First of All, You’re Wrong

Using Google Analytics to ask the right questions

In a recent conversation, one of our clients asked for more research on why their bounce rate has gone up in the past year. Their traffic has quadrupled and while their bounce rate has grown at a significantly slower pace, they still wanted to know if there was any specific cause. It was a reasonable question, and I set off into Google Analytics to find some answers.

The first thing I noticed was that their direct traffic was quite high – over 40%. Which gave me an idea – why not segment their traffic by source and see which had the highest bounce rate? Of course, I anticipated that direct traffic would be the lowest, since those are people who presumably intended to arrive at their site, while those who arrived through search and referring links are somewhat taking their chances.

Wrong. Direct traffic had the highest bounce rate.

Okay, I thought. I’ll look at new & returning visitors for each segment. Surely returning visitors will be lower, since again, they know where they are going and want to be here.

Wrong again. Returning visitors had higher bounce rates across all sources, but highest among direct traffic.

What about search? Surely keywords containing their name will have lower bounce rates. Or they could be as high as 80%.

Hmm…. This isn’t going like I expected.

Surely conversions will most likely come from returning visitors?

Not even close. 97.2% of conversions came from new visitors.

Now I have more questions than answers, but I also have the new Google Analytics advanced filters plus segments. So I can look at multiple dimensions at the same time, and patterns start to emerge – the same keyword can have a bounce rate of 49.28% for new visitors and 89.02% for returning visitors. That high bounce rate for direct traffic?  Under 45% for new visitors and over 85% for returning visitors.

Ah… progress. It seems we have 2 separate audiences that behave entirely differently on the site and have to be analyzed accordingly. Apparently looking at averages isn’t going to help us here.

Using the segments for New and Returning Visitors in Google Analytics to separate out these audiences to see what pages they enter the site, where they go, and what pages they leave from becomes much more interesting, and now I have something to tell my client.

And I learn about asking the right questions.

Lisa Crotty

Marketing Manager

Lisa is a Senior Optimization Specialist at Innate – her friends even teased that she A/B tested her name change. Lisa studied Philosophy of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech and is always asking why.

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