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Shut the front (and back) door! How Google Analytics can help you find ways to stop visitors from leaving your website...

If your business has a website you’ll not need me to tell you how difficult it can be to get visitors onto it.

Many businesses rely heavily on getting found in Google search for the things they would like to be found for. Some (unfortunately, not all – not even most) have gone to the trouble (and/or expense) of writing and optimising their web content in the hope that search engines will pick them up and put them onto the mobile-phone/laptop/tablet/desktop screens of the people doing the ‘googling’.

Others spend money – sometimes, lots of money – to get their business onto those screens.

Of course, there are many other ways to get visitors (e.g. links from other sites and sources), but this article isn’t about getting visitors… it’s about keeping them!

In other words, you’ve already done much of the heavy lifting just to get them there, but that’s only the beginning.

Before we get into it properly, let me introduce you to one of your business’s worst enemies.

It’s this bad-boy…


Yup, the little old back-button.

Oh yeah, sure, it may look harmless enough but when someone arrives at your website then hits this little guy (could be a girl) it’s pretty much all over.

We’ve all used it.

It kills the length of time spent on your site and the number of pages a visitor visits. Not only can this cost you the sale or enquiry, it’s not good for your search engine ranking either – more about this over at this article from Smart Insights (the bit you’re looking for is called ‘Organic ranking signals that affect SERPs’ – it’s about half-way down the page).

So, how can you stop people hitting the back-button when they’re on your site?

For the purposes of this article, please take it as a given that the absolute best way to keep visitors on your site is to give them great, easy to navigate content that solves their problems or answers their questions. Make no mistake, for that there is no substitute. This is simply about helping your site work harder for you… and avoiding shooting your business in the foot with it!

Okay, if the back-button is a business’s enemy, then Google Analytics is a good friend.


Really, stick with me…

Having spent '000s of hours working with '00s of businesses of all shapes and sizes, I know too well how many dive for cover at the very mention of anything to do with ‘analytics’.

There are two main reasons for this: a perception that that sort of thing is “far too complicated for me”, or a lack of understanding of what analytics do and the things it can uncover to make a real commercial difference.

At the risk of sounding controversial, I suggest that marketers and the industry press are largely to blame for this fear and loathing of analytics. All too often, articles and discussions about analytics are ‘high brow’, inaccessible and largely incomprehensible to anyone other than those with an advanced knowledge.

This is a small attempt (the first of others to come) to redress the balance.

You do not need to understand it all to the nth degree – all levels of expertise can uncover something meaningful and useable

If you need any convincing about the value of analytics, here are just some of the things I’ve discovered by looking around Google Analytics for some clients…

  • A B2B business was leaking sales and enquiries opportunities by providing too many ways (via external links) by which the visitor could completely leave the site and not find their way back! This was the website equivalent of a potential customer walking into their business and the Sales Manager showing them to a door that led them straight back out onto the street. There was an easy fix here – stop it! Shut the back door.

  • Then there was the manufacturing business that was spending a small fortune on Google Adwords to drive traffic to their website.

    And a great job it was doing, too.

    The problem was that when the visitor arrived at the site, they quickly hit the back-button – we know this from the >90% bounce rate (very high by anybody’s standards) and the worryingly short length of time they were spending on the page (around 10 seconds). The problem here was that the site’s landing-page didn’t match the promise of the Google Adwords ad text, with the result that the visitor found themselves on a page that didn’t meet their expectations or needs.

    The fix here was to improve the layout out of the landing-page (the site’s ‘front door’) and make the on-page call-to-action much more visible and relevant – this was particularly important for mobile users.

  • Then there was the eCommerce business that was suffering a significant drop-off in visitors to certain key pages on the site. Turned out that the way the products were listed was making it too big a chore for the potential customer to find their way to the ‘hero’ products.

    The simple fix to shutting the front here was to re-order the products in such a way that the best-sellers are the first things the visitor sees.

  • A recent review of another client’s Google Analytics revealed – and proved – a real ‘red flag’ barrier to conversion. In this case, the problem was that at a crucial point in the path to purchase, the potential customer was being asked to commit to a little too much, too soon. The result was that they hit the back-button to take them ‘back to safety’.

    The solution was to modify the on-page call-to-action to make it less ‘obligating’, and to introduce an additional, ‘softer’ stage in the journey.

  • Then there was the case of the new business that was suffering a significantly higher drop-off rate on mobile than on desktop. Refining the on-page content and moving the call-to-action to a more prominent place helped shut the front door and keep visitors longer.

  • My last example here is how Google Analytics helped solve a real conundrum for a globally trading eCommerce business. Over the last couple of years, this particular business had suffered declining online sales. On the face of it, there was no clear reason why this should be. However, a review of the site’s Google Analytics revealed that the decline in sales was directly proportionate to the rise in mobile traffic. This led me to look more closely at the mobile user experience, which, compared to the desktop experience, turned out to be ‘clunky’ and not terribly user-friendly. As a result of this work, the business took corrective action to address the problem.

This is real stuff.

And none of it would have been possible without an interrogation of these sites’ Google Analytics.

Using Google Analytics to understand what visitors were doing (or not doing) when they were on these sites provided important insight into what needed to be done… that is, what needed to be done to get more sales, more enquiries, and more customers.

In my world, there are very few things as exciting or rewarding as that ‘aha moment’ (nothing to do with the band from Norway, though truth be told, they’re pretty good too) when I uncover something that can make a real difference to a business.

And the reality is, I always do find something – sometimes it’s something small, sometimes it’s a real game-changer. Either way, it helps give the business competitive advantage… or closes the door on competitive disadvantage!

We’ve only scratched the surface here (actually, not even) of what Google Analytics can do.

For help with shutting the door on the dreaded back-button for your business, get in touch.

If you’d like me to have a look around yours; or if you’d like a crash course on things so you can do it yourself, get in touch.

I just can’t get enough of that ‘aha moment’…



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