Bounce Rates on News Sites

I was asked by someone about typical bounce rates on news sites. Keeping with my rule that an email response sent to more than a few people is better served if it lives out on the web where it can be discovered and referred to with a link rather than locked away in an email archive, I decided to share what I wrote.

Bounce Rate is defined as, “the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing on to view other pages within the same site.” Generally bouce rate more useful when you’re measuring the drop-off of visitors to an e-commerce site where you are guiding people along on a “funnel” towards a transaction or other anticipated result.

This makes it a less useful metric when measuring performance on a blog or news site where typically you serve what the reader came for on their first pageview. That said, here are some things to look at and how you can use bounce rates as an effective metric.

News site bounce rates are all over the board and I’ve seen rates anywhere between 30 – 80%. The important thing is to segment your audience into populations that have different experiences so you can see which levers are impacting your bounce rate.

Are mobile users bouncing more than desktop? Maybe your mobile website is slow.

Are users on a particular browser bouncing higher? Check your site load times.

What about regional differences? If your international readers bounce rate is higher check with Ad Ops, maybe the remnant inventory served is impacting performance.

Another cause could be click-bait headlines. Take a look at your stories that have a high bounce rate and see if the headline is saying one thing but the post another. Do less of that.

Look at your largest referral sources. Are Twitter readers bouncing higher than Facebook? Maybe your social sharing unit needs work.

One other source of bounce rate is when a reader just leaves the page open and the session eventually times out. A quick hack to record an additional event that “tricks” analytics to preventing a timed out bounce is a “toaster” which you often see appear offering a follow on page as the reader scrolls down a page. This will improve your bounce rate but I would argue that it provides little value except as yet another link to follow and may distract you from understanding your reader’s true behavior.

Finally, look at the difference between new and returning visitors. If returning visitors are bouncing, get rid of pop-ups to subscribe or other CTAs that get in the way of reading a page.

All that said, bounce rates are not that helpful to measuring a news site’s performance. Most news sites are designed to give you what you need on one page. A visitor who follows a link to a story and leaves is the definition of someone who bounces. Bounce Rates were invented to measure conversations on Anne-commerce sites funnel. For news sites you’re better off optimizing for time spent, pages/session and conversion to subscribers.

Have anything to add? Please leave your thoughts below.

MyBlogLog → OneTrueFan

Remember those subscriber cards you found tucked into magazines that asked questions about your income, education, sports you liked, where you traveled or what newspapers you read? The editors and advertisers of that magazine were trying to find out more about their readers. Except for the folks that took the time to write in, an editor of a print magazine knew very little about the people who read their magazine.

Imagine if Henry Luce had access to a tool which could give him an insight to the readers of Time Magazine? What if he knew not only who was reading his magazine but also which particular articles were hitting a chord? Not only that, what if he knew what else they were reading in other magazines? Which articles did his most faithful readers found elsewhere that his reporters did not cover? This type of data would have been pure gold to the late Mr. Luce.

Click for full screen image

MyBlogLog had some of this data but it was site-specific and the service has been since scuttled by Yahoo.  The team has re-grouped and pulled another rabbit out of their hat launching Live Fan Analytics (aka: Fan-alytics) as a new approach to site metrics. MyBlogLog required site owners to install a widget on their site to reveal users that have opted in to showing up on the MyBlogLog sidebar. OneTrueFan spins that approach around and asks the readers to add an extension to their browser in order to send back their browsing behavior on any site for aggregation and show a bit of extra love for the sites they frequent.

What’s in it for the Fans? Browse the web and have at your disposal an instant view of the last 10 fans who visited the site and articles on that site that have been shared by those readers. Also look at the top fans who visit the site the most often and see what they have shared on the site. As you browse, your history (minus any sites you choose to exclude), is fed into the OneTrueFan “panel” that helps site owners and other OTF users find interesting content. It’s like being a Nielsen family for the modern age. But there’s a bit of fun too as you’ll find yourself on the leaderboard for your favorite sites vying for the title of the OneTrueFan of that site.

What’s in it for the site owners? Real-time reading behavior. If you install the widget, (as I do on this site) the activity of your readers is aggregated from not only browsers hitting your site but also sharing activity on social sites such as twitter and facebook. You get a more complete view of how your content is shared beyond your site and a sample of what your most avid readers like to read, in real-time.

If your site is publishing multiple stories a day and, as editor you are always looking for the next trending story to cover, the OneTrueFan analytics dashboard is an invaluable tool to help drive your daily editorial calendar. Most blog packages allow you to “pin” a story to the top, above the fold. The dashboard will quickly tell you which ones to push to the top and which ones to let slide down on the scroll.

As social sites begin to drive a greater portion of traffic to your site, it is vital to understand which topics resonate with your readers enough to drive them to share via these networks. OneTrueFan gives you not only quantitative stats but also the qualitative insights that you can only get from browsing the names, faces, and twitter & facebook profiles of your most avid readers. Author Kevin Kelly has a theory that any business is sustainable provided it knows how to take care of it’s most avid fans. He calls it the “1,000 True Fans” rule. OneTrueFan is a tool that will help you cultivate your true fans.

