Friday, May 22, 2009

Webcomic Metrics: Bounce Isn't so Bad

Bounce is is a lot less negative than many think.

Three types of visitor trigger a bounce:

  • Someone who lands on your site, is not impressed, and leaves
  • Someone who lands on the latest episode, reads it, and leaves -- because they have already read the previous ones (there is no time duration applied to a bounce)*
  • Someone who lands, travels around to other pages, returns to the page they entered on, and leaves**
I think only the first type can be construed as negative, but are they really that bad? Some are people checking for a new update, some are taking note of your site for future reference and perhaps some are simply grabbing a link they know you have posted. The ones who are truly not impressed are not going to become readers anyway, though now they know you exist, which isn't too bad.

If you decide to use a splash page, which precedes the comic (Dr. McNinja is an example) and your bounce rate shoots way up, that's a sign of trouble. Bounce is a metric to be watched, but not worried about, especially if analytics show healthy inner page penetration.

Keep in mind that an advertising campaign is likely to affect your bounce rate, but there's a trap that could cause you to think that more of your ads are sending bouncers than they are.

Remember, visitors keep their cookie from wherever they first arrived. Therefore, if you ran an ad on Dr. McNinja, people who became loyal readers of your strip will show up as Dr. McNinja source traffic in your Google Analytics. This continues until their cookie expires or is deleted.

This is handy for tracking extended performance of an ad, but if you resume advertising on Dr. McNinja two weeks later, and study your traffic, you are studying visitors from the previous ad who still have their cookie, as well as new people. This sometimes gives a shock: visitors are still coming after the ad has stopped.

When the cookie dies or is deleted, the visitor will convert over to direct traffic. This type of cookie typically has a 30-60 day lifespan, so 31-61 days after the end of a major ad or promotion campaign, you may see a decline in referred traffic and a rise in direct, especially if your ad campaign is dormant.

*We all love our steady readers, but if we're serious about paying our bills and eating, we need to think about getting them into the store. This generally means injecting some store promotion into the reading area.

I've found a neat way to do this on the rebuild of our Lil Nyet site, though it won't be visible until we finish. (You saw it with your own eyes, I actually discouraged people from visiting our comic! heh) The technique is reserving space in the reading area for dynamic images. You fill your hopper with selected images, and a random one will random appear when someone visits the page. If some of those images are promotions for your store and others are bonus content, you can invite people to look at your stuff without being a nuisance. We've taken it a bit further, and I'll write about it when we finish up.

**Their other activity still shows up. This explains why, once in a great while, you detect a situation like this: 1 visitor, 17 pageviews, 1 bounce.