those visitors who purchase in one session.

When you look at your Google Analytics reports through the lens of this segment you will see how impulse buyers are impacting your business.

Impulse Buyers (blue line) are a significant portion of all revenue (orange line) for this ecommerce business.

Impulse Buyers (blue line) are a significant portion of all revenue (orange line) for this ecommerce business.


Use this segment to answer other questions as well. In the graph below, it is clear how an email promotion to existing buyers affects the impulse buyer segment.
Email campaigns appeal to return and repeat buyers and less so to first-time impulse buyers

Email campaigns appeal to return and repeat buyers (orange line) and less so to first-time impulse buyers (blue line).


How did these visitors get to your site? Where did they land? Did they use site search or navigation to get to a product page? What items did these quick buyers purchase?
Search is clearly not important to most impulse buyers for this site.

Sessions with Searches: Search is clearly not important to most impulse buyers for this site.


Answering these questions will help to develop a map of impulse behavior on your site.
With this blueprint, you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas of your site that attract impulse buyers and begin to test conversion optimization efforts that focus on them.
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Reducing Risk

When customers are poised to buy, they do a risk assessment. Impulse buyers love low-risk transactions. This is the job of what we call risk reversal tactics.
A risk reversal tactic is anything that takes the risk out of a transaction. Risk reversal comes in many forms.

        

  • Money-back guarantees
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  • Warranties
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  • Trust symbols, such as the BBB logo
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  • Ratings and reviews
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  • Free shipping offers
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  • Low-price guaratees

Often sites signal that they can’t be trusted without even realizing it. They hide their return policies, or make them so complex that they become meaningless. They don’t display free shipping offers in a prominent place.
Impulse buyers have a quiet voice in their head asking “Is this a good idea?”.  What can you do to make sure the answer to that question is always “Yes”?

Case Study: JetPens

The vaguest, most theoretical thing you should be doing is making people feel good about giving you their personal information.  Trust symbols must be obvious but subtle enough to avoid that “Trust me!  Trust me!  Trust me!” vibe that we get from used car salesmen, so incorporate them as naturally as possible.
Take Jetpens.com, an online store selling Japanese pens and stationery.

JetPens naturally decreases risk reversal with the trust symbols on their checkout screen.

JetPens naturally decreases risk reversal with the trust symbols on their checkout screen.


This store is somewhat specialized, so it doesn’t have the same degree of trusted name recognition as an office supplies store like Staples or Office Depot.  One way it resolves the issue is having the Google Trusted Store symbol in the lower right corner.  It sticks to every page, not just the checkout screen.
This is called “borrowing trust.” Sites can borrow trust from current clients, credit card companies, and certification organizations like Google and Buyer Safe.

Increasing Order Size

While you may see free shipping as a pricing issue, it really acts to reduce risk. It reduces anxiety about spending money on a website. It is can also increase the average order of impulse buyers.
JetPens offers free shipping for orders over $25, and they make it really easy for you to hit that mark.

You know exactly how much you need to spend to get free shipping.

You know exactly how much you need to spend to get free shipping.


There’s no need for their impulse buyers to do any math.
In lieu of free shipping, it pays for your site to be up-front about what shipping will cost. This takes the surprise out of the transaction, reducing cart abandonment.
JetPens uses a Calculate Shipping button for just this purpose.
You don't even have to leave the checkout page to fill your cart to the $25 mark.

You don’t even have to leave the checkout page to fill your cart to hit the $25 mark.


Getting to the $25 mark that signals free shipping is pretty good motivation for most people to spend more money, but once someone is in the checkout screen, do you really want them to leave it?  By placing a few items from account holders’ wish list at the bottom of the page, JetPens makes it easy for impulse buyers to double-down. Customers see how much more they need to spend and a great suggestion for how to get there.
If the visitor hasn’t added anything to their wish list, why not add a few inexpensive suggestions of your own?

Case Study: ModCloth

With online retail, shipping information needs to be easy to find.  Free shipping isn’t the only reason people convert: they’ll also be more likely to buy if they think it will be easy to return what they bought.  Someone doing lots of research on a product may be willing to hunt around for money-back guarantees, but impulse buyers need trust symbols to be much more in-their-face.
ModCloth, an online women’s clothing store, uses the top of its website to embed lots of different trust symbols.

