I cheated and brought my site bounce rate down from 80% to 12%

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits to your website (according to Google Analytics). It can be an infuriating number to track if it’s constantly above 80% as it tells the site owner that they’re content is not engaging enough to keep visitors around.

Lazy cat is lazy. Not much engaged

I cheated and brought mine down from 80% to 12%. Here’s how:

My website bounce average has been 80% for quite some time now. Maybe that’s good enough for a blog-like site like this as a big portion of the traffic comes from Google and visitors either get an answer to whatever they were looking for or don’t (and go back to Google to look at alternatives).

Looking at the segment of visitors who do 1+ pageviews then the situation is quite good – average pageviews per visit is 3.7 (up from average 1.5) and time on site to 4:27 (up from 00:51 seconds).

Finding my site’s true bounce rate

Inspired by Gael Breton’s Google Analytics: A Few Cool Tips On Advanced Segments I tweaked the tracking code on my site with the following (full code example in the original post):

setTimeout('_gaq.push([\'_trackEvent\', \'NoBounce\', \'Over 5 seconds\'])',5000);

It tells Google Analytics that anyone who spends over 5 seconds on the page, even if they only look at one page and then leave, is not a real bounce. 5 seconds is long enough to read the headline, scan the top of the page and make a leave/stay decision.

The result? My site bounce rate plummeted from 80% to 12%.

Bounce rate change

Maybe 5 seconds is too short (I’m going to test with 10 or 15) but other than getting the timing right I can’t think of a downside to finding out the true bounce rate.

Combining this with other engagement metrics in Audience > Behavior menu in Google Analytics gives you a more accurate picture of how well your site is performing.

KissMetrics has a good post Bounce Rate Demystified making some good recommendations how to bring the % of one-page visits down and Brian Clifton’s Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics is one of the freshest books on getting the most out of Google Analytics. Justin Cutroni’s “Rethinking Blog Metrics” is another interesting read, I’ll probably end up testing ideas from there as well.

The immediate benefit of real-time web analytics with GoSquared

Long gone are the days when this site got 30 thousand monthly visitors but plenty still come to field test real-time web analytics software from GoSquared.

GoSquared is another fun team of youngsters experienced entrepreneurs (they’re 21 or something but have been running their company for 6 years…) that I help with some ideas. Of course I had to test drive their product (you can get a preview watching the live demo).

GoSquared demo

Why real-time web analytics?

The traditional approach to web stats has been looking at the data after the fact. You check what happened yesterday, during the past week, a month. What was popular, where did the traffic come from, which pages converted visitors into sign ups etc.

Tools like GoSquared (and its many competitors) show what’s happening on your website right now. How many people are visiting which pages, how did they come to you, are they staying around or leaving in 5 seconds.

Keep readin’ →

Photo apps for the recovering photo enthusiast

After years of being an avid photographer who lugs around heavy SLR setup I’m doing 99% of my snapping on the iPhone and have found a number of nice photo apps you might find useful. Most of my stuff these days goes to Instagram (some of it re-posted to Flickr or Facebook).

Pro HDR

HDR, or high dynamic range, basically means that your camera takes several shots, exposing for different areas of the pic (dark and light) and then blends the images together to get a more evenly lit result. You get details in the shadow areas and details in the light areas. Observe.

Crounch End
Crouch End on a sunny evening. Normal iPhone camera app.

Crouch End HDR
Same picture but with Pro HDR, default settings.

This is my most used photo app and probably the best £2 I’ve ever spent on photography. It gives my photos more details, more punch. The downside is that it’s a slow process of taking a photo, as the app needs to analyze the scene and then takes 2 shots, blends them together. Roughly 10 seconds to take the picture and then another 5-10 before you’re ready to take the next shot. This also means that it’s not suitable for moving objects and you need some steady hands.

Keep readin’ →

Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb will burst your lungs

File this one under “100 Ways to Prove How Weak You Are”.

urban hillclimb, london, swain’s lane

When a friend pinged me a few days ago asking if I was interesting in pretending to be him and sprinting up the Swain’s Lane as part of the Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb, I foolishly agreed. I had heard about the event in previous years, and since it’s 5 minutes from where I live thought that it’ll be a cool thing to try.

I’ve actually ridden up the Swain’s Lane (here’s the segment map in Strava) a few times before on a very slow pace, it’s tough even that way. Trying to go up as fast as possible is a different thing altogether.

Factsheet:

Length: 800 meters
Vertical climb: 60 meters
Average gradient: 8.6%
Feeling at the top: WHY?!

There were tons of people cheering you on with “Allez!”, “Push it!” at the steepest part of the course, someone taking photos (check out the ones from last year on the competition website), so it almost felt like a 2 minut mini-Tour de France.

Competitor crossing the finishing line
Those two guys are there to catch the ones who have pedaled themselves into blackout.

