Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reducing Bounce Rate

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Yesterday's post proved that Entrecard's traffic has little differences between regular traffic from other sources, including search engines, referring sites, and direct traffic. The difference across most sites is within the +/- 10% range, which isn't a huge difference as many first made it out to be.

There are several steps that you can take to reduce your bounce rate. Some of them are quite obvious, while others may take some more work on your part to implement. Please remember that these are general tips and cannot be applied to all blogs and websites.

The main goal here is to actively engage your readers more, "forcing" them to stay on your website for a longer period of time and browse multiple pages/internal links.

Here are several ways to do it:
  1. Remove some of the content from your home or root page. This is the page that is generally linked to your Entrecard profile, so you want to "make" it so visitors travel to other pages within your site. You could start with your profile or about statement, placing it at blogname.com/about or whatever URL your blog host permits.
  2. Increase the number of internal, rather than external links on your homepage. Even ads can increase your bounce rate, as people may be interested in that ad, rather than content on your site. Another way to increase internal links is by placing more posts on the homepage (see next step).
  3. Post excerpts often decrease bounce rate, as people who want to read your content must click through to the post. Secondly, make it so people must click on the post title to view comments, which sends an additional reload message to the server (reducing bounce rate).
  4. Appeal to your visitors. If you don't have content that people want to read, why should they even consider clicking through to other articles, reading what you have to say?
  5. Reduce the number of ads on your site. One of the major problems with blogs in the Entrecard network is the relatively high percentage of blogs with a huge number of ads on them. This detracts from the value of your blog and places more emphasis on how many ads you can fit into a particular space, rather than the content that you have produced.
  6. Change the layout of your site.
Despite the fact that bounce rates might increase slightly due to the above-the-fold rule, you shouldn't see any significant changes as these new rules have been put in place. As long as your try to make a difference in how people use your site, you will be able to reduce bounce rate dramatically and drastically, even if it does take some time.
The best approach to doing this is to change and evolve your blog gradually, experimenting with what works and what doesn't. If using Google Analytics, set up goals that you want to achieve, as it'll help track down to the minute that you achieve them methods of improving and how much further you need to go.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Entrecard Traffic - The Bounce Rate Myth

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I often become frustrated when bloggers in the Entrecard network complain about bounce rate. Think about it: when you are rewarded (through credits) for visiting others' sites, your visitors will generally try to accumulate more credits in a shorter period of time. Any other site with a similar purpose will garner a bounce rate that is high, too. You aren't going to see a drastic reduction to 50% or less bounce rate just because you become a member of a blog network and place their widget or participate in their site's features.

Blogs will likely have a higher bounce rate than other, more traditional sites. A blog features multiple forms of content on the main page, including up to ten or so recent posts, which is the main area that readers look at when visiting your blog. Secondly, many people have placed an "about" statement or area in their sidebar, again reducing the number of people who click through to other pages.

When a user clicks through your blog, they have "reduced" the bounce rate of your site, as they are reducing the number of people who have left your site after entering it. The main areas that a user would view are: additional pages of your blog, other posts (archives), or a link to view the comments. The more frequently you can get them to do this, the higher the pages/visit count rises. I'll be covering several ways of reducing bounce rate in this sense in an upcoming post.

Let's now look at the true definition of bounce rate, as per Wikipedia.
  • Clicking on a link to a page on a different website, closing an open window or tab, typing in a new URL, clicking the "Back" button to leave the site, and a session timeout (staying on the page for greater than 30 minutes) are all considered "bounces."
  • Bounce rate is equal to the number of single page accesses and entries.
  • An analytics specialist says that it is "really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying."
Now that we have the definition of a bounce rate, let's look at the traffic from Entrecard compared to other referring sites and search engines. I've attached an image, which shows the main detailed overview of the traffic with this blog.

Entrecard - Detailed Traffic

Please Note: This blog may not fill the "average" of all blogs in the network or throughout the web - we cater to Entrecard users or people who may want to become members. Therefore, there is less traffic from multiple referring sites, and more from Entrecard. The main promotion method of this blog is through Entrecard and I have only spent time "dropping" on other sites to accumulate the traffic.

I will consider a variation of greater than 5% a "difference" between Entrecard traffic and "normal" traffic.

