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Keep Your Readers – Focus on Exit Rate, not Page Views

Don’t we all want more readers? I know I do. In that sense, even the lowliest of us z-listers fit right in with the top-ranked websites around. We’re all trying to increase readership. But how do you achieve that?

Page views don’t matter

OK, so that’s obviously not true. The more page views you have, the more readers you likely have. Thus, they are some indication of your reader base.

However, they are not the be all, end all. An individual article or entire website could have thousands of page views, but very few real readers. But what’s the difference? Exit rate.

Readers stick around

Website visitors do just that: visit. They don’t take off their coats, put their feet up, and have a conversation with you. Blogs encourage conversation, thought, and actual readership.

Thus, the real way to see how well things are going is to look at the exit rate of your pages. Do all of your “readers” come by for a one-hit-wonder post that made it to Digg? Does a high percentage of them bounce away, never to be seen again? Or do they delve into your blog, reading other articles, participating, and becoming a regular face in the commenter list?

If you focus your posts on your actual reader base, you’ll likely get more traffic in the end, since these readers will be pulled to more items on your site. Here’s what I mean:

Espresso versus cover letters

I wrote a post a while back that became my most “popular” post for December. By that, I mean it had the highest number of page views. However, this post had an exit rate of 83%. That means that only 17% of the visitors to that post actually read anything else on my blog. Depressing.

On the other hand, one of my other posts brought in a moderate number of visitors, ranked by page views. However, the exit rate for this post was only 53%. Thus, 47% of the visitors read other things on this blog. They generated more page views. Hopefully, some of them subscribed.

Why the disparity? The more “popular” post was about a free espresso machine I just received. It made it to the top spot in Google for the search “free espresso.” Lots of people were searching for espresso, and they stumbled onto my blog.

The second post was actually about cover letters for law firm applications. Presumably, people who found it were looking for information, advice, and tips about law firms, law school, etc. What is Legal Andrew about? Legal productivity. Thus, these readers found what they were looking for. Whereas, the espresso searches found only one page about their topic. They left. They were visitors, not readers.

Crunching some simple math, here is what you get: With only the initial visits, the second post generated only 54% of the page views as the espresso post. However, if you add in exit rates and assume that people who didn’t exit actually viewed another page, I found that the second post generated 70% of the page views as the one about espresso. In reality, that number is probably somewhat higher, since these readers hopefully found other helpful pages after the second one.

Focused, quality posts

Do you see the point yet? Hopefully so. Study your statistics a little and see what you find. I’ll bet your on-topic posts generate much better readership than those that have a strong initial pull. If you produce focused, quality posts, you’ll likely end up with a better reader base.

What do you guys think about this? Have you noticed similar phenomenon? Please leave a comment or drop me a line.

[tags]legal andrew, exit rate, page view, bounce rate, statistics[/tags]

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4 Responses to “Keep Your Readers – Focus on Exit Rate, not Page Views”

  1. Brett
    January 14th, 2007

    Great post. I’ve never really thought about that way. I’ve just been focusing on the number of people coming in. Looking at my stats, it seems like most people don’t stick around. Depressing.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    January 14th, 2007

    Hi Brett,

    I didn’t mean to be depressing. I was just trying to look at a classic problem in a different light. It sounds like I did that.

    Really, as long as visitors are growing, overall traffic is going up, so is your sphere of influence. That’s the goal, right?

    Take care,

  3. CleverSage
    February 4th, 2008

    I agree that you should focus on exit rate for indicators that you might have problems with your site. However, I believe that you should also have a focus on bounce rate, the people who come to your site and leave immediately. Good article.

  4. Andrew Flusche
    February 6th, 2008

    CleverSage – Thanks for your comment. Bounce rate is important too! All those statistics tell us something, and we should pay attention to everything. It helps when you love statistics, like I do!

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