Derren Brown is surveying his surroundings. He’s an in-house magician standing in the middle of a busy restaurant in Bristol. This is in the 90s before Derren became the famous illusionist.
There’s a wide array of clientele in the restaurant. It’s mid-evening. For some, the drinks have been flowing for an hour or two. There are retired couples on a romantic night out. There are groups of rowdy business men and women.
As Derren strolls through the restaurant, he hopes that one table will signal for him to approach. An eager customer is easier to entertain. If this doesn’t happen, he has the unenviable task of approaching strangers who are enjoying an intimate meal and asking if he can interrupt them to perform a magic trick.
At this stage in his career, a few years under his belt, Derren knows the type of audience and table that will be most receptive to his performance. Large groups, perhaps a trio of students. When he begins the conversation, he can tell by the body language and initial dialogue whether the performance will be successful.1
Magicians are performers. To perform, you need a receptive audience. No matter how talented the magician, if the audience doesn’t want a trick, the show will end in an unsatisfactory conclusion for all involved. The performance requires enthusiasm, anticipation and engagement from the audience. Yes, the magician needs to work on her craft, but it’s essential to perform to people who want to enjoy a magic show.
High bounce rates are rarely due to colours and headlines
Marketing is a lot like a magic performance. A high website bounce rate is usually the result of the wrong audience rather than the colour of a button or choice of headline. If a significant number of people visiting your website leave immediately, the common answer is that people aren’t finding what they’re looking for.
However, the issue is more likely that you’re chasing metrics that are easy to track and measure, but do nothing to help move your business forward. You’re casting such a wide net in order to increase traffic that you dilute the landing page content to accommodate different types of people. It all means that the landing page is of little use to anyone, so everyone leaves immediately and no connection is ever made between them and your business.
The keyword “shirts for men” currently receives 14,800 searches per month on Google UK. If you sell mens clothing and you’re running a PPC campaign on Google, this may seem like a good fit. But, who uses this search term? Do you sell shirts to every male in the UK? Anyone between the age of 4 and 90 years old? Assuming this isn’t the case, you’re going to have a high bounce rate because this isn’t the person that you’re trying to reach. The type of person searching ‘shirts for men’ is unlikely to be right for your niche.
Even large fashion businesses like SuperDry or Boohoo have a niche sector. These are brands sold to the masses, but they don’t sell to every male and female on the planet. They sell to a certain age group and person that wants to be part of a certain cohort that values these brands in their social network.
Clothing is an enormous market, broken down into hundreds of segments and niches. Patagonia make shirts for people interested in outdoor activities who want a luxury brand that makes them feel smart (expensive clothes that last forever). The person looking for that shirt is not typing ‘shirts for men’ into Google. If Patagonia target that keyword with their PPC, they are going to get a high bounce rate. Most men don’t want to buy shirts for outdoor activities, and those that do don’t want to buy a shirt for $99.
You have a metrics problem
If you think you have a bounce rate problem, what you probably have is a metrics problem. You’re measuring your performance by the wrong metrics, so you’re chasing high volume traffic to get website numbers up. Go even further, what you actually have is a strategy problem.
What is your website for and who is it for? Websites are unlike any other marketing platform we’ve had in the past. When a business included 5,000 coupons in the local paper, they knew exactly what it was for. If enough people clip the coupon and return it, the campaign was a success. A Super Bowl ad for Mercedes was about prestige and status. There was no direct response, the ad was to help build the brand.
Websites get messy because the lines are blurred and most businesses get caught between brand marketing and direct marketing. You need to decide whether the primary purpose of your website is to earn direct responses (leads or purchases) or whether it’s a piece of brand marketing (a portfolio site). It’s possible to have different pages with different purposes, but you need to make a clear decision then design the page around that goal.
High bounce rates are a symptom of a website where the team behind it don’t have a clear idea on the purpose of the site or page. Before you start changing the colour of your CTA, consider the purpose of the page and who you want to go there.
- You can read more about the story in Confessions of a Conjurer by Derren Brown