The largest single referrer for my blog is the Entrecard Category Browser, which is surprising, as most would think of the Inbox as the main area for traveling to other sites. Following this first referral path, detailed pages for my blog, and Inboxes for specific members are listed (with 2,137 paths to the Entrecard.com site, the total number of inbox visits is likely greater than that of the Browser). In some ways, you can track all the way down to the particular members, and how often they visit your blog.

Some Statistics for Comparison
– Between April 22, 2008 and March 27, 2009, Entrecard sent 16,928 visits to the site.
– This accounts for 59.43% of the total site traffic.
– Pages per visit with Entrecard is 1.08, 2.26% less than the site average of 1.11.
– Average time on site is 30.97% less than the entire site average, at 00:00:30 versus 00:00:43.
– % New Visits (a greater percentage shows loyalty) is 77.42%, 3.09% lower than the site average of 79.89%.
– Bounce rate through Entrecard is 93.41%, 0.49% higher than the site average at 92.96%.
– 85 of 119 traffic sources reported a bounce rate of 100%.

What This All Means

Looking at the bounce rates between all traffic and that of Entrecard, there is little to no difference. Unlike what most people think, Entrecard traffic is not vastly different from that of all other sources, and can even be better than traffic form independent blogs or search engines.

All things considered, the only significant difference between the various usage elements was time on site, which shouldn't come as a surprise. This means that between dropping, the average person spends thirty seconds on your site, reading content, waiting for the page to load, or going elsewhere.

Conclusion

Entrecard helps connect blog owners and their blogs together, so it is obvious that unless you have a blog that appeals to other people, you will not be able to reduce your bounce rate or increase the subscriber level of your blog.

Compare your blog's traffic from Entrecard to that of other sources - what do you see?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Transition Over to the New Ad Network

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It appears as though the transition over to the new ad network will be taking place within the next couple days.

There have been some hard announcements over the past several days, including one that will disrupt members of the Today.com blog network, as they have chosen to not allow the widget on the blogs using their service in the future. Anyone with a *.today.com blog will have to remove the widget within the ~two week time frame that they have provided.

The framework and backend for the new ad network is being implemented, one step at a time. You can see a screenshot of what will be offered to advertisers/publishers when the system is launched below. Please note that this is an ongoing process - with further testing, it might not be until early April when everything is finalized if everything works out and longer until you can sell credits for cash.

Entrecard ADN Status

When everything is changed over, there will be improvements and benefits for users and more options as time progresses. This view may not be echoed by all members, but this change was coming and was in the works for nearly a year, more so since funding has decreased and the site needed to earn more capital to continue its operation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Few Updates on Entrecard

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With the large announcement last week on the upcoming changes and how they were going to impact users, many people said that they were going to leave the site. Now that many of their questions have been answered, but not all, we can make some clarifications about new rules, features, etc. which will be rolled out soon.

The Above the Fold Rule - This rule has been changed to suit resolutions of up to 1920x1200, meaning you have a lot more room than a "variable" screen size, which could mean that everyone's widget is below the fold. A term of the future advertisers may have been that it must be above the fold with some consistency, so that is likely the reason that this measure has been put into place. However, it will likely make browsing sites easier in the future.

The Credit System - The credit system will remain in place, even after the "switch" to a more monetary-based system, so there are no fees involved with the site - credits will be converted into cash, not the other way around. Additionally, the owner stated that the system would remain free and would never cost anything to be a member/purchase credits to use the system.

Potential Ads - With the new monetization method, there will be ads placed in up to 50% of the addressable market, so users will have to deal with them in their widget. I don't know exactly how this will take place, as some users won't "drop cards" as frequently, although it may lead to more benefits down the road with an increased cash flow between members and the site.

No ads for male enhancement drugs/any drugs, adult-themed ads, nudity, and gambling/casino will be displayed, otherwise the one opportunity for monetizing the site will be gone.

Credit Fees to Reject Ads - There will be no fees to reject ads, so some members may feel the need to reject all ads. However, I feel that this method will still be the wrong approach - why not let members choose from a set of advertisers or categories and have the ads displayed from them, rather than approving/denying individual ads/companies and having the risk of too many rejections on the part of advertisers.

Moving Forward - The exchange system is set to go live sometime later this week or early next week. We will have to wait and see what will come out of it, what rates will be, and how many users will stick to the credit-for-credit or new credit-for-cash exchange program. A major concern is not the monetization factor, but the fact that ads will be infused into the widget, up to 50% of the time.