The top of ModCloth's website is covers lots of trust-building bases.

The top of ModCloth’s website covers lots of trust-building bases.


Customer care and shipping information is at the top of every page, and when you visit the page on returns and exchanges, it’s also pretty easy to understand.
ModCloth's return policy

ModCloth’s return policy


Someone in a hurry to spend money may not make it all the way to this page, but she’ll know it’s there, and she’ll know that exchanges are free without even clicking.  Why wouldn’t she spend her money if it’s that easy to get rid of something that didn’t work out?

Introducing Scarcity

Scarcity is a term that includes limitied supplies, limited-time engagements, exclusivity and qualifications to buy. It imparts a sense of urgency to a shopping session, and impulse buyers are just looking for excuses to act. Give your impulse buyers excuses to act by making it clear that she will be missing out if she doesn’t buy right now.  Remember, impulse buyers see the shopping process as expensive and don’t want to waste their time.

Dwindling stock makes this item much more attractive.

Dwindling stock makes this item much more attractive.


Only one Window Shopping Chic Dress left?!  What am I going to wear when I go window shopping this weekend if that dress doesn’t end up in my closet!
Many impulse buyers like feeling like they’re part of an exclusive group. It feeds their egos and justifies the elitist tone they use when they brag about how the rest of us weren’t able to wear the right window shopping dress.

Increasing the Perceived Value of an Impulse Purchase

Free gifts and bonuses add value to a perceived purchase. The gift doesn’t have to be an extraordinary offer. It provides another excuse to act, often increasing urgency.
SheIn hits that impulse buying nail on the head not once, but twice.  First, a popover tells you that there’s an opportunity for a free gift.

Free gift offer from SheIn

Free gift offer from SheIn


But here’s the fun part.  You have to start a wheel for a free gift.  So it’s a game!
Shoppers play a game to get a free gift.

Shoppers play a game to get a free gift.


This strategy works for pretty much any kind of business, not just retail.  SheIn asks you to join a mailing list order to have the chance at spinning the wheel to get a free gift, so it’s a lead-generating strategy.

The Gift of Game

Gamification is much beloved by millennials, a group renowned for their impulsive buying behavior.  Quizzes and games make even the most mundane tasks so much more interesting.  Let’s say I’m looking for new running shoes, so I search “What kind of shoes should I buy?”
One result is from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.  The name alone seems pretty trustworthy. What do they have to say about what shoes I should buy?

Running shoe buying guide

Running shoe buying guide


Yikes. This isn’t even half of the article! Luckily, I have another option to help me find the answer to my question.
Runner's World shoe quiz

Runner’s World shoe quiz


Runner’s World magazine makes things so much easier!  First I take a short quiz, then it spits out a shoe suggestion for me.
Running shoe suggestion

Running shoe suggestion


Runner’s World doesn’t want to sell me a shoe, but if I were on a retail site selling running shoes, how awesome would it be to be able to click “Add to Cart” from this page?

Go Mobile or Go Home

This weekend I had a movie night with some friends at my house because we urgently needed to watch the first Magic Mike movie.  We didn’t want to miss any major plot points when we watched the soon-to-be-released sequel.
I rented the movie on my phone using the Google Play Movies & TV app.  I tapped the purchase button, and openly lamented to my friends how easy it was to throw my money away.  I mean disgustingly easy.  Three taps and four bucks of my hard-earned money was gone, replaced by the privilege of having two days of access to a movie I hope my mom never finds out I watched.

Magic Mike to rent

First tap


Renting options

2nd tap…and 3rd tap my money is gone


Voila, I made a purchase I kind-of-but-not-really regret.  Your website could have that purchase!
[pullquote]On mobile, fewer people are doing research.  They’re either buying, or they’re leaving.[/pullquote]  I wanted that Magic Mike movie, and I wanted it right then.  More obstacles would have meant using a different app or just watching a different movie I already own.
Buying something from you should be as easy as renting a movie on my phone.
Park the things you know about your desktop users. Think about the needs of your mobile visitors as if they were a different animal. They’re not unicorns or dragons or anything, but you wouldn’t put a leash on a cat. They just won’t stand for it.
As an example, Victoria’s Secret realized that promo codes are to mobile users what pull cords are to blow dryers. They’re not the right tool for the job.
Victorias secret doesn't ask mobile visitors to enter a promo code.

