Tim Ash

This is a common question, and requires an understanding of the definitions of bounce rate.”
The bounce rate is a bit slippery and requires some examination. The intention of measuring the bounce rate is to figure out how many of your visitors are leaving almost immediately after arriving at your site. This metric provides for a lot of error in interpretation.

“A high bounce rate means you’re site is crappy.”

This is rarely the case. A more accurate explanation is that your site doesn’t look the way your visitors expect it to look. Understanding what your visitors expect is the way to reduce your bounce rate.
Instead, there are usually some more valid reasons for your high bounce rate. Here are the things we examine when confronted with uncomfortably high bounce rates.

You’re measuring it wrong.

How you measure your bounce rate can give you very different insights. For example, blogs often have high bounce rates. Does this mean that visitors don’t like the blog?
Many analytics packages measure a bounce as a visit, or session, that includes only one page. Visitors who take the time to read an entire article would be considered a “bounce” if they then left, even though they are clearly engaged.
We set a timer for our blog traffic, so that any visitor who sticks around for 15 seconds or more is not considered a bounce.

Technical Difficulties

We are fond of saying that you don’t have one website, you have ten or twenty or thirty. Each device, each browser, each screen-size delivers a different experience to the visitor. If your website is broken on one of the more devices popular with your visitors, you will see a bump in overall bounce rate.
If your pages load slowly, especially on mobile devices, you can expect a higher bounce rate.
If your page breaks out in a chorus of Also Sprach Zarathustra when the page loads, you may enjoy a higher bounce rate.

How to diagnose

Your analytics package will track the kind of device your visitors are coming on.

Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?

Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?

The Google Analytics report Audience > Technology > Browser & OS shows that there may be a technical issue with Safari visitors coming from within an app. This may also reflect visitors coming from mobile ads, and they may simply be lower quality. See below.
With Google Analytics Audience > Mobile > Devices report, we see mobile devices specifically. The Apple iPhone has an above-average bounce rate, and we should probably do some testing there, especially since it’s the bulk of our mobile traffic.
With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.

With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.

Traffic Quality

If you’re getting the wrong visitors, you will have a high bounce rate.
Remember StumbleUpon? Getting your site featured on the internet discovery site often meant a flood of new visitors to your site… and a crash in your conversion rate. Stumble traffic was not qualified, they were just curious.
Your bounce rate is a great measure of the quality of your traffic. Low quality traffic bounces because:

  • The search engine showed them the wrong link. Do you know how many visitors used to come to our site looking for a “conversion rate” for Russian Rubles to Malaysian Ringletts?!
  • The visitors aren’t ready to buy. They were in a different part of the purchase process. Visitors coming from Social Media ads have notoriously low conversion rates. They weren’t looking, they were just surfing.

We take a closer look at the source of traffic to diagnose a traffic quality problem using Google Analytics Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report.

Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.

Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.

Here we can see that traffic coming from Display ads and those visitors coming “Direct-ly” have a high bounce rate. These two sources also make up 50% of our traffic. Ouch.
In the case of Direct traffic, we expect most of it to come to the home page. With a click, we can see that indeed 50% of Direct visits are to home.
Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.

Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.

Clearly we need to do more to get visitors on their way into the site. As Tim Ash says, “The job of the home page is to get people off of the home page.” He didn’t mean by bouncing.
With regard to Display ads, we my have a problem with broken promises.

Broken Promises

Do your entry pages consider the source of visits?
If your traffic is clicking on an ad that promises 20% off on a specific propane grill, and they’re directed to your home page, you’ve broken a promise. You might think that they will search your site for the deal. You might even think they’ll search your home page for the deal. You’re wrong. Many will jump.
Every ad, every email invitation, every referral link is a promise you make to your visitor. If they don’t come to a page that lives up to the promise, they are likely to bounce.

  • Does the headline on the page match the offer in the ad?
  • Does the product in the email appear after the click?
  • Are the colors and design consistent across media?

This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.

This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.

Looking at your ads on a page-by-page basis is necessary to diagnose and correct this kind of bound-rate problem.

Vague Value Propositions

Ultimately, if you’re not communicating your value proposition to your visitors clearly, you are going to enjoy a monstrous bounce rate.
Your value proposition typically does not address your company or your products. It should be targeted at your visitor, why they are there, and why they should stick around.
Each page has it’s own value proposition. Your business may have a powerful value proposition, but each page should stand on its own.
A contact page should talk about what will happen after you complete the form. Who will contact you? How long will it take? Will they try to sell you something?
A landing page should clearly state that you are in the right place and provide reasons for you to stay and read on.

This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold.

This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold. See the full case study and video.

A home page should help you find your way into the site. Most home pages are treated like highway billboards. No wonder people just drive on by.
Ultimately, we don’t want to reduce our bounce rate. We want to improve our conversion rate by bringing the right traffic, to the right page, with the right message, and avoid technical issues that get in the way.
Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

One of the great benefits of speaking at great conferences is getting to learn from your peers in the industry. Joel Harvey and I did our first LIVE tag-team presentation called “The Chemistry of the Landing Page.”
Tim Ash gave an insightful and “inciteful” keynote presentation at the PPC Hero Conference here in Portland Oregon. Here are my instagraph notes taken live as he spoke.

