When a blog post fails in all metrics

December 16, 2021
📗 Field Note

You’ve got a few posts on your blog that aren’t doing anything for you.

Traffic is low, bounce rate is high. No conversions. Maybe the people who wrote these posts wince when they scroll past them on the blog.

These pages probably need a lot of work to see meaningful improvement. We call them “lemons”.

Lemons deserve love and attention, too. (And, in some cases, pruning.)

🍋 Understanding lemons

Let’s say you sell saxophones, and your blog has a lengthy post entitled “How To Play Jimi Hendrix Guitar Solos On A Saxophone.” And the page is a lemon.

Big-time lemon: the content, the format, the audience targeting… everything is terrible. Rehabilitating each element probably requires more energy than it’s worth.

But you have to do something with it because, in your blog library, a lemon is a liability:

  • Distracting visitors away from posts that actually convert. Blog index views and search engine results might present the lemons first, which send new leads running away.
  • Wasting Google’s time. Google’s crawlbots don’t have infinite amounts of time to spend on your site. Lots of bad content can mean that the good stuff doesn’t get indexed as quickly.
  • Diminishing your brand. Lemon posts tend to accumulate formatting problems, and other issues, that nobody notices except for the very occasional visitor.
  • Taking up your time. All of your content requires maintenance, and maintaining a lemon isn’t worth the time you put into it. Plus, lemons show up in analytics and reporting at the strangest times.

It’s not all bad, however. Within these lemon posts, there’s probably some bits of quality content that you can use on other pages.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Adapt the strong content in these pages to improve other pages that are already performing better. Then delete the existing page.

You’ll be making successful posts more robust while streamlining your content library at the same time.

Get started by identifying lemon posts in Google Analytics. Look for the posts with low traffic and high bounce rates. (If a page has just low traffic, or just low engagement, tackle that first.)

Next, do a quick content assessment in the lemon page:

  • Is any of this material relevant to our audience and value props?
  • Is any of this material useful or insightful enough to salvage?

Then extract that quality material and add it to relevant posts on your blog that are already performing well – or doing okay, at least. Then delete the lemon (and be sure to redirect the deleted page to the new article).

Full disclosure: we cut up an existing lemon post for this very newsletter 🤓. And then we deleted it.

Or prune it, if you will.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

When high-conversion blogs don't get the traffic they deserve

December 8, 2021
📗 Field Note

You probably have some blog posts where:

  • The content is brilliant
  • The bounce rate is low
  • The traffic it’s attracting is perfectly targeted

And yet: it’s not getting enough traffic. So the net conversions are low.

At Ercule, we refer to these posts as “shy”. These pages could be superstars – if only they got out into the world a little more.

Since the content itself is already strong, its problems are probably rooted in optimization and distribution. Things like…

  • Isolation. If it’s a one-off piece, with no related posts, no internal links, and no clear place in your service offering, then it’s going to be hard for users to find.
  • Keyword volume. If the post is discussing common pain points, but does it in heavily branded or niche language, new leads won’t find you in search.
  • Meta-tags. If your page doesn’t look appealing in search results, people won’t click through.
  • Page experience. UX basics like site speed might not derail bottom-funnel leads, but they will hinder your overall conversion performance.
  • Distribution. If you don’t tell the world about this post, and repeat the message strategically across platforms, you can’t expect anyone to know that it exists.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Revisit your optimization and distribution strategies for this post. Some things to look at:

  • Update the page title and h-tags to meet Google’s recommendations. Make it easier for the search engines to see, comprehend, and promote you.
  • Update the meta description. Each Google result is like a little ad for your content, so make yours descriptive and engaging.
  • Assess the page experience. We mentioned this is important for driving conversions. It’s important for driving traffic, too.
  • Add relevant internal links for the shy post on other pages of your site. It’s a kindness for readers and a proven method for boosting visibility.
  • Confirm the search volume for the post’s target keyword, and explore adjacent keywords. A slight change in terminology can lead to a wider audience.
  • Adapt the post for other formats (eg. social posts, video, newsletters 😉). It makes content more accessible and extends the mileage you get from each post.
  • Tell the world! Across all of your platforms. Then remind the world. Then do it again.

And keep doing all of these things. Distribution is a cycle and not a one-and-done sprint. (And optimizing old content is crucial to a distribution strategy.)

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

When popular pages have a high bounce rate

December 1, 2021
📗 Field Note

Your site probably has at least one blog post that drives a substantial percentage of your traffic but also has a really high bounce rate.

So the post is attracting visitors to your site! But with a 70%+ bounce rate, it’s really not converting anyone.

We call these posts PBLs, or “Popular But Lazy”.

One reason may be that your target audience isn’t finding value in the page. This could be for any number of reasons, including…

  • Audience intent is mismatched
  • Writing and paragraph structure are subpar
  • UX and page experience are a drag

For example, let’s say you sell pizza-making robots. (If you really do this, please reach out!)

Your site has a Popular But Lazy post entitled “Where To Buy Pizza Robots.” It’s top-ranked in Google and the search intent is right on, but your site’s UX is miserable: slow, cluttered, loaded with obnoxious pop-ups, and the copy is one endless paragraph of fluff.