Victoria’s Secret doesn’t ask mobile visitors to enter a promo code.

Impulse Abandoners

Impulse buyers become impulse abandoners when your site doesn’t serve their need to take action. The moment they perceive that a transaction is low value, that the effort is too high, that a purchase is risky or that there is no urgency to take action, they become less impulsive.
It is not manipulative to feed their need for speed. Giving impulse buyers the rationale to act is exactly what they want from you. Why deny them?
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Feature image licensed under Creative Commons and adapted for this post.

The little yellow message in the upper right corner of your Google Analytics report can be somewhat unsettling. It appears when you use custom segments on a website has grown to hundreds of thousands of hits. The message is a warning you that the report you’re looking at is based on sampled data.

Does this mean the data is wrong? Can you use it to make decisions about your site? Can you share it with your boss?

The answer is, “Sometimes.”

In my article Everything’s Bigger In Texas: Sampling & Google Analytics Reports, I’ve drawn three conclusions that, if kept in mind, will make sure your reports are telling you the truth about your website — or something close to it.

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1: The Amount of Data Affects Sample Size

The percentage of pageviews that Google Analytics reports in the yellow box can tell you how accurate your report may be. The more data that Google has to analyze, the longer it takes.  So, if your report covers a larger the time, the sample size Google Analytics uses will be smaller. For certain types of reports, you’ll be limited to 90 days.

2: Use Sampled Reports for Large Datasets Only

If the number of datapoints in your segment is low, you will find the data in your reports to be less accurate. A report with on a segment with 50,000 sessions that is sampled may produce nothing but noise. I show you how to determine this in the column.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
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3: Dialing Up the Sample Size Helps

“Moving your sample rate from 5% to 10% feels pretty insignificant.  It’s not, especially for segments that return smaller datasets.”

The larger your sample size, the more you can rely on Google’s reporting because the bigger the sample, the clearer the picture that analytics will be able to make using the data.

When your website grows beyond a certain point, Google Analytics is going to start taking shortcuts.  [pullquote]Don’t be the victim of a big Google Analytics lie[/pullquote]. Know what those shortcuts are and know how to get around them so that you are relying on data that tells the true story.

There are special visitors on your site right now. They blend in with all of the others in your analytics, but they behave differently from the others.

They visit more pages, spend more time, share more often and are more likely to buy from you.

Would you like to know them better?

Would you like to know how to treat them better?

Would you like to have more of them?

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Transcript

These visitors are your account holders. Some have bought from you. Some have not.

Account holders should walk around your site in their socks on the plush red carpet you’ve laid out for them.

  They’ve put forth more effort interacting with your site than your other non-buying site visitors because they’ve shown you buying intent.  And that’s a big deal for you.

In my Marketing Land column Use Google Analytics To Treat Your Account Holders Like Royalty I show you how to isolate these wonderful visitors and see how they behave.

What is tripping them up?

Where do they come from when they visit?

Do they respond to email?


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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Why does the “online” marketer have to do anything different from the “other” marketer at the beginning of a new year?

There are many reasons.

The online marketer is blind without accurate data.

The online marketer has wrested control from the grubby hands of IT.

The online marketer knows that

the seeds of holiday regret are planted in February procrastination.

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Don’t worry. We’ve prepared a list of seven things you should do now at the beginning of 2015.

Resolve to optimize the website before the next holidays

“If only” are the saddest two words in the English language.

If only we had a little higher conversion rate from all of that juicy holiday traffic.

If only Black Friday had put us a little more “in the black.”

If only our shopping cart had worked with Internet Explorer.

We know that the holidays are happier when we get more revenue under the Christmas Tree. This year let’s start getting more from the traffic we’re going to get next November and December.

