If you get into a discussion with other dentists about websites, you may hear, “My website is awesome. My bounce rate is only 5%.” (or some such ridiculously low number) “What’s yours?” Many dentists love to get into metaphoric dick-measuring contests.
We should all be measuring the results of our marketing efforts. I believe many dentists pay a lot of money for marketing and have no idea if it’s REALLY working. Most probably continue to run expensive ads in the Yellow Pages, yet they have no clue if they’re getting a positive ROI. They’re in the Yellow Pages because of TRADITION more than any other reason. I got out of the Yellow Pages after 2007 and haven’t looked back. I determined that in 2007 I got three patients from the YP. And, all three were “one-timers.” The revenue generated was less than what I paid for the ad.
Maintaining a website costs me less on an annual basis than what I paid monthly for a YP ad. It’s a no-brainer. And, in my practice we determine and record where every patient came from.
But, today’s blog isn’t about websites in general. It’s more about one of the commonly discussed metrics of website traffic: The Bounce Rate. It’s so commonly talked about that it has become a sort of bragging point. And, I’m going to go against the conventional wisdom and say IT DOESN’T MATTER. Or, at least… it doesn’t matter MUCH. I’ll explain.
First, let’s define “bounce rate.” A website “bounce” is when a visitor enters the website and doesn’t go any deeper than that initial web page. He or she clicks back out of the site. Now, on the surface that sounds bad. And, it might be in some cases. Generally speaking, we’d like our website to be so compelling that a visitor is drawn into it, clicking deeper and deeper for more information. We want to keep them there as long as possible… or, at least as long as it takes to get them to TAKE ACTION. Taking action is ideally when the visitor contacts the office to make an appointment.
The bounce rate is reported by almost any and every website analytics program. I’ve been a long-time user of Google Analytics. It’s an excellent and FREE program that gives you more data than you’ll ever want about your website traffic. All you (or your webmaster) have to do is put the tracking code in your website. An important point to make about the tracking code: Put it on EVERY page of your website. You want to track traffic on every page, not just your home page. The reason: Visitors don’t always enter your site via the home page.
The bounce rate is reported as a percentage. What percentage of visitors leave the website without exploring further into other pages? Theoretically, the lower the better. If visitors explore further into your site, that means they’re interested. It just makes sense. And, I won’t argue that point.
But, I will make an additional point. What IF it only took that one page to get the visitor to take action? Would that be a bad thing? I don’t think so. What IF the web page the visitor landing on was SO powerful, he or she didn’t need to probe further into the website? Based on the compelling copy on the landing page, the visitor picked up the phone (or fired off an appointment request email) right away! I think THAT should be our ideal goal, rather than feeling smug and a false sense of accomplishment with a low bounce rate.
Ultimately, the only thing I care about is whether I get patients in the chair and treatment completed based on my website marketing. I don’t even care how MANY patients I get. I care about what KIND of patients I get. I’d rather have 3 big cases come via my website than 10 small cases. Your mileage may vary. Some of us prefer volume of routine stuff, and some of us (me) like the big cases. Either way, the actual traffic into your OFFICE is what matters.
I have a number of single-page niche websites (in addition to my multi-page primary website). For example, I have a single-pager dedicated to Six Month Smiles. There aren’t any other pages on that website to explore. So, every visit is a “bounce.” There are some links on that one-pager that lead to my other website. So, a few will click through. But, my bounce rate is on the high end: 70 – 90%. So what? My goal with that page is to get the visitor to call based on the information on that one page.
That brings me to another related point. You should have a “call to action” on every page of your website. Don’t make your visitors click around to make the call or send an email appointment request. Remember this: Make it easy for them! Every page on your site should have the office phone number. And, I also recommend having a button or link labeled, “Make An Appointment” on every page. I recommend the phone number be at the top (in the same location) on every page. The same thing goes for a link or button to make an appointment request. Don’t make your visitors hunt for your contact information. Put it on every single page of your website. Again, make it EASY.
Bounce rate is only one metric for a website. My contention is that it should be considered within the proper context rather than given the disproportionate weight commonly bestowed upon it.
In conclusion, I’ll repeat my advice to measure your marketing results. What are you spending? How many patients come from each marketing piece or strategy? What is your return on investment? For me, hands-down, it’s been my website. I even wrote a book about it! (stand by for shameless plug) “The Complete Website Owner’s Manual for Dentists.“ Don’t worry so much about isolated website traffic metrics like the bounce rate. Rather, concern yourself with the real results leaving an ass-print in your dental chairs.