Top 9 Reasons You May Need eVitalize

  1. Some people think the name of your company is Error 404
  2. Nobody knows your name, especially Google
  3. Sales people have stopped complaining about your site
  4. Websitesthatsuck.com has featured your site
  5. Something that’s not funny on your site looks funny
  6. Your site contains one of the following visuals: two white men shaking hands, a puzzle piece, or a dollar bill
  7. Your site has a splash page that contains the words excellence and tradition animated
  8. You have a task force thinking about a blog and a Twitter account
  9. When your website comes up at family gathering, there’s an embarrassing silence.
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The most important website metric isn’t traffic.

Bounce rate: It’s the Biggy

Talking up your web site’s traffic has become a testosterone charged tradition wherever marketing types gather. While consistent traffic growth over time is certainly impressive, a snapshot in time of a website’s traffic is essentially meaningless. For one it’s relative to market size. A site in a super niche market, e.g. weightlifting equipment for physicists, may do quite well with a 1000 unique visitors per month, while a major consumer site like Coke could be withering on the vine with a million visits.

Traffic says nothing about what visitors do when they come to your site, whether they are likely to return, or how effective the marketing was that got them in the first place.

That’s why we like to zero in on bounce rate. Like P/E ratio, it’s a measure of efficiency. In one tidy number, bounce reveals the ability of your site’s content, marketing, usability and technical performance to suck in visitors and hold them prisoner.

The high cost of bouncing customers out of your site.

Google defines bounce rate as the number of people who leave your site after viewing a single page. High bounce will hit you in the wallet, too. Although the source may be a relatively small technical problem, it’s wiping out the marketing, content, design and programming investment made in that specific page.

In the real world, it’s like investing in an ad campaign to drive customers to a new mall store called “World of Botox.” Hundreds of coupon clutching customers show up, but 89% of them just peer in the shop window and leave.

In web terms this is an excessive and unacceptable bounce rate. Bounce rate measures the efficiency of a web page. Based on advertising, web marketing and search results, visitors approach your site with a defined set of needs and wants. When they aren’t met in a few seconds, most will leave.

High bounce rates drop web site ROI like a stone. If the bounce rate on any of the key pages of your site, especially the home page, is hovering around 50%, it time to move to Devcon 5.

How to determine your site’s bounce rate.

Any respectable web analytics package will report the bounce rate of all the pages in your site. Sort the report from highest to lowest, paying particular attention to critical pages like:

  • Your home page.
  • Any page with an important form, especially a multi-part form.
  • eCommerce pages and checkout funnels
  • Any page that you’ve targeted for a transaction, e.g. white paper download.

Keep in mind that some pages will naturally have a very high bounce rate, like “Thank you” pages and privacy pages.

The pathology of bouncing

There are a number of potential reasons for high bounce rates, and sometimes they exist in combination. Though solving a high bounce rate test may take some research and diagnostic work, spotting the issues is mainly a matter of common sense.

For example, speed. If there’s a line around the block to get into the World of Botox, only the most dire cases will wait. The same goes for your website. Except the web is more unforgiving. If your page doesn’t load in a few seconds, 70% of your visitors are already Googling or Binging the competition.

Lack of instantly recognizable relevant content will also keep your customers bouncing. What if, for example, all the wrinkly World of Botox customers show up only to find the store’s window packed with vitamins and cosmetics. When your site doesn’t deliver the goods as promised in advertising or a search description, you’ve broken a pact and possibly turned off a user forever.

At the top of our bounceability list is speed, or lack thereof. Depending on the speed your customers are connecting to the internet, most will only wait one or two seconds for a page to load. The most common problems are large graphics, animations and videos.

Visitors to your site may not understand how your page is organized, or where to find what they want. Key links may use unclear wording, e.g. “Our Happy Place” instead of “About.”; the type size is too small; the placement isn’t logical. A simple usability test will quickly uncover these issues.

One of the underlying causes of high bounce rate is a failure to match your products and services to specific landing pages within your site. Navigating a website isn’t like strolling through Walmart. Most of us expect to click and instantly arrive at the meat counter. The home page can’t do it all, especially if your offerings are diverse or have audiences with little crossover. The solution is to develop landing pages or even mini sites designed around specific customer needs.

High Bounce Rate Causes and Solutions

Slow Load Time

  • Shrink image sizes and optimize code.
  • Nuke pokey Flash apps.
  • Is your server the culprit? Run a speed test.
  • Check load time of pages with high bounce rates.

Content

  • Make sure that the content of the page is clearly summarized in instantly visible and crystal clear headlines, and subheads.
  • Add additional pages or sections to bring more focus to content structure.
  • Clean up design clutter, set copy for readability.
  • Edit copy for conciseness.

Marketing

  • Make sure the advertising or search ads match the content of the targeted page. If not, turn off the ad, or point it at a more appropriate page.
  • Develop landing pages focused on a single topic.

Learn more about web marketing on Ideopia’s eVitalize mini site.

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Blogging – Should Your Business Drink the Koolaid?

One of our motto’s at Ideopia is “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” Perhaps nothing fits this category better than blogs on corporate web sites. They can be hideous, pumped full of hype and hard sell, or they can be funny, chock full of useful content and make you love a brand even more. In that spirit, we offer a few observations that might help you decide to blog, or not to blog.