Testing and optimizing does take time. Now is the time to start testing if you want your holidays to be merrier.

Change the passwords on your testing tools

The modern marketer has taken control of much of the website from the grubby hands of IT and the web developers. Today, tag managers give marketers an unparalleled ability to add measurements to a site without IT’s help. Split testing tools allow them to transform a website for a particular group of visitors at will.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Many marketing departments should adopt the best security practices of their IT brethren. If a malicious individual got the password to Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer, they could wreak havoc on the site at will.

Go ahead, change your passwords. And make them good passwords. We use the program PassPack to store and share hard-to-crack passwords with our team.

Check that all your pages still have analytics and testing software

A website is a complex piece of software. New pages are added by different stakeholders. Changes are often undocumented. Not everyone is concerned that your analytics and testing tools need to be added to each page and then checked.

Before diving into a new year, run through the pages on your site and make sure they all have the right tools installed.

There are automated systems for checking your site, but taking some time to explore by hand is very helpful. Get ready to start a punch list.

I recommend installing two browser extensions for Chrome: Tag Assistant by Google and Ghostery. Tag Assistant tells you if your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager installation is broken on any page, and offers helpful tips. Ghosterytells you every tag that is installed on the page, so you can check for things likeClick Tracking tools, session-recording tools and more.

Consider moving to a tag manager, like Google Tag Manager. This centralizes analytics setup.

Make sure your site still works with all devices and browsers

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices your visitors are using on your site.

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices to check.

Your analytics will tell you which browsers and devices to check.


Make sure your site works on the top devices and browsers.

Year over year evaluation

The end of a year means another year of data. Woohoo!

This means we have an entire year to compare our progress against. When we compare year-over-year data, we eliminate differences that occurred due to market changes. For an online consumer retailer, comparing October performance to November performance wouldn’t be fair, since the holiday shopping season starts in November. Instead it’s better to compare October of this year to October of last year.

Here are some of the things we like to look at in our year-over-year data.

Depth of Troughs

It’s the off-season that kills us. It’s the winter months for bikini boutiques and the summer months for mitten makers. However, if we are making progress on our site, we should see less of a drop revenue during the off-peak weeks.

And with shallow troughs we often see higher spikes during prime selling or lead-gen seasons.

Increasing Revenue Per Visit or Conversion Rate

Even it you got more traffic to your website in 2014, you may not see the increase in revenue. By measuring the Revenue per Visit (RPV) and Conversion Rate (for lead generation) you can see how your efforts in 2014 added to the bottom line independent of traffic volume.

Average Order Value

When people buy from you, are they buying more or less? This is what average order value tells us. Even if your traffic was flat and your conversion rate didn’t move, you may be getting more from each customer.

Bounce Rate

If you saw an increase in traffic to the site, did you see an increase in bounce rate? The Bounce Rate measures visitors who came and didn’t stay long. They saw only one page or left before 15 seconds had passed.

Bounce rate is an indicator of traffic quality. If lots of visitors are bouncing, then you may not be bringing the right visitor to the site.

Review your idea list

Where do you keep your punch list of things to try on the site? Go find it and give it a look. You’ll find some great ideas you forgot about.

Where do you keep your ideas for a better website

Where do you keep your ideas for a better website?


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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In this episode of The Conversion Scientist Podcast, Brian Massey tells you how to gain insights from third-party tools in Google Analytics. He uses several video hosts as an example.

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Transcript and Images on Marketing Land

Watch the free eight-part bit-sized video mini-course

Since you are a student of our Conversion Course, you get the entire mini-course Video that Converts.

An important eight-part series on creating marketing videos that convert visitors to leads and sales from Conversion Sciences.

  1. How Faces Influence Video Marketing
  2. Using Video to Solve the Subject Matter Expert Problem
  3. How Marketing Videos Chase Viewers Away in the First Seconds
  4. Video Hosting-Why Youtube is the Wrong Choice
  5. How the Brain Processes Video
  6. Headlines that Get Visitors to Click Play
  7. How Motion in Marketing Videos Affects Viewer Attention
  8. Video Marketing Using Animation

Special thanks to Vidpow for producing the videos in our Video that Converts Mini-course.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Are you blind because your Google Analytics setup has blind spots?

