There’s been some talk about website redesign on the Geek Estate blog recently. If you haven’t read them, check out Joshua Ferris’ post about the lessons learned from his real estate site redesign and Matthew Swanson’s insight on testing new site designs without impacting production. Since we’re on the subject, I thought I’d come at the site redesign from an SEO perspective.
There are many reasons to redesign your website. Joshua hit on a great point in his post…to “improve visitor conversion rates and usability”. I mention this, not only because I think it’s the most important reason to redesign your site, but because it ties in with SEO through the statistic know as bounce rate.
What is bounce rate?
If you’re a fan of Google’s free stats tool, then the Analytics bounce rate is defined as:
“…the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.”
In other words, if a visitor comes to your site and leaves without continuing to another page, they’ve “bounced”. I’m sure you can see the importance of lowering your bounce rate. Let me give you an example.
How does lowering your bounce rate increase traffic?
Since none of my real estate clients were interested in sharing their Google Analytics stats, I’ll take an SEO client from outside the industry to illustrate this. Year to date Dazadi.com has a bounce rate of 57.37%. This means of their 1,040,257 visits 596,795 of them left without visiting another page. If the website was redesigned and the bounce rate was cut in half (to 28.69%) then this sporting good store would essentially increase their traffic by 298,398 visitors or almost 30%! Now for any of you who have worked on improving site traffic, you’re well aware that this type of gain takes a lot of work over a long period of time. But with a site redesign you can make these types of gains instantly.
How low can you go?
In the real estate realm, it is possible to take your bounce rate below 20%. I know because my Hawaii real estate website has averaged this before. In fact, my Oahu real estate page averages below 12%. Compare this to my Honolulu real estate page which averages over 25%. If you take a look at both pages I’m sure the reasons become obvious (yes, I’m working on improving my Honolulu landing page). Is it possible to improve upon this? I believe so.
How do you improve your bounce rate?
The obvious way to lower your bounce rate is to improve your site design. You can see on my Honolulu page that I could throw up a nice photo, add a more prominent search and my bounce rate would most likely go down. However, there are some factors that effect bounce rate that have nothing to do with design, and this is where SEO comes into play.
When you’re building links to your site you want to make sure you’re pointing them to appropriate landing pages. As an example, when you did a search for Kauai real estate in Google 2 years ago the home page of my site was #1. This sounds great, but the problem was that my bounce rate was close to 30%. Why? Because my home page doesn’t say much about Kauai real estate. Over the course of 2 years I’ve focused link building to my Kauai real estate page. And while I now sit #2 in Google for the same term (I’ll get back to #1!) my bounce rate on this page is below 15%. So even though I’m getting less click thrus from Google, more people are staying on my site which has resulted in a higher conversion rate and more leads.
What does the future of search hold in relation to bounce rate?
Many believe that in the near future, search engines will use bounce rate as a factor when ranking sites. Some believe that the future is already here. What are my thoughts on the subject? Well I just redesigned my site and unfortunately my bounce rate went up over 20% (oh well, back to the drawing boards). At the same time my Google traffic dropped. Hmm…maybe blackhatseo.com is correct when they say confirmed: bounce rate is a search engine ranking factor. I think Glenn Sanford of Buyer Tours Realty might agree.