Google analytics data shows that most visitors to corporate websites stay only a short time and are unlikely to return. A smaller but more engaged audience spends more time and visits more pages. Your web presence needs to be serving both types of visitors – but how?
Bowen Craggs has been analysing Google Analytics data from our corporate website benchmark group since 2014. Members of the group, which is made up mainly of large multinational companies and includes many household names, share their data with us, which in 2019 covered 63 million users and 95 million sessions. The average number of annual visits for the group was 5 million. The largest number of visits in our group was 28 million visits, the smallest, 200,000.
What the data tells us about your visitors
Looking at the data this year, we noted an interesting division between between what we call ‘one-hit wonders’ and ‘frequent flyers’.
One-hit wonders are best represented by the following chart, which shows the ‘Average sessions per user’ across 12 months from May 2018 to April 2019. The average (the vertical line in the middle) is 1.5 sessions per user per year.
That means that across the year, the typical website visitor likely comes to your corporate website only once, and does not return. There are some caveats – the data does not count visitors who clear their cookies, for example. And there is a fairly wide variation in the data across individual companies.
Those factors aside, there is no getting around the fact that many, many visitors to corporate websites seem to want to visit as infrequently as possible; a sobering thought for those of us who spend our days trying to make digital corporate communications more effective and engaging.
On the other hand, some visitors do return. The data shows these ‘frequent flyers’ to be a smaller group, but a more engaged one. They are best illustrated by the following chart, which shows the percentages of visitors who make one visits, two visits, three visits, etc, per year.
Beyond the 66 per cent of ‘one-hit wonders’ who make one visit, there is a long tail of frequent flyers – for example 10 per cent visited more than nine times in the year. One per cent are very engaged – they visit more than 200 times per year (we suspect this hyper-engaged group may be employees, or perhaps Bowen Craggs, if we happen to be analysing your website!). Another possibility is bots, which is something to investigate, if your site is showing similar numbers. Other data shows that the frequent flyers visit more pages and spends more time on them, on average, than one-hit wonders.
We’ve seen how this division plays out in the data. Now let’s look at how you should think about serving the needs of these two groups.
Serving one-hit wonders
Just because they seem to be ‘not that into you’, does not mean you should not and cannot serve one-hit wonders well on your corporate website.
One-hit wonders may well be the most important people in your bosses’ eyes – customers. They might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In our experience, one-hit wonders could be banking customers looking for log-in details or ‘brand’ customers looking for product sites or local sites. They may want to get in touch to make a complaint or get support.
Other audiences can be one-hit wonders too, though – such as a journalist who arrives on a corporate news article from a search engine, for example.
There are four key points to remember when serving one-hit wonders:
1. Primarily, you want to ensure that this group can achieve the task they came to complete. This means that your set of ‘signposts’ – navigation elements – on the home page and across the site should be prominent and immediately self-explanatory, so you are re-directing them to the right location on your entire web estate.
This means not just the menus, but also related links, promotional panels and other signposting on landing pages; as well as devices like breadcrumb trails to help users understand where they are in a site – especially necessary if they have arrived deep in a site from a search engine or other external link. It also means having a good search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy, organic and possibly paid, to ensure that users arrive in the right place to start with.
2. Ensure that the site is an effective ‘billboard’ for your corporate messages. Even if visitors stay for just a few seconds (like passing an advertisement hoarding on a motorway) they may form an important impression of your company.
3. Try to get this type of visitor to stay longer during their initial visit to get a better understanding of your company – and if you can, convert them to frequent flyers! Do this by using engaging images, messages, articles and other editorially engaging devices that encourage them to explore, and through frequent posting of fresh material in relevant areas so they have an expectation that returning is worthwhile and will reward them with something new. This is what we call the ‘magazine’ element of a corporate website.
Evidence from our website visitor surveys tells us that users who consume magazine content on your corporate site are more likely to have a better perception of your company’s brand, and there is analytics evidence to suggest that those who read blogs or other narrative material will consume other content around the site too. But don’t let any of this get in the way of users who have come to your site to perform a simple, single task.
4. Finally, be wary of personalisation – when so much of your audience is likely to be one-hit wonders, it may simply be irrelevant.
Serving frequent flyers
In our experience, frequent flyers are likely to represent a portion of all of your audience groups, including some customers. They could be employees regularly checking in about company news, for example; or jobseekers repeatedly checking for new roles or company news; analysts returning for quarterly for results material; or trade journalists who frequently cover you.
Here are five key points to remember when serving frequent flyers.
1. Build their needs into your content strategy. This may affect, for example, how frequently you update certain sections of your site, and the topics that you most regularly cover. You might want to set expectations around frequency of updates so they know when to return, too.
2. Ensure that you cater for the different needs of different frequent flyers. For example, some may visit regularly to complete quick tasks or for quick news updates, while others may want more in-depth services or information.
3. If users are returning to get specific information or tools that they want, such as job listings or quarterly results, promote links in these locations to material that you want them to see – such as reputation-building messaging.
4. Personalisation and customisation have more relevance for frequent flyers than for one-hit wonders. This could, for example, take the form of suggesting relevant thought leadership articles to a customer that returns frequently, based on what they looked at during previous visits. However, personalisation is no substitute for good navigation on a corporate website.
5. Even more important than personalisation is manual editorial control and management of your pages to appeal to frequent flyers, based on your knowledge of them; this is something an algorithm will struggle with.
Finally, it is worth remembering that no corporate website (or website visitor) is truly ‘typical’. Further investigation is key. Find out more about your own site’s one-hit wonders and frequent flyers by looking at the data; talking to your internal stakeholders; and by using your insight to think about who they are, where they are going, what they are doing and how you can serve them more effectively.
The following people from Bowen Craggs collaborated on this article: Andy McNair, Andrew Rigby, Dan Drury and Jason Sumner.
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If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: firstname.lastname@example.org.