Tim Ash Hero Conf 2015 Context Power of Framing

Click to Enlarge


Would you be brave enough to let a bunch of conversion experts tell you what is wrong with your website?  Flex Fitness’s Ryan Ehler did just that when he won the privilege of having five website optimization experts evaluate a landing page for one of his ads. Digital Marketer published all of the recommendations.
The critiques may seem a little rough, but in the end Ryan was the recipient of some really solid advice (estimated to be worth $25,000).
Our own Brian Massey pointed out some problems that needed to be addressed. Here are the note from which his full critique was created.

Notes from Brian Massey's review of Flex Fitness landing page.

Notes from Brian Massey’s review of Flex Fitness landing page.

What can you take away from this?
1. Make your landing page match the promises in your ad. Ryan does a good job here, matching copy and images.
2. Don’t try to be too cute with your copy. [pullquote]Why do we want to catapult our results?? We want to keep them, don’t we?[/pullquote]
3. Use images that support your value proposition. The image of the gym are supportive. The stock photos in the “Three Words…” section is not.
4. Make your calls to action clear. What will happen if your visitor submits a form or clicks on a button.
Read the full critiques from Brian and website optimization experts Chris Goward, Tim Ash, Justin RondeauPeep Laja.
Learn more about landing pages on The Conversion Scientist Blog.

Tim Ash coined the term “Big fat bouncers in your brain” during an interview on his Landing Page Optimization podcast that he and I were on.
I love the image that phrase draws to mind, because it’s true.
The bottom line is this: If you want your message to affect and influence your readers and listeners, you must get past the big fat bouncers in their brains.

Writing Killer Copy: Getting Past the Bouncers in Your Brian

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I’ve introduced you to these two bouncers and telling you how to write copy that gets past them.
Why register now?
Find out how Betabrand achieved 432% growth for products nobody was looking for.
Get my real definition of “copy”.
See revealing brain scans. We all love brain scans.
Discover my fool-proof method for great copy.
Find out what business porn is and how to create compelling images.
As always, we have FUN doing these.

Writing Killer Copy: Getting Past the Bouncers in Your Brian

Watch the Replay


Tim Ash and Joel Harvey talk testing screw-ups and “with and without” tests. Find out if there is a lab at Conversion Sciences called the “QA-tion Station” and how many Igloos Joel has built in the latest installment of Landing Page Optimization on Webmaster Radio.



Maturity Models were all the rage at Conversion Conference Chicago 2013, but they can make you feel like you’re living with your marketing parents — immature.
Don’t feel bad. We didn’t get a perfect score and we do this for a living (see below for how we score).
Maturity models aren’t a way to judge you and your inadequacies. Maturity models are ways to identify your strengths and plan to build on them.
Both Tim Ash of Sitetuners and Michael Parizek of avast! put forward maturity models for us, and I was on hand to capture Michael’s presentation using my innovative Instagraph (instant infograph) technique.

Instagraph-Conversion-Maturity Model CCC13The Content Maturity Model presented by Michael Parizek of avast!

So, how does Conversion Sciences score on the model? Parizek identified seven criteria in his maturity model.


This is an area that we feel strongly about at Conversion Sciences. We have an experienced Conversion Scientist doing the work for every business that hires us. We like to say, “You’ll be working with ‘The Guys’.” We would benefit from some more formal methods as we grow our lab staff, both in number and in capabilities.
Score: 4 out of 5


It is a golden age of conversion tools. There are lots of ways to measure sites, complete tests, and even spy on your competitors. We score highly on this because these tools exist for us to build on.
Score: 4 out of 5


How you manage what you learn from your testing is perhaps the biggest challenge. For most of us, means it stays in the heads of our optimization team. But what happens when there is turnover? Maintaining personas as a living representative of what you know about your customers is a great way to preserve knowledge.
Score: 3 out of 5


What do you do first? We generate a list of hypotheses based on your analytics, chat transcripts, reviews and interviews with customer-facing employees. Then we rank them in a similar way to Parizek’s model, but with more endices. You may like his simple graph of Impact vs. Feasibility for prioritizing ideas.
Score: 5 out of 5


Our Conversion Catalyst process that works for businesses in almost any industry. It is a thorough front-end evaluation followed by a fast-test process. Our goal is to find winners on your site within 120 days.
However, this process isn’t effective in slower-moving environments and in situations where wins on the website aren’t closely tied to bottom-line revenue.
Score: 4 out of 5


We use a test cycle approach. If one of our test hypotheses is a winner, we do another set of tests to see if we can get it even better. If a test is a loser, we can test something else.
This cycle gives us the freedom to find promising rabbit holes and follow them all the way to Wonderland.
Score: 4 out of 5


The key to success is always having a strong internal sponsor at our clients with the authority to get things done. We know how to make this individual a hero. We don’t move forward without this commitment from our clients.
Score: It depends
How do you score on each of these?
Which ones are you working on next?
Let us know in the comments.

