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Dreadful Landing Pages Lead to Low Bounce Rate. HUH?

I’m shopping for another new bicycle chain. My wife suspects I buy them based on fashion because I get a new one every season (oh no – that’s last season’s chain – everyone’s riding titanium this season). No, sweet girl of mine, it’s not the passing seasons per se that dictate a new chain, it’s the stress of being propelled up the Santa Cruz Mountains. This causes the chain to stretch, which in turn causes the gears to wear rapidly because the chain spacing no longer lines up with the gear teeth. I change chain every 1-2000 miles of riding.

Anyway, here I am shopping for a new chain. Riders become very attuned to the feel of the shifting, and getting exactly the right chain that shifts smoothly is a matter of considerable experimentation and rest-stop chatter. I’m Googling for a KMC chain – prized for the special coating of 11 herbs and spices, I assume.

I click an AdWords link on the SERPs ‘KMC chain shimano 10spd’ and discover the retailer is breaking a fundamental rule of PPC ads: Show the products the consumer just searched for. Instead, I’m dumped into a page where I re-select the brand I want. I click KMC and find they don’t have the 10 speed version in stock – only the 9 speed. As I reach for the back button I momentarily switch from bike geek to adwords geek, and think to myself ‘yikes, I’ll bet their bounce rate numbers are scary’. Only I then realize they’re not.

The catch is that bounce rate in Google Analytics means ‘saw only one page, then left’. But I saw two pages because I was forced to select the brand before seeing the products. It’s a bad campaign, leading to a bad landing page and then a product that cannot be purchased, but bounce rate won’t reveal that. Ouch.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Amy Engler May 19, 2009, 8:37 am

    John,

    I truly enjoy your observations and the lessons you teach! Thanks for your blog!

    Does this mean the bicycle chain vendor is likely unaware of the true performance of its landing page? Would a funnel analysis be useful in revealing negative aspects of the landing page performance, such as a low conversion rate, even if the bounce rate really doesn’t?

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