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 Web sites and leaky buckets


In a world of super-sizing and the maxim of "more, more, more" we sometimes lose sight of the concept of quantity not equaling quality. This especially applies to web site traffic.

Everyone wants more traffic to their site, that's normal, and the search engine optimization industry has boomed on the back of this desire as have services that allow you to buy visitor traffic in bulk.

But what happens once the potential customer hits your site? Are they just scooting away? This is known as bounce or abandonment and your goal should be to reduce abandonment and bounce rates as much as possible before branching out into other areas of promotion that are going to cost you bucks.

The leaky bucket syndrome

If a bucket has a hole in it, it can still usually be filled. It just takes more water. The bigger the hole, the more water is needed and you can never stop adding water in as it just leaks out. 

Many web sites are like this, hence the term leaky bucket syndrome. The owners aim for no.1 rankings on a given term and then when achieve it, wonder why it's not returning what they had hoped for. So they start chasing more terms to gain more traffic. Sales do go up, but the pressure is now on to continually achieve high traffic and in a world where top search engine rankings are becoming increasingly competitive, this is rather unsustainable and really, just a waste of effort. The focus should be on addressing bounce and abandonment rates first.

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I'm often asked by folks how they can improve their rankings, but the first thing I usually do is to look at their site; not so much for keyword density and such, but how the site works.

  • Does it look ok?
  • Is navigation clear?
  • Does the site scream, subtly sell or fail to include calls to action?
  • Is there a company profile page?
  • Is the checkout process easy to navigate?
  • Are offers clear?
  • Are financial transactions secure and is this promoted
  • Do they offer subscriptions to promo and newsletters?

.. and so on. These factors are equally as important as keywords in title tags, the correct use of meta tags and all the basics of search engine optimization.

Conversions and profits

Let's say you get a hundred visitors a day and from those visitors you get a sale. The "more, more, more" mentality that's been ingrained in us says that if you can get a thousand visitors a day, you'll get 10 sales - so the battle for search engine rankings begins. 

But what if you initially invested that time and effort into plugging the leaks in your web site bucket? You may quite easily boost your sales to 5 a day from those 100 visitors. After you've dealt with the leaks, then focus on your search engine optimization and you'll get 50 sales from the thousand visitors instead of just 10.

Common web site leaks

Here's a list of very common leaks in ecommerce sites and links to further information on most points. Many of the issues can be easily and cheaply dealt with, sometimes for no cost at all aside from a bit of your own time.

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Reassurance type issues feature heavily in the above list and I offer a more in-depth article with other related ideas in my article, "Reassuring your web site visitors".

Another major issue is poor navigation - offer a site map or search facility. Google offers a co-branded search for free, but that will display competitor ads also. Their premium version, competitor ad free, is quite reasonably priced at a hundred bucks a year. Also make it a goal that users can get to any page on the site from any other page on your site within 3 clicks.

Fixing any one of the above issues can substantially reduce bounce/abandonment rates and make a marked difference in your online sales. Attend to them all and you should have yourself a nice little ecommerce powerhouse, ready for the next stage - search engine optimization.

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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