When evaluating website traffic, people often look at the volume of traffic to justify if their marketing efforts are worthwhile. While traffic volume is an important piece to consider, you cannot measure it exclusively. You must evaluate the quality of the traffic your site is receiving. Even if you get thousands upon thousands of visitors a month, if their visit doesn’t convert into an action on your site or a call into your reservation desk, than what was the point (not to mention the cost)? As web marketers and business owners we must use additional metrics to define what quality traffic on a website looks like, and take the appropriate steps to improve it.
So, what other metrics can we use?
Bounce rate is probably one of the most typical metrics used to define quality traffic. Wikipedia defines it as “…when a website visitor leaves a page or a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs.” Typically we look at the bounce rate for individual pages, and if the bounce rate is unacceptably high, then we try to isolate what is causing people to bounce from that page. Are you targeting the wrong keywords, is the content poor, are the photos low quality, do you have a call to action on the page to entice people to stay, etc?
There are many opinions on what is an acceptable bounce rate, and most people tend to agree that anything over 50% is a red-flag for any website. However, it is really important to benchmark yourself against other sites in a similar industry. Let’s look at the average bounce rates of a large sample of two different type of lodging sites – vacation rentals and hotels/resorts:
While this is merely a sample, it provides us with good information to use when looking at your vacation rental or hotel site bounce rates. As a Vacation Rental, you should aim to have a fairly low homepage bounce rate in the 20’s, and as a hotel/resort you should aim to have a homepage bounce rate of around 30%. When looking at all pages on your site, aim to be in the lower 30% range. When you define pages that have red-flag bounce rates, evaluate those pages and make sure you are offering guests a reason to stay on your site (specials, valuable content, easy to use navigation, etc.) Sometimes we see sites that are so well-optimized and that rank so well organically that they naturally have higher bounce rates. Why? Because people land on their page, get the info they need, and then move on without necessarily wanting to book a vacation (for instance, your site offers an entire page about a popular event in your town, people are looking for the dates and times, they find your page, get the info and bounce.) This isn’t always a bad thing (we all know content and pages are important for SEO), as long as you are meeting your reservation goals. If this is the case, you can still take steps to try to minimize the bounce rate for those pages.
Page Views Per Session or “Depth”
While bounce rate is standard, let’s take it one step further and look at just how many pages of your site visitors are viewing. Is it 2 pages, 5 pages, 10 or more? This is an important question, and the answers depend on the type of product or service you provide. If you are a hotel chain that often has repeat guests, they may only need to get from your homepage to your booking engine to reserve a stay, as your offerings are much more standard and require less research and buying commitment. But if you are a vacation rental with various types of properties spanning a large geographical region, than guests are going to shop around on your site until they find the exact home they want to rent at a price that they can afford. Taking this into consideration it is again important for you to compare the number of pages visitors are viewing on your site to sites that have similar offerings.
Let’s look at how many pages visitors are viewing on average for our sample of vacation rentals and hotels/resorts sites:
For vacation rentals, we see a higher number of people viewing more than 10 pages of a site, and this should be expected. Depending on the size of your site, you want to see guests viewing a larger number of pages simply because you have more lodging options, prices, etc. For a hotel site, you won’t see as many visitors viewing more than 10 pages of your site because of the limited room options. Depending on the size of your hotel site, you will probably see the majority of your site visits in the 1-3 page range, but you should aim to give guests enough information about your city that they don’t necessarily have to research it elsewhere and may view additional pages. For all hospitality sites, you don’t want visitors to leave your site if they can get all the info they need in one place. Create quality info on your site, entice visitors to stick around, and this can impact the number of pages people visit on your site as well as conversions.
Conversions are what marketers and business owners pinpoint as the most important metric to determine if their website is generating quality traffic. This is extremely hard to average out and show an average across websites, as the actions vary from site to site (secure online bookings, booking requests, calls, filling out contact forms, requesting brochures, etc.) As an owner or marketer, measure a variety of metrics like the ones identified above, in addition to conversions, to improve the quality of traffic to your site.
With these metrics (and others) in mind, dig into your analytics and take steps to improve the quality of the traffic your site receives. Consider your content, your keywords, your photos, your navigation, your calls to action, and it may even be time to consider a new design to address a variety of these issues.