The Great Analytics Fallacy

Bounce Rate, Pages/ Session, Conversion Rates and Average Session Duration. These are terms that get brandished around to give weight to twist quantitative information into a false qualitative story.
Published on Feb 22 2016 by Marco Rosano

Bounce Rate, Pages/ Session, Conversion Rates and Average Session Duration. These terms often get brandished around to give weight to twist quantitative information into a false qualitative story.

Clients often come to us for advice, asking about marketing services/agencies that heavily use these types of terms. I'm certainly not here to say these considerations aren't important. Many agencies provide excellent advice that can assist businesses to significantly strengthen their online strategy.

However, select few agencies can hijack these terms and twist them to their own justification of existence.

So how do you know what's legitimate, what's a little bit off?

Like jokes, revolutionary movements and Seinfeld episodes, 'Digital Strategy' is all about context. Informative decisions need to be made by better understanding the business environment in which your website exists in.

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Informative vs. Exploratory

The first factor to consider before any analytical interpretation are the business goals. A website that sells cars will most likely have a low bounce rate, high pages per session and a very low conversion rate.

This falls under the category of an 'Exploratory' context, where high-involvement purchases lead to a long comparative information search process. Users will most likely go above and beyond to get the information they need.

Comparatively, a website for a restaurant may have an extremely high bounce rate, low pages per visit and no measured conversions what-so-ever. This is what would fall under an 'Informative' web service. The majority of these metrics as stand-alone figures, would point to a website in dire need of a uphaul of their digital strategy.

However, in this context the restaurant may only have 2 pages, location and menu. If users are leaving the site quickly, the implication would be that they were able to garner the necessary information in a short period of time. Whereby, the high bounce rate is actually a product of good user experience.

Debunking the Bounce Rate Myth

In sales, qualitative information will always take precedence over quantitative. Companies may preach an ability to decrease bounce-rate, increase pages per visit and increase conversions.

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  • Want to decrease bounce-rate? Make the information harder to find.
  • Want to increase pages per visit? Incorporate frustrating page scroll techniques (I'm looking at you Buzzfeed).
  • Want to increase conversions? Sell your stock for the lowest margins on the market and watch those conversions climb.

All of these options will have the desired outcome of influencing these metrics. However, they fundamentally fail to provide any real benefit to your business. In fact, the relationship between good business and the desired analytics outcomes could not be more convoluted.

Simply, next time someone offers an uphaul of your digital strategy, question their promises in line with your own business context.