Optimizing the Exit Rate Metric

As a website marketer you should always be looking for areas to improve. Whether you are a content publisher, Internet retailer or affiliate marketer, one of the key metrics to monitor is the exit rate of your Web pages.

There is a difference between exit rate and bounce rate, but you'd be surprised how many confuse the two. Bounce rate represents the percentage of single-page visits - a user left the site from the same page (the entrance page or landing page). The Exit rate, however, indicates the percentage of visits where the page was the last one on a website that someone visited. You can see how easy it would be to confuse them.

Improving bounce rate can be achieved (in a general way) by improving the quality of a website. For example, if a content page has a high bounce rate, one option would be to include a section which features related content - enabling the user to delve deeper into that website. But improving the exit rate is a lot more complicated.

High exit rates, despite a commonly held belief that some pages should inherently have high exit rates (like subscription confirmation pages), can indeed be improved upon. And the best part? In many cases the same methods used to improve bounce rate metrics can be used to improve exit rate metrics. The aim here should be to find ways to keep users moving through the conversion funnel. If they have completed one conversion goal, then you need to present them with another. If you're serious about exit rate optimization, that's the only way.

So where do you start? The first step should be to identify those pages which have high exit rates and for that you'll need to do a deep dive into your analytics. Most all analytics platforms provide insights into exit rate, so it should not be difficult to find.

The second step should be to categorize the individual pages with the highest exit rates. For example, if we here at Website Magazine were to undertake the challenge of exit rate optimization, we might segment short form versus long form content pages (posts versus articles) based on the assumption that one of those ultimately has a higher exit rate than another.

One of the challenging aspects of exit rate optimization is that there might actually be a good reason for the high metric. In the case of a popular article or infographic, for example, users are driven there, consume the article and exit (leading to a high bounce rate and a high exit rate for that page). Taking the information we now know from diving into our analytics, we're able to look at practical ways to lower the exit rate.

So how can you lower the exit rate? Simple - use segmentation data to profile content. If you know that users are coming from a search engine then you will know which keyword they used to get there (unless it's an encrypted search, of course) and when you know which keyword was searched for by the user, you are then able to segment your traffic and direct them to any number of other pages on your site where they can access more in-depth content such as whitepapers, videos, etc.

Executing this strategy can be tricky. While related content tools within a content management system or weblog platform would work well, another option would be to consider implementing exit pop-ups. That might turn off some readers, but exit pop-ups can prove useful in enticing your users with one last promotion - whether in the form of an email subscription request, gathering survey information or featuring content such as whitepapers or entire sections of a website dedicated to a specific topic.

At the end of the day, a high exit rate should indicate to you that there is something missing in your overall conversion process. When every page on your website presents an opportunity to convert users, you are in a position to generate more conversions and lower those key metrics including high bounce and exit rates.