As well as popular queries, I’ve been examining the bounce rates in our search logs. Often interpreted as a bad thing (after all, you don’t want people to leave your site) bounce rates can mean all sorts of things. The searcher could have rapidly realised they are in completely the wrong place for their query, they could have been dissatified with the content, or they might have only been looking for a quick answer which the site actually satisfied.
You need more evidence before you can unravel which of these reasons is causing a high bounce rate. If I see the query has a high bounce rate, and a high number of new visitors and the query is non-RNIB specific then this tends to suggest the searchers ended up on the site “by mistake”. I see this alot where the query is quite general e.g. “curriculum” or “flash” and then content on the RNIB is specifically about accessible curriculums or accessible Flash.
Some seemingly similar searches have very different bounce rates. Searches for ‘Helen Keller’ average a much higher bounce rate than searches for ‘Louis Braille’. This doesn’t necessarily reflect lower satisifaction with the Helen Keller content. ‘Helen Keller’ goes to a simple lengthy page with limited onward links. Louis Braille, on the other hand, leads users to a mini-site about Louis Braille and Braille more generally. Whilst ‘Helen Keller’ has a high bounce rate the term also has a reasonably high “time spent”, so you could interpret this as the searcher got the information they were looking for and didn’t feel the need to explore further.
The logs might provide evidence for areas where we should try and lower the bounce rates. Should we be trying to keep the attention of the web designers and developers who stumbled onto the site looking for general web design ideas? Or the schoolchildren looking for a Helen Keller biography to complete their homework? Or fundraisers looking for ideas for raising money? Which group represents a better opportunity for the RNIB? This needs more thought.
Intriguingly, the bounce rate for ‘RNIB judd st’ is twice that for ‘RNIB Judd street’ but the results are the same. Does that reflect the impatience of a searcher who won’t spell out ‘street’ in full?