Help with the Entrecard Market

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It's now been more than a month since the Entrecard Market was launched, and there are quite a number of listings in there. Because it has been a rather decent amount of time to determine what is available and what isn't, I'd like to make some comments on the system and give you an idea on how to extend your reach using the system.

Entrecard Marketplace Tour

Be sure that you are logged in before reading this - this is a guide through the Marketplace area.

Everyone that is a member of Entrecard is automatically able to add listings, unless of course you have been banned from using the area. In most cases, you will be able to post an "unlimited' number of listings, meaning that you are able to earn an unlimited number of credits, depending on how much members are willing to spend and how inflated/deflated the value of credits is.

Assuming that there is a fluctuating value of credits when the new exchange system is officially launched, the Market should become a more viable area for people to earn credits and have a real value for what they are exchanging with other members. At this point, it is a "free" market, in that no money is spent, simply the time that you spent trying to earn credits. For this reason, not many high-value items have been placed into the system, other than a few odds and ends. This isn't to say that there aren't some more valuable items, like homemade creations that the person selling the item has to pay for materials and shipping costs, while the buyer only has to spend credits.

What People are Selling

At this time, the largest area for sellers is clearly 'Advertising,' which has many marketing services mixed in, like StumbleUpon submissions, Diggs, etc. There are more than five pages in this area of listings (approximately 240 listings), more than double the next largest area, 'Services,' which has similar items. Nearly every other category may only have a small number of listings, and this is to be expected by what the costs versus return value is.

Most Popular Areas

There are three areas that you can see the most popular items, starting with the category view, and the listings on each page. At the top of each page, you will see some higher-valued items, while at the bottom some Staff Favorites are chosen in each category. However, this is placed towards the bottom, so they probably don't get the extra views that they should or want to get.

The Top Sellers have up to 37 items in the marketplace, and this will likely grow with more consistent numbers if more members see the marketplace as a way to earn extra credits - translating into cash in the future. For example, while eBay or other online bidding/selling services offer the ability to market your service to others, there are often large selling fees and shipping costs that you must pay. With Entrecard, you can set the price at any height, and there will likely be someone that comes along and wants to purchase it. This will likely go into more effect once the conversion service starts.

Looking over the list of most popular items, StumbleUpon posts, blog visits, and Diggs are the top items, while the most popular category, Advertising-related items doesn't appear too frequently in this area. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Getting Listed

On the main page, to start listing an item, go to the right panel, click 'Add a listing' and proceed to add the information related to the item.

You will need the following to get started:
  • Title
  • Description
  • Category
  • Delivery Details - Details a buyer must provide for you to correctly deliver the product/service.
  • Price - Price in Entrecard credits per item.
  • Stock - Number of items you have or are able to sell.
  • Small Image - A 64x64 image of the item.
  • Profile Image - A 300x200 image of the item or a larger snapshot.
The item will appear immediately in the marketplace and you will have potential buyers within a few minutes.

Check the listing to be sure that all details are correct. You can change them at any time, although you wouldn't want to change them too dramatically after people have seen the item.

Returning back to the main area, you can view listings - clicking on a listing will bring up an area that allows you to "Feature this listing' - found in the sidebar panel.

Front Page, Top - 1,995 credits/week - The premium spot, this places your 150x100 pixel advert right at the top of the front market page and your category page, and gives you the featured star in listings. (currently sold out).

Front Page, Center - 995 credits/week - Places your 120x90 pixel advert in the middle of the front market page and gives you the featured star in listings.

Category Page, Top - 995 credits/week - Places your 150x100 pixel advert right at the top of your category page, and gives you the featured star in listings.

Featured - 45 credits/week - Marks your listing with the featured star.

These will all simply give you a more prominent location in the listings area, but doesn't really expose your listing to all members, other than those visiting the marketplace area.

When an item does sell, you have several options, which help give you some control over whether someone has paid and when you should begin 'shipping' an item. Remember that there is a tax applied for orders to maintain some level of control over credits.

Conclusion

If you have any other further questions or comments, please address them below. I'd like to hear some of your feedback and experience with the Market system and whether your items have/have not sold.

It is still in "beta" at the moment, so new features could be added in the upcoming time frame.

New Layout Implemented

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A new layout was in the works and has been implemented. It isn't one of my own but will be further customized in the future to provide a better experience for all visitors and members of Entrecard.

At this time, I would like to ask you what additional features or types of posts you would like to see on this blog, and whether the layout/template has any issues at this time.

