Publishers around the world are seeing a boom in mobile web traffic, but meeting those users’ expectations once they arrive on-site remains an ongoing challenge. Earlier this year, when Google incorporated mobile responsiveness into its search rankings (see our “Mobilegeddon” post here), the average bounce rate for audiences using smartphones was close to 60 percent.
The shift towards mobile represents a major opportunity for the industry at large, but it also requires publishers to better understand the nuances of how user behavior differs across desktop and mobile devices. When a smartphone user clicks through to an article that was created with a desktop-first mindset, they are much more likely to bounce, especially if they arrived from a social channel like Facebook or Twitter, where an endless stream of content is just a back-click away.
Taboola’s product and account management teams have been paying close attention to these patterns, proactively testing and implementing solutions for improving bounce rates on our publisher partners’ mobile content pages. Here are some of the rules of thumb we’ve uncovered along the way.
Get granular in your reporting and analysis
If your website is seeing high bounce rates, you’re probably well-aware that you need to explore new ways to optimize your content pages for smaller screens. But where should you get started, and how can you pinpoint the biggest areas of opportunity? The answer is to get granular.
1) Segment your bounce rates by URL: Examine whether certain pages are yielding higher bounce rates than others. This perspective will help you identify the types of content that your mobile audiences find most engaging. Then, you can apply the learnings from those examples towards low-performing pages that are in need of optimization.
2) Segment your bounce rates by traffic source: This perspective will help you tailor your content UX to the context in which audiences are discovering your articles. Diving into the data, you may find out that users arriving from social are interested in very different types of content than those coming from search or referral.
3) Repeat the steps above with monetization and traffic data: You’ll likely see a correlation between bounce rates and monetization. Look for areas of opportunity where web traffic is high but monetization is low—these areas will require your attention and focus. Your Taboola account manager can help you pull this data.
The ongoing fragmentation of social media platforms and mobile devices have made ‘one-size-fits-all’ optimizations obsolete. You need to tailor your UX to the needs of your audiences—to ensure that your content, and even your ad units, are reaching them in the most impactful way.
Run consistent A/B tests
For many publishers, UX considerations will often feel like guesswork. You may be struggling to optimize your content for mobile engagement, and missing the mark on click-throughs on your ad units as a result (see our additional tips on this topic here).
One of the most important ways to eliminate this potential black hole is to run a series of consistent A/B tests. Start by doing some audience research, develop hypotheses about ways to improve your page layout, design a few experiments to run on small portions of your web traffic, and look for optimization lifts. Two important areas to A/B test include:
UX components: These can include your page layout, placement of your comments or social sharing buttons, and configurations of your calls to action (CTAs). For example, viral video site Upworthy ran a series of A/B tests to see whether the addition of “recommended content” modules would negatively affect social sharing. They ultimately found that the new modules actually increased social sharing by 28 percent. Another example of a test-worthy feature is Taboola’s “read more” button which, like similar features on Quartz and the New York Times, abbreviates mobile content and has shown to increase engagement on below-article elements (e.g. share tools; content recommendations) by 20-30 percent.
Editorial components: Article headlines and thumbnail images play an important role in promoting your content on-site and across the web, and should accurately represent your content so users know what to expect. Taboola Newsroom enables editorial teams to A/B test these elements, and Refinery29 has used the platform to increase their story click-through-rates by up to 200%. These learnings can also be applied to social media promotion strategies across channels like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
For many publishers, A/B testing is a relatively new concept. Keep in mind that Taboola’s team of account managers and strategists is here to help, and we regularly work with media companies to plan and execute A/B tests.
Identify potential triggers
Bounce rates don’t happen in a vacuum. They’re the result of a combination of factors, stemming from your website’s look and feel, audience preferences, and of course, the content that you’re sharing. If you’re seeing high bounce rates, it’s important to get to the root of the problem. There are a few ways to go about doing this:
Qualitative research: Recruit members of your audience to serve as a focus group and ask questions around why they might be bouncing. It may be that your headlines and thumbnails are misleading or maybe there is too much clutter on your landing page.
Get in touch: We have an overwhelming amount of data about different sites and we see what works and what doesn’t every day. Taboola’s publisher team includes content strategists that can help you identify opportunities for improvement.
The bottom line
If your content pages are experiencing high bounce rates, there’s a silver lining. With data, smart strategists, and opportunities for A/B testing, you can course correct patterns of low engagement (and improve monetization as a result). The resources that you need are right in front of you, and with a series of small steps, you’ll be able to make dramatic improvements.