Dealing With Bounce Rates And Hippos

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Generally when hippos enter the conversation there are only a few directions the conversation can go; none of these directions tend to lead to well-heeled executives. Avinash Kaushik, author of Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, follows no such arbitrary narrative rules.



In his case, and in the case of others at a, well, former employer, HIPPO is an acronym meaning the highest paid person’s opinion. Sometimes this opinion, wafting its effluvial way between totems of silk and the finest wools, just plain stinks.

"Most website designs stink because HIPPOs create them," said Kaushik, alongside Google Analytics group manager Brett Crosby, in a video interview with WebProNews’s Mike McDonald. They stink (websites, not the men in the video) because the HIPPO’s idea is very "disconnected from reality," Kaushik continued as Crosby adjusted the lapels of his sports jacket.

Previously in the conversation, the three were chatting up the finer points of web analytics to address things like bounce rates and conversions. Kaushik and Crosby were in general agreement that proper use of Web analytics was key in identifying problems with conversions.

"Gotta have goals and funnels," said the self-described suit (self-described by the aforementioned gesticulation upon Kaushik’s synonymy of HIPPOs and suits), who also described himself as one suit straddling the line between marketers who prefer spreadsheets and marketers who don’t. As for spreadsheets, Crosby deems them pretty important, if they involve analytics, especially Google Analytics. "If you don’t have analytics in place of some sort," he said, "you’re just throwing money around."

Those analytics, for example, can help identify why visitors "bounce" when they land on a page via search. Technically, a "bounce" is defined as a single page view session where the visitor bounces off to another website afterward. Kaushik, more colorfully again, characterized it more paratactically on behalf of the visitor as "I came, I puked, I left."

"No need to get all technical," said Mike.

Kaushik identified bounce rate as one of the simplest areas of analytics a webmaster can optimize. If a particular page has a high bounce rate, then something is wrong. What that something is could be many things, but Crosby suggests it might be either the landing page itself or the PPC keywords leading customers to the landing page. The wrong keywords optimized means visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for once they reach the landing page.

"If you use the keywords position report, it shows you how the ads perform," suggested Kaushik. This report will show how many visitors each keyword position yielded, and it shows the conversion rate. Crosby suggested comparing both paid and unpaid keywords to get an even better idea. Unpaid keywords will show which keywords bring visitors to a site most often, which can be compared against the bounce rate to show which keywords convert most.

This was when Kaushik brought up HIPPOs. So how does one deal with a HIPPO? Easy. One deals with a HIPPO in the same way one deals with a rhinoceros: Let him charge, step out of the way, let him get his nose stuck in a tree trunk. In other words, right when the HIPPO’s idea fails, present him or her with an alternative. 


Dealing With Bounce Rates And Hippos
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  • http://www.eporia.com ecommerce design

    Wonderfully entertaining post and a lot of truth there. Definitely worth passing on other Hippos.

  • http://www.jumbocdinvestments.com CD Interest Rates

    One question.  If you have Adsense Ads as an alternative to the services you offer, a high bounce rate may not be a bad thing, correct?  Someone clicking away from your site through one of the Ads would be considered a bounce, right?

    • Jason Lee Miller

      sorry it wasn’t defined clearly enough. I imagine yeah you’d want people to click your ads. what was meant was visitors you want to stay at your site (reading or purchasing) leave as soon as they get there, usually by hitting the back button.

  • http://www.monkeezemarketing.blogspot.com Marvin

    I love the term HIPPO because it seems such an apt description of so many suits.  Websites designed from the top down can indeed be pretty rather than functional.  Many such sites stand up and shout about how great the company is, how wonder are their products etc. 

    In point of fact, websites with a high bounce rate simply aren’t delivering information which the reader wants or, more specifically, needs.  To use an old marketing term, when people boucne off a page they are "voting with their feet".  Feet might not acutally be involved, but the term certainly applies equally well to real world and online marketing.

    To quote Forrest Gump, "and that’s all I have to say about that".   


  • http://www.erikcunningham.com/blog/ Erik Cunningham

    A successful strategy I’ve found when dealing with Hippos is to present them with a good idea and then let it settle for a couple of weeks.  That’s about how long it takes for them to convince themselves (or others) that it was really their idea in the first place.

  • http://www.jonathanboettcher.com Jonathan

    Great article.. I haven’t heard the term hippo before but it’s perfect.

    The only problem with your proposed strategy on dealing with rhinos & hippose is that you have to let them fail first. That usually equates to lost money or something else lost.

    I prefer working for myself =) though I guess that’s not always an option. Erik’s strategy has worked well for me in the past as well….

  • http://www.refractivemarketing.com Jonathan

    No one could have possibly produced a better article on this topic. As in school when the English teacher explained how she/he wanted you to feel when reading poerty; your words flowed like red wine in a field of tall green grass with the overwhemling bliss of ecstasy for I have longed for someone to address this forensics of ignorance!

    Thank you for taking the time to verify what we’ve all been dealing with and living with. After my findings, reseach and readings, it’s only taken YEARS for someone to call it out!

    Now I just have to remember to jump out of the way instead engaging in a head-on collision.

    • Jason Lee Miller

      I think I shall print out your comment, have it lamenated, and flash it like a badge the next time somebody pulls a name out of the nasty bucket for me. I’ll say to them, “Seeeeeee.”

      Thanks for the kind words. The pendulum sure swings both ways, but often gets stuck.

  • http://www.seooze.com SEO

    Great acornym very amusing HIPPO –  but what a weak story ?

    What was the point ? Did someone get put into thier place by management as the catalyst to writing this ?

    Sounds like someone needs a hug

    You can tell you works for themselves and who are the salaried graphics designers in the comments list.




  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    A poor acronym but based around empirical truth. I come across many websites where the most important person in the organisation stifles development.

  • http://seo.pittwebsite.com/blog Pittsburgh SEO Blog

    HIPPOS, where did this word come from? I read and saw what it means but who or where did it orginate from? It’s not a Internet or SEO related term, right?

  • http://www.iwanted.ca Free High PR Links

    How would one go about optimizing bounce rates then?  I mean sometimes people are only interested in one particular topic that you are promoting, especially if it is specific information.

    Internet Marketing Website SEO

    • http://www.damonsegal.co.uk Damon Segal

      You just need to look at the landing page and decide how relevant the content is to the keyword that brought the visitor there.  Other ways of improving the bounce is to include links in that page that lead to another page or a search facility so users can move on to another page of the site.  You could even have a didn’t find what you where looking for click here to email us.

      Lots of ways,  infact I’ll write an article about it and post on www.launchlab.co.uk

      Good luck!

  • http://www.seo-sem-india.com/ Seo India

    It’s a great post about Google Analytics but how to find:

    1. Goals is getting converted from Specific countries?
    2. How much time is taken to complete on goal – from landing page to thank you page
    3. Any further tips for improvement of Landing pages from Google Analytics perspective?

    Your suggestion are welcome

  • http://www.mynewswire.co.in news wire

    i went through article and video and found very helpful. Kushik reply was gr8 and given some good points to listeners about the GA and how to analysis bounce rate and also found interesting the concept of “HIPPOS”… :)

    i have posted the article on my blog as well at: http://www.mynewswire.co.in/2009/01/05/google-answers-bounce-rate-questions/

    Thanks for suggestions..


  • http://www.sparkletrade.com china wholesale

    what was meant was visitors you want to stay at your site (reading or purchasing) leave as soon Definitely worth passing on other Hippos.

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