Case Study Results: Optimizing Blog Post Landing Pages

In January I described a case study I was launching to optimize one of the CDG Interactive blog posts that has driven the most repeat traffic over the past year, “3 Tips for Taking the Google Analytics IQ Test.”

My goal was to improve the performance of this post, which serves as one of our top landing pages, using the metric of bounce rate by keyword. Because I was specifically optimizing for keywords, I also wanted to see whether ranking for those keywords improved as well.

Now that it’s been nearly two months, I’ve got enough data to evaluate the results of my experiment. Here are the results.

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

Nobody likes a high bounce rate. It tends to indicate that visitors arrived, didn’t find what they were looking for and left your site completely. Even worse, they saw nothing else to make them stick around, either.

On Jan. 26, the start of the case study, the lifetime bounce rate of the post was 78.17%.

These are the keywords I optimized on, based on the top Entrance Keywords with the highest bounce rates through Jan. 22:

  • Google analytics individual qualification test tips [100% bounce rate]
  • “Google analytics iq test” answers [100%]
  • Google analytics iq test questions [88.9%]
  • Google analytics iq questions [80%]
  • Analytics iq questions [100%]
  • Google analytics iq sample test [100%]
  • Google analytics iq pause 5 days [100%]
  • Can I pause a google analytics iq test [100%]
  • Advice on taking google analytics test [100%]
  • Google analytics regular expression test [100%]

As you can see, many of them are very similar clusters of phrases. (In fact, there were 44 keyphrases with a bounce rate of 100%; the vast majority were variations on searches for sample questions, answers and tips for the IQ test.) For these groups of words, I wrote additional content that was relevant, bolded them where applicable, or added them to subheaders in the article.

For example, it was clear from the referring keywords that the regular expressions portion of the test was of particular concern for test-takers, so I added more content and links to resources about regex. I also expanded on Google’s instructions for pausing the IQ test during the 5-day test-taking period.

Finally, although many people were clearly hoping to find actual test questions and answers secretly posted online, I did try to give an honest assessment of the kinds of Google Analytics questions I encountered, what subjects to prepare for, and the fact that the test varies for each test taker.

The results—the bounce rate from Jan. 27 through March 22–were somewhat mixed.

  • Some versions of the “test tips” keyphrase remained at 100% bounce rate, but one had a 0% bounce.
  • Some versions of the “Google analytics iq test answers” phrase remained at 100%, but one had a 50% bounce.
  • The original variations of “Google analytics iq test questions” remained at 100%, but “google analytics test questions” had a bounce rate of 25% and a time on site of over 2 minutes.
  • “Google analytics iq sample test” improved to 0% from 100% and had a time on site of 2:58.
  • “Google analytics iq pause 5 days,” “Can I pause a google analytics iq test,” “Advice on taking google analytics test” and “Google analytics regular expression test” didn’t refer any traffic during the follow-up time period, so can’t be evaluated.

And the overall bounce rate increased to 82%. On the surface, it might seem like my optimization efforts failed, and maybe they did. But I think there’s something else going on here.

First, some of the specific key phrases related to the mechanics of the test, such as pausing it and using regular expressions, drove no traffic at all during the case study period. Instead, a greater percentage of the traffic-driving phrases consisted of searches for test questions and test answers; in fact, some of the new phrases actually included the words “cheat” and “cheat sheet.” Obviously, anyone looking to cheat on a test isn’t going to stick around for a blog post explaining how to study for that test!

Second, the phrases that did drive quality traffic were related to test tips and practice questions. And since the post was “3 Tips for Taking the Google Analytics IQ Test,” those searchers were a better match for my content. There may be a limit to how well I can optimize legitimate content for an audience that wants shortcuts and the answers.

Take Me Higher

The second metric I said I would use to gauge the results of my keyword optimization efforts was the ranking of the page for those keywords.

But I’ve got a confession to make. I messed up. I was so caught up in the content rewriting for the keyword optimization that I forgot to plug my keyphrases into the handy dandy SEOMoz Rank Tracker tool. So I don’t have any historical data to compare against.

Out of lemons, then, I’m going to make lemonade. (Or as we sometimes say here at CDG, this is a “prob-ortunity.”)

Call it Case Study Version 1.1. Instead, I can look at the ranking in Term Tracker now, and then use Term Target to look for ways to optimize even further. (I’m going to stick to Google rankings for simplicity since Google drives the lion’s share of traffic to our blog.) Here then are starting ranks for the keywords noted above, as of March 22:

  • Google analytics individual qualification test tips [Page 1, Position 7]
  • “Google analytics iq test” answers [Page 1, Position 8]
  • Google analytics iq test questions [Page 2, Position 1 (#11 overall)]
  • Google analytics iq questions [Page 1, Position 6]
  • Analytics iq questions [Page 1, Position 9]
  • Google analytics iq sample test [Page 1, Position 9]
  • Google analytics iq pause 5 days [Page 1, Position 2]
  • Can I pause a google analytics iq test [Page 1, Position 2]
  • Advice on taking google analytics test [Page 1, Position 3]
  • Google analytics regular expression test [Page 2, Position 8 (#18 overall)]

I’ve got three terms that are in the Top 3 of the Page 1 results, right where you want to be in Google. I think I’ll pat myself on the back for that :). And I’ll set up the weekly term tracking in SEOMoz to make sure these rankings don’t slip.

Meanwhile, based on my analysis of the bounce rates, above, I think my greatest opportunity for improvement is for the first phrase on test tips—this is the one that resulted in page views and time on site. (The question and answer phrases correlate more to the high-bounce visitors looking for, well, the answers so I don’t want to drive more of these visitors right now.)

I’m in Position 7, so I’d love to move up at least one spot to 6. According to Term Tracker, I’ve got lots of room for improvement, so that should keep me busy in the next couple of weeks.

The Takeaways

Looking through all of this data, these are the main takeaways I got from my small experiment.

  • Carefully evaluate the keywords driving traffic to your landing page. Which ones are really relevant? Which ones are driving the wrong kinds of traffic?
  • If you can’t improve bounce rates for whole groups of words, focus on the ones that are working and try to make them better. My 100% bounce words may not budge, but can I change an 80% bounce into a 50% or a 25%?
  • Use Rank Tracker before you start your keyword optimization case study, not after. 😉

A Final Thought

I started off believing that bounce rate was a good way to track the improvement or increased success of a landing page. But the ROI Revolution blog’s recent article, “Why You Shouldn’t Use the Top Landing Pages Report in Google Analytics,” makes a good case for digging deeper. We’ve got other posts on the CDG Interactive blog that continue to drive traffic; I’d like to re-optimize those using these principles as well as improved keyword ranking.

Your Turn

  • What are your biggest blog landing page optimization successes?
  • What did you do? What worked? What didn’t?
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