Do you know when one of your visitors gets a 404 error? You should.

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Transcript: Google Analytics Blind Spots That Must Be Corrected

Do you know how your overlay popups affect conversion? They really should know.

Is Live Chat helping or hurting your sales? You should know.

These are three of the most common blind spots we see when setting up analytics for our clients. Find out exactly how to remove these blind spots in your analytics data.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Image Courtesy afullmer via freeimages.com

We have a recipe for setting up Google Analytics when we take on a new client. A few simple things can make all the difference.

Like naming your Views so that you can find the right one easily.

Or adding a RAW data view so that you can effectively “backup” your Google Analytics information.

I address these and a few more setup issues in my most recent Marketing Land Column, A Google Analytics Setup Checklist.

Listen on The Conversion Scientist Podcast

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The other lower-case filters are defined as follows:

Lower case campaign

The lower case campaign filter in Google Analytics

The lower case campaign filter in Google Analytics.

Lower case Referrals

The Google Analytics filter to make the referral field lowercase.

The Google Analytics filter to make the referral field lowercase.

Related Marketing Land Columns by Brian Massey


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The staff was assembled, the stage was set. Representatives from every department plus some of the big brass were sitting around the long conference table.
I was about to present the data that showed how successful my marketing campaigns had been for the past month. This was important, because it had been like pulling teeth to get a more data-driven process in place.
IT had to be cajoled into setting up Google Analytics.
Sales had to be bullied into keeping good account of leads and sales.
Now, with the first full month of data in hand, I was going to point to some steady growth. My pitch was confident as I showed the increase in leads and correlated it with an increase in sales. I was going to be a star.
Until someone spoke up from sales.
“We didn’t get that many leads last month. Most of my sales came from affiliates.”
All eyes turned to me. What I would say next would either raise stature or destroy my credibility.
Was it my programs, or was it my analytics that caused this disconnect?
The right answer would have been, “I personally QA’d our analytics setup. These numbers are right.”
Could you have given that answer?

In my most recent Marketing Land article Is It The Site, Or Is It The Analytics? Debugging Google Analytics, I show you how to be certain that your Google Analytics setup is working as planned.
Whether you setup your own analytics or have your tech team do it, you need to know that the data you’re using is right.

Listen to the Article, Read by the Author


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The graph above is real. It is the result of more accurately measuring the bounce rate of my blog.

Most of us, at one time or another, have not only been frustrated with our bounce rate, but completely puzzled about what to do about it.

In my latest Marketing Land article, Using A Google Tag Manager Listener To Get Your Real Bounce Rate, I will guide you toward a more accurate bounce rate. I will walk you through the steps to use The Timer Listener to time the visit duration of each of your visitors and get those percentages down where they belong.

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A bounce is any visit for which the visitor only looks at one page and does not interact with it. If you’re publishing a blog, this is truly unfair as someone may spend minutes reading a post, and still be counted as a bounce.

Fixing Your Bounce Rate

Find out how to ease some of your bounce rate stress along with the answers to the following questions and more.

  • What is Boing Fallacy?
  • Does Google Tag Manager (GTM) making anything easier?
  • How can I change the way Google Analytics calculates bounce rate?
  • How do I get that tenacious bounce rate down?

Recording your bounce rate more fairly makes you feel better, since your bounce rate should go down. This exercise will give you some experience in playing with GTM’s new listeners.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Google keeps messing with us. As soon as we thought we had Panda down, they introduced Penguin. Frankly, we weren’t too excited about the learning curve on that one. Then they threw an invisibility cloak over keywords used in Google searches, which made it even harder to figure out how people were finding us.
And now we’ve got Hummingbird to deal with.
Google Hummingbird
Introduced on September 26, 2013, Hummingbird is Google’s revamped search algorithm designed to increase the organic nature of Google searches, reward websites that deliver useful content and let us search for stuff with phrases we might use when talking to a friend.  Or to a mobile phone. (Where can I get gluten-free pizza around here? Gimme the stats on the final game in the 2002 World Series.)
If your IT guy or gal is adept at second-guessing Google algorithms and tricking Google into finding you, Hummingbird might not be a welcome upgrade.
But if you’ve been posting useful, keyword-rich content on your website, cultivating high quality link-building and participating on social platforms in a thoughtful way, you’re in luck. By complying with basic SEO strategies, you will find that Google is trying to help businesses like yours come out ahead.
[pullquote position=”right”]Both experts and high-growth firms agree that SEO is the most effective online marketing tactic for generating online leads[/pullquote]. And now, Google is enhancing their search capability so that businesses and prospective customers can find each other faster.