You’re attracting bottom-funnel leads but they hate how your site feels. So they bounce.

Or you’ve got another PBL post entitled “History of Tomato Sauce.” It’s the top-ranked page in Google. The problem? Nobody searching ‘history tomato sauce’ is looking to buy a robo-pizzaiolo! This voluminous traffic you’re getting is not your target audience. So they bounce too.

🏄 What you can do

Start by identifying your Popular But Lazy pages. Go to Google Analytics, sort your pages by traffic, highest to lowest, and look for the high-traffic pages that have really high bounce rates.

Next, perform a quick conversion rate optimization inventory.

Assess the page experience:

If the UX fundamentals seem to be strong, take a look at the call-to-action and internal links. Each should provide a clear next step for the visitor. People bounce when they don’t see anything compelling to do next.

  • Are there internal links to other relevant posts on your site? (If not, add some. If you can’t find any, then this might be a sign that the post isn’t a great match for your audience.)
  • Is there a CTA that can match the visitor’s intent? (Top-funnel leads don’t want to schedule a demo of your pizza robot, but they might sign up for your brand newsletter.)

(We could, and probably should, write an entire newsletter on those last two bullet-points.)

Lastly, if the fundamentals are there but the search intent is mismatched (our “History of Tomato Sauce” example), a heavier touch is required. Consider revising the piece to better fit your topic strategy then post it as something new.

Something like “First Androids in Tomato Sauce History” might attract your true audience.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

What’s the difference between bounce rate and exit rate?

November 29, 2021
📗 Field Note

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate are two statistics that Google Analytics gives you about the pages on your site.

They both give you important information about your visitor’s journey after they read your content, but they’re calculated differently and you should do different things with the information:

  • Bounce Rate is the percentage of sessions where a visitor visited only that page. (A “session” is, basically, a “visit” to your website.)
  • Exit Rate is the percentage of all pageviews for that page, where the pageview was the last one in the session. Another way to say this is: Where the visitor stopped reading your site after visiting that page.

Typically, people view Bounce Rate as a more important indicator for the quality of content. If someone hits your site, and then leaves right away, that suggests the content wasn’t all that satisfying – whereas if they simply exit, it could mean lots of things.

Strategies to improve Bounce Rate include:

  • Improving the on-page experience (e.g. removing popups, reducing page load speed)
  • Improving the content (e.g. removing fluff, adding more relevant information)

And perhaps most important,

  • Inferring the intent of your visitor and adding calls to action within your content that are also helpful for them

For example, if your visitor lands on a page detailing efficient methods for putting up drywall, you want to link other relevant tutorials within the post, and maybe add a call to action for your Ultimate Guide to Hanging Drywall.

What is direct traffic in Google Analytics, and how can we figure out where it comes from?

November 13, 2021
📓 Article

Direct traffic has an exciting name. Direct! It’s traffic that comes straight to you!

But in Google Analytics, the Direct Traffic label is often a way of saying, “We don’t really know where this traffic is coming from.”

If more than ~20% of your traffic is categorized as Direct, then your overall data analysis is probably suffering. You can fix that.

Screen Shot 2021-11-17 at 3.57.26 PM.png

🧩 What is Direct Traffic?

The answer to this question has two parts.

First, there is real direct traffic: people typing your URL directly into their address bar. (This is good – it means that your brand team is doing its job!)

Additionally, there’s unidentified traffic from any number of sources (email, social, paid ads, etc.) that Google Analytics is lumping in there too, under the Direct Traffic label.

Why? (This is where it gets technical.) Because the links from those sources don’t have any referrer information.

For example: if the same link is in my Twitter profile and my email signature, there’s no way to tell which clicks came through Twitter and which ones came through email. GA reads them both as having no referrer – the same as typing that URL into an address bar.

🍋 Common causes of Direct Traffic bloat

Some can be remedied on the front end:

  • Email, especially prospecting email from your sellers. If you send a lot of email, or if your sellers do, that can mean a lot of direct traffic.

  • Traffic from social apps. When you link from an app like Instagram to a website, referrer information is generally not sent.

Others are structural and require more back-end attention:

  • Inconsistent Google Analytics implementation. If Google Analytics is on some pages on your site, but not others, a visitor who goes from an untagged page to a tagged page will show up as direct (because the referrer will be your own site!)

  • Insecure sites. Your site should be serving in https, for lots of reasons. If it isn’t, you may also see additional direct traffic, as document referrers generally aren’t sent from https to http sites.

🏄🏼 What you can do to improve Direct Traffic data

One surefire way to improve your data: make sure every link you send has a utm_medium parameter.

For example, in a sales email… Let’s say you’ve been including a product demo link:

When a lead clicks on the link, it counts as direct traffic. Instead, you can include a UTM parameter:

You should also use utm_source in links as well. If this sales email was triggered by a webinar invite, that source can be added:

You can add UTM parameters to most channels: ads, links on social, referral programs, etc.

This isn’t a silver bullet for all direct traffic issues. If Google Analytics implementation is inconsistent, for example, it requires different solutions. (We recommend looking up suspect pages in GA and seeing if they show).

But UTMs will decrease overall Direct Traffic volume – and give you better data about your key channels right away.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!