Landing Page Optimization on WebmasterRadio
Tim Ash and Brian Massey talk about finding your customer creation equation in this installment of Landing Page Optimization on Webmaster Radio.
My favorite quote from the discussion is, “There’s a big dumb bouncer in your brain.”
Thanks for that, Tim.



LPO2_3D_PRIMARY-right-facingAt first, I was pleased to get my brand new copy of Landing Page Optimization Second Edition, delivered and signed by Tim Ash himself. I had learned a great deal from his first edition. It was a time in which I was adding more optimization services to my practice.
The new edition seemed to have everything. It had fresh pages from Tim plus Rich Page and Maura Ginty. It had a snazzy blue cover. Many of the graphics inside were new or updated.
And then it hit me.
Where were my dog-ears? My notes in the margins? The coffee stains on my most visited pages? The new book didn’t fall open to the places I revisited most, like the handy little “Size of Improvements” chart (now on page 302). It was all… gone.
I felt like my favorite site had been redesigned and none of my bookmarks worked. This is the downside to new editions, so I went searching for reasons to start over. It turned out to be a nice reminder of what we do and how we do it.
First of all, he still calls our baby “ugly” to highlight the need for “unflinching courage and clinical detachment” in examining your site. I guess familiarity is welcome in almost any form.
The new book has new content from Tim’s classic presentations, including “The Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design” and his “Conversion Ninja Toolbox.”

Meet the authors at Conversion Conference Chicago, June 25-27.

Less of an edge

I don’t know if Rich and Maura brought this characteristic, but the book has a bit less of an edge. Tim introduced his original section on “The Math of Tuning” with a section entitled “Just Grin and Bear It.” That little ditty is now gone, as is the section “A Final Warning.” The chapter from the first edition “Why Your Site is Not Perfect” has been removed and the content scattered about, as if they were trying to hide it.
Still, you can sense a little of the original edge. The chapter on “Understanding Your Audience” is now “Misunderstanding Your Visitors.” I had to jump to that one.

Just about everything is in there

The book is ambitious, and Tim, Rich and Maura do a good job of covering a lot of ground without eye-glazing detail. Of course, the discussion of factoring is still there.
The new book covers conversion improvement basics and best practices in common situations, which sets the table for the ensuing chapters. There’s a basic primer on statistics and probability. The authors address the challenges of assembling a team and getting buy-in, certainly a thornier optimization challenge than the technical issues.
The excellent chapter “Developing Your Action Plan” is there. New content on mobile websites can be found in this edition.
For me, Landing Page Optimization has been the best book in my library for successful testing, and is the one I most return to. The title may be misleading. Since every page on your site could be a landing page, it is really a book about website optimization.
The new edition offers even more without becoming cumbersome. If only I they could have preserved my “customizations” from the first edition.
The next best thing to reading Landing Page Optimization is seeing Tim, Rich and Maura in person. Will you be at Conversion Conference Chicago June 25-27? It is the most interesting and educational way to get your optimization game into full swing.

Your conversion marketing practice is actually a “stack” of disciplines each of which you will have some level of capability with.

Business Goals

Knowing exactly what you want your Web site to do for your business.


Understanding the best visitors needs, the reason they are visiting today and the information they need to feel comfortable taking action. Touchpoint Personas are the important tool at this stage.


What content will you create for these important visitors? Will it be articles, video, or audio? These are important considerations made easy from your touchpoint personas.


How do your visitors want to hear from you? Where can your visitors be reached? Your choice of channels may include webinars, email, social media, blog posts and more.


Putting the analytics and processes in place to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. This often means designing your online presence differently to enable tracking of visitor behavior.


Testing your assumptions is the only way to achieve the high conversion rates that make you seem invincible to your competitors. This is how you reduce the cost of all online marketing efforts.

Don’t Worry

This may sound like a tall order, and it is. However, if you are marketing online, you are involved with conversion issues by definition.
The good news is that the folks at SiteTuners.com, lead by the always brilliant Tim Ash have put together the Conversion Conference.
The attendees will be leading the online charge in each of their industries.
I can think of no better way to get up the many learning curves that your conversion practice needs than this two day conference.
Topics at Conversion Conference include:

  • Using Headlines, Copy and Graphic Design to Lift Conversion
  • Split Testing, Multivariate Testing and Google Website Optimizer
  • Segmentation, Personalization, and Persuasion
  • E-commerce, and Lead Generation Conversion
  • Landing Page Principles
  • Optimizing Social and Mobile
  • Design & Usability Mistakes

You’ve likely read books written by some of the Conversion Conference Speakers, like Landing Page Optimization and Web Design for ROI. There’s no question that the speakers at this conference are the folks you want to be learning from. Check it out. You can even save $250 if you use promo code CCE650 when you register on the Conversion Conference website.
If you won’t be there, I pray that your competitors won’t be either.
P. S. I do a complete writeup on the Conversion Stack in The Quintessential  Marketing Automation Guidebook, Conversion  Stack: Marketing Automation for Performance Marketers. It is free and you should find it enlightening.