The company you keep

In this new, more organic type of search, Google is inserting itself into (and making judgments about) your website’s online relationships.
It used to be that you could pay, trade or beg anyone to link to you, thereby improving your page rank. The more links the better, even if the originating sites were questionable or you had hired a troll to sit in a backroom and post comments (and your link) on a thousand blogs.
Google didn’t like that. With the introduction of “no follow links” and the ability to better identify “spammy” sources, spraying links throughout the Internet not only stopped working, it started costing you. Page rankings got spanked when search engines identified link-backs as originating from unsavory sites, unrelated content or artificially populated social platforms.
Roll forward to 2014. Today, high quality link-building is even more dependent upon good content.  Relevance is key. The bloggers, articles, websites and publications that are linking back to you should somehow relate to the services you provide.  And they should be coming from industry sources you’d be proud to hang out with.
So how do you inspire these like-minded folks to send their followers to you?

Getting your links out there

The first step in developing your high quality link-building strategy is to find out what types of people and online sources would be most appropriate for—and interested in—linking back to you. You may already know who they are, but if you need help, check out Open Site Explorer. This free tool enables you to see who’s linking to your competitors. Most likely, you will want these folks (or people like them) linking to you as well.
Next, create well-crafted content which provides information, tools and thought-leadership that will appeal to the people you want linking back to you.
And finally, raise a ruckus about it.
Make sure that influential bloggers, industry-specific publications, social sites and prospective customers are alerted to and have easy access to your e-books, webcasts, slideshows, blogs and of course, your interactive, easy-to-navigate website.
In short, establish yourself online as a foremost authority in your field.

The voice of authority

By establishing yourself as a “go-to” industry expert, your leadership position will be noted by your peers and prospective customers, and ultimately by search engines that will reward your credibility by boosting your page rank.
Here are three areas to focus on to help you increase your website’s authority:
Write, present and talk online about topics related to your field. Your industry colleagues will hesitate to direct their valued followers to your website just to promote your business. It’s critical that you provide a continuous stream of information and tools that elevate your site to the status of valued industry resource. Develop e-books, articles, webcasts, slideshows and other collateral that provide people with knowledge they might not otherwise have access to. (At Hinge, we often begin our relationships with prospective clients when they read one of our e-books on a plane or in the tub!)
Pitch your content to relevant publications and be sure to include a “resource box” that contains your bio and website link. Target online media outlets that your customers rely on for information.
Start a blog. (And don’t forget the part about actually writing in it—at least once a week.) Make sure each entry is a quick, easy read that provides useful, keyword-rich content. Encourage your readers to share it. Build relationships with other bloggers in your industry by directing them to your blog, inviting them to post and guest-posting on theirs.
Populate select social media channels with links to your cool stuff. When people “like” your content, retweet your tweets and otherwise direct their friends, fans and followers to your site, Google recognizes this as a vote of confidence and favors you in their searches. Although it takes awhile to create a strategic presence on social media platforms, it’s one of the best ways to boost your high quality link-building campaign.
These ideas should help get you started. And don’t forget—relevance is key. Be wary of aggressively seeking link-backs at the risk of compromising the quality of your connections. What search engines are aiming for in 2014 and beyond is to create authentic relationship between those who are seeking and those who have something to offer. Be patient. Like any good relationship, it takes time to build.
Sylvia Montgomery is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. At Hinge, Sylvia provides strategic counsel to national clients. She is a co-author of Inside the Buyer’s Brain and Online Marketing for Professional Services. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @BrandStrong.