Website content optimization: Page metrics

January 24, 2021

Which of your pages are performing at full potential?

We already looked at traffic data to see how pages are performing in search – but the end goal is to win with real, live human beings.

So, how do people respond to each page? Are they in love with it? Are they running away as soon as they arrive?

In other words, how is the User Experience (UX)? Let’s look at some metrics that speak to what users are actually doing with pages on your site.

When we understand how users interact with a page, we can start optimizing for their engagement. Start by looking at two key metrics in Google Analytics:

  • Average Time on Page
  • Bounce Rate

The two go hand-in-hand. Combined, they give a sense of how users are judging the quality and relevance of your pages.

(Google search crawlers use these metrics when ranking pages, too.)

Average Time On Page

This measures exactly what you think it does: how long each visitor is spending on this page.

Optimized-Content-TimeOnPage.png

Why do we chart this metric?

It guides our UX optimization. Do people find this page engaging? Well, if they only spend 1.33 seconds on the page, then the answer is probably No.

Note: if you have a really small data set (i.e. not many page visits) then the Average Time on Page data can be misleading. If you only had four users last month, one outlier can warp the overall metrics. But if you had 40,000 users then one outlier won’t have a huge effect.

What are we looking for?

There is no universal target range here, but the higher the better. One minute or higher is a healthy sign – still, there’s room for improvement. Anything over 10 minutes probably indicates a data or optimization error.

What does it tell us for optimization?

If the time on page metric is around 30 seconds or less, then people probably aren’t finding what they’re looking for on this page.

All content, no matter how old or poorly performing, has potential to be revised or repurposed and become active again. A page with low time metrics might be improved a number of ways, such as…

  • Revising the page layout
  • Simplifying the nav bar
  • Breaking up text on the page to make it more readable
  • Adding visuals

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate shows us how frequently visitors leave a page without ever engaging with it.

Optimized-Content-BounceRate.png

Why do we chart this metric?

As with the Time on Page data, we use bounce rate to gauge UX performance and user intent. Are people finding what they were looking for when they typed the search terms into Google? Or are they going back to Google because your page didn’t answer their question?

What are we looking for?

The lowest percentage possible. It’s all relative, again, but a bounce rate of 50-80% is generally okay. It’s extremely rare to see anything under 20% (and anything under 10% is almost certainly an error).

What does it tell us for optimization?

A high bounce rate tells us that people aren’t finding what they’re looking for on this page. This could point to a few common issues:

  • The content might be mismatched with the search terms.
    For example: Users are searching the term ‘apple pie recipe’ and your page is a history of the apple pie recipe tradition in North America.
    Solution: Put a link on the page that will bring users to a more relevant piece on your site (ie. an actual apple pie recipe). Make sure the link is easy for visitors to notice.

  • The content might be relevant, but the presentation is off.
    For example (continuing with our apple pie recipe search): You’ve got an apple pie recipe on the page but it’s at the very bottom, and the title of the page is ‘A Story About My Mom’s Famous Apple Pie’.
    Solution: Rewrite the copy and title so that visitors know that the recipe they’re looking for is here. Consider moving the recipe itself to the top of the page.

Bounce rate and time on page are imperfect metrics

Both metrics has its own quirks – at least in the way that Google charts them. It’s good to take these quirks into consideration. (Google is the product of mortal, fallible humans after all.)

Average Time on Page: Google won’t chart every visit

Google can track the time for all visitors except those who bounce. It’s a quirk of their method: they can only track someone’s time on page if they visit two or more pages on your site.

So, if your bounce rate is 60%, that means that Google is only providing Time on Page data for 40% of that page’s visitors. It’s still a useful metric, but not exactly ideal data analysis.

Bounce rate: ‘engagement’ is an imprecise notion

Bounce rate is tracking the rate of engagement on a page – but what does that mean, exactly?

The most basic answer is: clicking on stuff. If you want to track meaningful engagement, you’ll need to define the type of ‘stuff’ that you want people to click and use.

Google has its own one-size-fits all definitions… and it sporadically revises criteria for an engagement ‘event.’

For example: If a chat screen pops up and a user clicks to minimize it, Google might classify that as an event. If a user clicks ‘Play’ on a video player – that often constitutes an event, even if they leave your site entirely, two seconds later.

What do you consider engagement for your own site? Probably something a little more substantial – like actually chatting in a chat window, or clicking on a Free Trial button or browsing other pages.

The good news: you can tailor the way that bounce rate is counted within Google Analytics. It will give you an option to classify less desirable clicks as non-interactive events.

Conclusion

To start getting a sense for page performance, chart its bounce rate and average time on page. Average Time on Page tells you how long a page keeps people’s attention. Bounce rate tells you how often visitors land on your website and realize that it’s not a good fit for them.

Together, these metrics can give you sense for the overall strength of a page’s User Experience. Tracking it for all of your pages will allow you to see which ones need the most revision. With these insights in mind, you can begin revising the elements of a page as needed.

Optimizing for time on page might be as simple as adding more subheads to a blog post, or as fundamental as adjusting the site’s nav bar. Optimizing for bounce rate might be a matter of adding useful links to the top of a page, or rewriting a post entirely.

By tracking these metrics for all pages on a regular basis, you’re treating your website as a dynamic point of customer engagement. Because, ideally, that’s what it is.

When you’re ready to get more mileage out of your existing content, you can always run ideas by the Ercule crew.


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