Do blog if you want to:
1. Entertain a small group of friends and your mother
2. Communicate and engage customers
3. Demonstrate expertise on key issues
4. Build search rankings for your site on specific business areas
5. Convert prospects and leads on the blog
6. Share information and ideas within your company
7. Make your brand come to life
8. Be open to opinions other than your own
9. Want a book deal

Don’t blog if you:
1. Need to control information flow
2. Value a corporate voice versus personality on your blog
3. Won’t accept negative comments
4. Want to broadcast instead of have a conversation
5. Just want to sell and market your services
6. Don’t have specific goals for your blog
7. Think your blog can outsmart Google
8. If you expect the same audience for your web site as your blog
9. Want a book deal

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Naked HTML: Designers Glorify Error 404 Pages

Sooner or later someone will visit your website, click on a link, and get the dreaded “Error 404 ‘your site was programmed by drunken monkeys’ Page Not Found” message. It turns out that designing friendly and funny Error 404 pages has become a cottage industry. Mepholio.com and 10steps.sg have cataloged some of the best and most beautiful. We think these pages are great PR, but most of them don’t include any additional tools, e.g. a search function that actually help users find the non Error 404 page they’re looking for.

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Brand Your Web Fonts Without Images

Fonts on the web are probably one of the biggest frustrations for web designers, who want to extend branding from other forms of communication to the web. You have two options: 1) Choose from a handful of rather boring overused fonts, or 2) turn your text into an image, which makes it invisible to search engine.

Mike Davidson, founder and CEO of Newsvine, created Scalable Inman Flash Replacement (sIFR) to tackle this exact dilemma. sIFR uses javascript to convert that drab old web font into any font you wish. What’s unique about this process is that the HTML is untouched, so search engines aren’t affected.

sIFR fares well across various browsers, too. Since it’s Javascript driven that’s all that is required for it to work properly. If Javascript is disabled, the text just reverts back to the web font default. Slick eh? To find out more visit sIFR ‘s home page .

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Naked HTML: Straight Talk About Web Banners

Despite the contradictory research about web banners, Ideopia remains keen on the medium, especially as a very efficient alternative as budgets get squeezed in 2009. Guidance varies widely depending on the source. Usability experts performing eye-tracking studies contend web banners are rarely read. High-end ad networks like Collective Media tell quite a different story. No single study has accounted for the incredible number of variables, which range from quality of the web site, trigger factors like geography, key words, retargeted, and, most importantly, the ability of the creative to capture the attention and deliver the most qualified prospect.

So what’s a marketer to do?

  1. Forget about cost-per-thousand and branding. Zero in on cost per sale, cost per lead, or whatever your ROI metric is.
  2. After you determine an acceptable ROI, run a low-cost test of your campaign.
  3. Buy sites and ad networks that offer high quality, engaging content.

Make sure your creative grabs attention, and has relevance to the web page on which it appears.

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Economy Down. Online Advertising Up.

According to ADWEEK, magazine, the online advertising segment grew additional 11 percent in the third quarter of this year. This supports our recommendation to reallocate portions of print and broadcast budgets toward banner advertising, web site enhancements, search advertising and social media. These media can more easily be tweaked for niche media and provide better tracking. This will undoubtedly be a tough year for all media, but an opportunity for clients with smaller budgets to buy low.

Sources:

Mike Shields, Mediaweek

Interactive Advertising Bureau

PricewaterhouseCoopers

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Boost E-mail Response with Cheap Research

Word on the street is that interest in emarketing is soaring as the recession drives marketers to trim costs. Here are a few simple and cheap ways to improve your program’s performance.

E-marketers are meticulous about testing with good reason. Even an incremental increase in response, say 2 to 9 percent, can have a huge impact on the profitability of a program.

A couple easy ways to boost response are to: 1) ensure the message is making it to the prospects In Box by lowering its Spam score; and 2) using a simple testing technique to optimize the number of people who open your message.

Clean it Up: High Spam Scores Hurt

An errant phrase or word or improper coding can drop the deliverability of your email to nearly zilch.  Check WilsonWeb.com for the top words and phrases that will get your email bounced.

Free web applications like SpamCheck or ezinecheck.com make it possible to assess your message’s degree
of Spaminess.

Open Sesame: Testing Subject Lines

The next step is to make sure your message gets opened. The single most important and easiest to test factor is your subject line.

Direct marketers in print media test headlines and offers in classified ads in national magazines. The headlines that pulled the best were used on the final printed piece. The A-B subject line test works the same way.

Sometimes tiny changes can make a huge difference, e.g. Steak Special for Two vs. Date Night Dinner Special. We can discuss this around the conference table all day, but why not get the real answer by conducting an A-B Test.

It’s easy:

  1. Randomly select 20% of the names from your list.
  2. Divide the smaller list into equal A and B groups.
  3. Send emails that are exactly the same with the exception of the subject lines being tested. Make sure they are sent at the same time of day.
  4. Determine the winner based on the highest open rate.
  5. Mail the winner to the remaining 80% of the list.

You can use the A-B Test to evaluate other aspects of your message, such as wording of offer, click-thrus, layout, and completed transaction.

It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it will help your overall program achieve a higher ROI.

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