Later this week, I will provide some updates on the new ad network at Entrecard and how it is impacting users, as well as several new tip posts for getting the most out of the system.

Update: All the extra areas have been filled in and problems have been corrected. The slider at the top will probably not be activated, because I can promote the most recent posts on the main page (it isn't a complete magazine theme).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Entrecard Launching a "Third-Party Ad Network" and a "Credit Cashout Service"

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In a post today, the owner of Entrecard announced a few new ideas and this has enraged some members, who are stating that they are leaving the system.

When you look at the number of page views the network serves monthly, the move to monetization only makes sense - the service isn't free for the owners to run nor is it cheap. For the past year and a half, the service has only had capital and a little extra cash from sponsorships enter the system to pay for hosting. The moves today appear to have angered members who expected the service to remain completely ad free, even when it was stated in previous posts that there wasn't a way to monetize the system without placing ads within the widget.

New Rules - Having some consistency with the one page scroll rule makes sense, as some sites are dozens of pages long with the ad at the bottom. It will mean more people will be able to "drop" on your site and "advertisers" will see more rewards.

What Makes Sense

Cash Out Credits - Since the start, it was apparent that bloggers wanted more from the system than just the ability to draw in new traffic, visitors, and subscribers, who may have been using the network. People complained when there wasn't the ability to cash out their credits, especially when they were trying to do it through third-party services like eBay.

When you look at how people were selling credits in the past, everything was out of control. For one, the lowest rate for the most credits would always draw in the most bidders or buyers, resulting in deflation of the value of credits. In return, it cost more to advertise and you couldn't really sell credits anymore due to the rates they were being sold at.

For the people who want to sell credits, you need a controlled system, or everything spirals out of control. With the new system, should income be enough with the advertisers, it will likely result in the ability to earn cash. Now, this isn't something that everyone wanted to do, but from the look of things even when the site started, it was the way things were going to go.

Inflation Rates - Yes, the number of credits within the system is extremely high. It surprises me that more sites aren't worth more, and that more people aren't trying to get rid of their credits through advertising on other sites. There must be a way to reduce the number of credits without deflating the system too rapidly. I can't say that everyone will be selling their credits or using them to prevent ads from showing up on their widget [area], but we will just have to wait and see.

What Doesn't Make Sense

At this time, I can't say for certain what the new "ads on my site" will be like - how much control will you have and how much will you have to spend to reject to keep the ads off of your site. This could conflict with the Today Network or other sites that do not allow the exchange of cash for ads.

For the people looking to sell credits, will you get "face value" for them (approximately $6/1000 credits) or will it be an amount that is more realistic for Entrecard, in their favor?

Now these advertisers, whoever they are, hasn't been pointed out at this time. It makes more sense to have advertisers that the owner of the site can approve or deny - as in, you are given the choice of ten or so and you have to select at least one to appear on your site, even though this isn't in the best interests of blog owners either. It is a co-launch, so it might be with a well-respected advertising agency, but we will just have to wait and see.

Your Comments

What do you think of the new changes? I will just hang in to see what happens and how it affects the general network, which was based (on the most part) on freedom of how you run your site and getting free rewards for work that you put in. Maybe this move will change all that?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Entrecard Contest to Clean up the Network

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A new contest is being held at Entrecard to help clean up the network of spam blogs. You will simply need to become familiar with what is and is not a "spam" blog as defined by the Blog Quality Standards and Terms of Service.

Then, report a blog (or multiple blogs) that have some things wrong with them, which go against the terms, including automatically loading audio, non-English, etc., and report the site for a violation.

Each "warning" counts as one point and every "deletion" counts as two points. The more points you have, the more likely you are to win the contest, which is up to 10,000 Entrecard credits (nearly 25,000 total).

You have exactly one week to enter the contest, it will end on March 19, 2009.

Hopefully a combined effort can help clean up the site of blogs that aren't really blogs and violate common "laws" of building websites.

Monday, March 2, 2009

February 2009 Top Droppers

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This is a list of the Top Droppers for February 2009. To get on this list, please continue dropping your "card" on this blog.

Dropper# of drops
Septagon Studios Inc News Blog31
BMWF1Blog30
My gypsygoods30
More Than Sew So29
Of Trends and Aces27
Online Games27
Stevenage SG125
Breathing In25
Two for Tea25
EU Watch25





Totals exceeding the twenty-eight days in February are due to the fact that the system accounts for the last 31 consecutive days, not by month.