MyBlogLog does Social Analytics

The MyBlogLog team are back at it again with the release of Topics. This was the last thing I worked on when I was finishing up and it’s great to see a vision realized. As their blog post says, there are almost 650,000 MBL members interacting with the social web and as each person clicks, favs, diggs, etc they are leaving bits and pieces of their intention all across the web.

When we first started to look at the data that was coming through everyone’s aggregated lifestreams, we remained true to the principle that we would not try and archive everything coming through. We wanted to be part of the messaging bus but the sheer cost of trying to archive all this information and try and organize it was something best left to the big search engines.

We did recognize the value of the data and the idea was that we would strip off the meta-data and original links and use the meta-data in interesting ways and point back to the original source. Topics is just that, a first instance, I believe, of something they are calling social analytics. A moving chart showing the “most interesting” phrases being linked to, shared, and discussed among the MyBlogLog community.

MyBlogLog TopicsThe chart above is from today, it shows today’s top topics with Bettie Page (RIP), and WordPress 2.7 topping the charts. You can scroll back into the past to see how these terms fared in the past (curious to see a little blip from Bettie Page back on 11/19 – wonder what that was about?). Then there’s a link to previous days so you can go back and see what was hot yesterday and the respecting histories of those phrases.

There’s a lot of thinking that went into what looks pretty simple. Not only is there a lot of crunching going on to process every tweet, blog post, photo, delicious link, etc that runs through the system, there’s also some text abstraction to make a jumble of words clump together (color = colour, etc).

For those that grumble that MyBlogLog never sends them any traffic, there’s something for you too. Down below each day’s chart is a list of the top headlines around each topic. Remember, these are MyBlogLog members’ so it’s nice and open where anyone really has a shot to get ahead of the news and write something authoritative.

Keep rockin’ it MyBlogLog!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta] – shiny new stats app reborn


I’m a bit of a stats nerd so I was quite pleased to see that a longtime favorite hosted stats package came back to life after going dark over a year ago. has been reborn from the ashes and is now hosted by the fine folks over at mediatemple which should be able to handle any traffic people throw at it.

One of the unique aspects of the early version of reinvigorate that I’m happy to see is still part of the service is the tracking of visitors in real-time.


Click on the image above for a larger view. You can see that reinvigorate has two large boxes that keep track of Active Visitors & Active Pages. There’s also a clean and simple dashboard telling you how many users you’ve had so far today (you can set your site’s timezone in the preferences), the average number of pages viewed on your site as well as information about referrals. I like this approach because it’s very easy to take in the health of your readership at a glance.

Working towards a new metric

Back in August, Mary Hodder riffed on the shortcomings of Google’s PageRank and Technorati’s incoming links algorithms for ranking blogs.

Counting links is very much like counting subscriptions to magazines in order to sell ads, as far as comparing it to a number not reflective of what is actually going on with the media it’s meant to reflect. Link counts alone are an analog media model, but online media is dynamic, and what is digital often has the possibility of getting much closer to finding smaller, more granular, and more interesting ways of perceiving things, that are much more interesting, and orthogonal to legacy media models counting eyeballs.

Mary goes on and puts forth several new vectors of influence that could be harnessed to feed into a new type of ranking. At the core of the criticism though is that any kind of “ranking” is going to be imposed from above (either from an algorithm or an editor) where as blogging as an activity and medium is from and for the masses. This point is brought up by Terry Heaton in the comments.

While the time and age of links are an important factor to determining the freshness of a blog’s authority (someone should not get too much credit because of a racy picture, funny meme, or scoop that they posted 3 years ago), the relevance and ranking of the blog and blog post to the community at large is important. The only way this can be measured is by measuring how the blog post is used with the community. I can think of a few items of interest:

  • text of the link to the post compared to tags & categories of the referring post
  • number of links to the post divided by number of links to the blog from the referring site
  • number of links to the post divided by number of total links to other posts & blogs within the referring post
  • text of tags associated with post on social bookmarking services such as and My Web 2.0

An important point made by Danah Boyd is that a lot of the brute force ranking engines out there today are not taking into consideration the blogrolls on systems such as Microsoft Spaces or TypePad which are random links to recently updated blogs on the network and not votes of quality or relevance. Another important point to keep in mind is that any list that is automatically generated from algorithms is going to be prone to gaming – that’s just human nature (for a hilarious account of how one guy hacked MySpace and gained 1 million friends in 24 hours, see Samy is my Hero). I think both of Danah’s observations stress the importance of editorial oversight in any new engine used to crawl and rank the blogosphere.

As the recent valuation of Weblogs Inc pointed out, the industry is grasping for a transparent way to rank and evaluate a blog’s influence. The term de jour seems to be that we need to measure a user’s “engagement” with a site and that follows from a blog’s “influence.” Who ever can come up with this golden metric will be the Neilsen of the blogging age and to a great extent will control access to funding and influence. The race is on.