From time to time I will dip into the horror show of my website's analytics to glean information and hopefully improve my photography website. If you don't know what analytics are, they are data collected about your website visitors and they can reveal some facts that are difficult to swallow. For example, you may be getting lots of hits but when you examine how your average visitor is using your website it turns out most everyone is gone within 10 seconds. You may have a percentage that stays and looks at every page but the majority are popping in to your site and right back out.
There are all sorts of reasons you might get someone on your site for 10 seconds or less. Some of your visitors aren't people at all but search engines searching for relevant information to add to their algorithms. Some of your visitors visit your site accidentally or quickly determine that you are not what they were searching for. Or perhaps your blog might have information that a visitor was searching for that didn't quite answer their question. Whatever the reason, the amount of people that quickly bounce away form your site without looking at any additional pages is terrifyingly large. The name for this phenomena is bounce-rate.
There is a science of minimizing your bounce-rate. First and foremost is making sure your site has plenty of great content, but there are other tricks to keeping people engaged, like calls-to-action and landing pages. These are intended to minimize distraction and focus your visitor on one task, like signing-up for a newsletter or sweepstakes. They are like mini webpages that have no links except for steering your visitor towards the task you want them to perform. These techniques are great and can convert visitors into clients but you have a website full of information that you want potential clients to see.
So lets imagine how some of these 10 second visits might happen using my website as an example. I specialize in architectural and food photography and I am located near Philadelphia. Lets say someone in Philadelphia needs a food photographer and types "food photographer for hire" in a search engine. They may begin looking at website portfolios and making very quick judgements based on the website quality in order to narrow their search.
1. Does the page open immediately, or have a flash warning? Do you bother continuing if you get a warning? That could be a 1 second visit.
2. Is the site up to date with big photos, or tiny and poorly designed? That could easily lead to another quick elimination.
3. Is the site mobile phone friendly? More and more people do their searches on their phone these days. It is a huge problem if your site is impossible to navigate.
4. The site is for a photographer in Maine, and not the town the client is in. No reason to keep looking here.
5. Is the page slowly loading one image at a time or is there plenty to look at quickly? Boring.
6. Does the page contain the promised content? Or do I have to click through to some other page or fill a form?
7. Finally, are your images good enough? Are they captivating? Do they sell the product?
As you can see there are plenty of reasons someone might only visit for a moment. Even when a website visit converts to a call or sale, the visit might still be very short. Lets say I am looking for a plumber, I want to find someone that is established, has been around for a while and people recommend their services. I might do a quick search, then go down the list looking fro a plumber that meets my criteria. When I find a professional site with a testimonials page I will gladly end my search with a call. I don't need to check out every page and read the blog I am frankly glad to be finished my task , so I can move on to the 14 million other things I need to do that day.
We spend so much time crafting our website that we can't believe that people don't want to stick around and read every word and see every picture. The fact of the matter is that our website isn't fun for our visitors, it is a tool that delivers information. Once they get what they came for, or realize this isn't the information they are looking for they move on quickly. If someone is interested enough to stick around, that is fantastic but not entirely necessary to get the job done.
Lets say that a restaurant in Philadelphia finds me through a search and likes my website enough to contact me about photographing their food for their webpage. How can our new understanding of bounce-rate help us determine how to proceed. We knowthat no matter how great or compelling your website is most people will take a peek and move on, so what is the best strategy to hold your visitor's attention and turn them into a client?
The best strategy is to show off, big time. If you are lucky enough to get a visitor you have about a second to convince them to stay. Put as much production value as you can right on your homepage, make sure the page opens quick and looks good on a phone. Your pictures need to be better than your competitors because they are being used by your visitors to decide if your product is better and the decision is being made in a snap.
If you have the choice between two photographers, and one of the photographers offers 10 exquisite images that look like advertisements for $1000. and the other photographer offers 100 competent photos for the same amount, always go for quality. Because as horrible as it sounds, your typical website visitor has likely made up their mind in a few seconds and doesn't care to see the rest of your site, so you had better dazzle them.
Thanks for reading. If you know of other great ways to grab website visitor's attention and don't mind sharing let me know. I would love to hear from you.