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Analysing bounce rate differences: is it comparing "apples to apples"?

We recently went from a print to an HTML format for our research organization's newsletter. The newsletter website has about 20 pages (www.conferenceboard.ca/insideedge/default.aspx). Our google analytics results show a bounce rate of 36% for the "home page" of our e-newsletter. Our company home page has a bounce rate of about 12% (www.conferenceboard.ca). As a result of these statistics, the newsletter author wants us to do a redesign in an effort to reduce the bounce rate. I want to make sure that we make an "informed" decision here before investing time and money on a redesign after just one issue. The questions I have are: is comparing a bounce rate between a company home page (complex, representing multiple services and lines of businesses) and an e-Newsletter of 20 pages truly comparing "apples to apples"? Is the newsletter home page bounce rate of 36% truly problematic, or considered acceptable? Can I tell if the bounce rate is because of clients accessing it from their mobile devices, which would be frustrating as we lead off with two large photos at the top of the page? Should we be focus testing our client base for their feedback before proceeding with a redesign? Should we be doing 3 or 4 issues using our current design and building our stats before considering a redesign? Any advice on where we can get an online assessment of the "usability" of the newsletter site? This is new territory for me, so I'm trying to ramp up quickly...
Thanks!
Andrea
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Andreamc
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Andreamc
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Jason C. LevineNo oneCommented:
Hi Andreamc,

Lots of questions.  In the future, you may want to break them up into smaller chunks when posting here as it makes things easier to answer.

>> is comparing a bounce rate between a company home page (complex, representing multiple services and lines
>> of businesses) and an e-Newsletter of 20 pages truly comparing "apples to apples"?

In one sense, it is comparing apples to apples.  Web pages are web pages and the bounce rate gives you some information about the two pages.  

More specifically though, your newsletter (which I assume is marketed to the subscribers via email) should have a more interested audience than the main company page although now that I say that out loud I wonder if it is even true.  How do most people find the company page?  There may be more motivation for those users to click on a second link than your newsletter people who are (presumably) already familiar with your content.

>> Is the newsletter home page bounce rate of 36% truly problematic, or considered acceptable?

Here's the apples to apples issue.  36% of what number?  I would love a bounce rate as low as 36% for some of my sites :)

I run email/HTML newsletters for surgical professional associations and our bounce rate is about 50% on average, so from my point of view, 36% is pretty good.  Is there room for improvement?  Probably.  Your newsletter site is nice but a little bit cookie-cutter, web 2.0ish and doesn't strike me (a first time visitor) as a newsletter.  I see the articles at the top but I'm not really led down a path of where to go or what to click.

>> Can I tell if the bounce rate is because of clients accessing it from their mobile devices, which would be
>> frustrating as we lead off with two large photos at the top of the page?

Yes.  Google Analytics will let you compare two metrics on the same graph so you could map browsers against bounces and see if there is something there.

It may be that the newsletter subscribers check the page to see if there is anything interesting there and leave if they don't see an article that catches their interest right away.  It may not necessarily be due to mobile users.

>>  Should we be focus testing our client base for their feedback before proceeding with a redesign?

I would think the answer to this question is always "yes" no matter what the question is.

>> Should we be doing 3 or 4 issues using our current design and building our stats before considering a redesign?

>> Any advice on where we can get an online assessment of the "usability" of the newsletter site?

Here.  Experts Exchange does have a LOT of people with design experience who hang out in the CSS and HTML Zones and the advice would be basically free but probably won't be in depth.  Still, I would say to start here.
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AndreamcAuthor Commented:
Thanks very much, Jason, your answer was very helpful. And I'll make sure to break up my questions going forward. BTW, I'd enjoy seeing your newsletters if that's a possibility...
Cheers,
Andrea
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Jason C. LevineNo oneCommented:
>> I'd enjoy seeing your newsletters if that's a possibility...

Sorry, I'm not allowed to post them publicly.
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