Dealing With Bounce Rates And Hippos

    August 25, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

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.