Coming off the bike was a good excuse to promptly sit down and not move for a few minutes. My legs were totally toast. I’ve done climbs before but never this way. The massochist in me might sign up for next year’s event…

I don’t know what my time was, got to the start line on the last moment and forgot to start the timer. Will find out later from their website.

Results: 99th place out of 154 people who went uphill. 02:17 to do it, I’m pretty satisfied. Lost to the winner by 45 seconds which is huge for such a short distance but was to be expected. Official results »

3 search engine optimization basics you need to know

Over the past couple of months I’ve been mentoring a young Estonian startup InSkilled (they help you collect, analyze and share stuff you’re learning online every day) and we just finished a quick chat about search engine optimization (SEO) basics. It’s something they haven’t paid any attention to so far but will get these three points below sorted quickly.

#1. Focus on your unique content

Unless you’re Wikipedia it’s a tough battle to try getting to top 10 search results on generic terms. So figure out the unique content your site has and focus on that.

For InSkilled these are two things:

* High quality collections of topical content – like these articles, videos and how-to’s for startups on pitching, raising funding, product management, customer acquisition etc.

Screenshot of education materials on InSkilled

As more content gets added to the site by more people these pages will become high quality destinations for anyone wanting to learn about certain topics. Targeting the right keywords and combining this with proper on-site linking, on-page SEO and linkbuilding I wouldn’t be surprised if they got decent results in 3-6 months.

Keep readin’ →

Morning group rides – miss them in London

Bikers in the morning

Got my act together, woke up at 6 and caught a train of bikers in the regular morning ride that a local bike shop organizes. Perhaps some 35 people cruising at 30 km/h average and loads up on coffee, pastries and porridge afterwards in the old town. If you’re in Tallinn and cycle then you should join the ride.

If you’re in London then let me know of the Sunday morning rides you know about :)

Now, how can I watch Tour de France over the internets?

Group of riders

Does your ad make an impression? Monolith can measure it

Last week I attended the final pitch event by Startup Wise Guys accelerator and one of the slides that Martin Birac, the CEO of Monolith Advertising had up on the wall made me sit up in a “Wait, what?!” moment.

Martin of Monolith on stage

Unknowing to the participants they had showed couple of ads on a TV screen before the pitching session and used their Monolith machine to measure how many people saw and watched the ads. Although I knew what their product does it was still an eye opener – I was being tracked and measured in a physical space, my reactions to an ad noted by a cold calculating robotic eye.

Monolith’s solution is a mixture of hardware and software (they initially hacked a Microsoft Kinect for this) that tracks your body and your eyes, measures eye contact with the ad space (in this case a TV screen). In the future it’ll be able to track your journey through a mall, telling the merchant if their ad near the mall entrance works in driving foot traffic to their shop.

Martin and Co have also tested a prototype of an augmented reality ad where the viewer was projected inside the ad, making it possible to manipulate the virtual space – sort of like a computer game.

They clearly have plenty of challenges with having a hardware component, breaking new ground, finding first big clients etc but it’s a solution I found really exciting. They’ll be pitching in London this week together with the Springboard companies, hope they nail it!

Daily social media tools in my arsenal

Every now and then I get asked what tools I use to keep tabs on social media. Since it’s part of my daily job at Flattr and I’ve been active blogging/tweeting/sharing pics etc for ages I’ve tried quite a few different tools and for now seem to have stuck with the ones listed below.

Something worth mentioning is that I work at a very small startup and manage all of our social channels and content creation myself so team-aspect of tools has not been high on my priorities.

Twitter-centric stuff

TweetDeck is the real work horse I’m spending the most time replying to our customers, following discussions, getting useful links for material to be used in our own channels. There are weaknesses (no auto-translate of non-English tweets is my biggest gripe) but it’s invaluable for me.

Keep readin’ →

The Darwinian food chain that makes things go viral

A taxidermied cat being that’s been turned into a helicopter — that’s clearly going to be successful, right? Because it’s got that element of shock, it’s got that element of a cat, you know, it’s basically just tailored to the Internet,” he said. I am laughing at this point.

Great read by Andrew Phelps on Gawker’s new man-machine Neetzan Zimmerman who’s superhero skill is finding the odd pieces from the depth of the internet that are bound to go viral. He churns out 13-14 posts a day, clocking up pageviews, leaving other Gawker editors to focus on longer, more meaty stories.

Link: What makes something go viral? The Internet according to Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman

Here’s Zimmerman’s own story titled “This Is How You Make Something Go Viral: An Impractical Guide

In short order I was able to track content from the point of inception to pre-mainstream saturation. I learned to recognize when items were reaching that critical stage of going from radar blip to full-scale red alert.

M83 vs Creedence Clearwater Revival “Midnight Moon”