The Dumpster Fire That is Your Site Abandonment Rate

by Angus Lynch on August 11, 2014
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I chose the term “dumpster fire” for a reason.

The massive pool of users who abandon your site—by most counts 70 – 95% of total visitors—share a common element: they didn’t take your desired action.

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But it’s a mistake to label them as a single group, because they end up in the dumpster for all different reasons.

Some didn’t get their questions answered. Some weren’t enticed by your offer. Some found your content wasn’t relevant. Some couldn’t navigate your design. Some got distracted. And others just bounced, because hell, that’s just what web traffic does sometimes.

But when it comes to your bottom line, it doesn’t really matter why they left. It’s all one big raging fire to you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss strategy for how and why you can address this problem. Queue the buzzkill.

When looking for gold, your first step isn’t digging with a shovel

Ah yes, some articles make it seem so easy don’t they?

You probably know the ones I’m talking about. They have headlines like ‘10 Easy Ways to Get 30% More Conversions’ or ‘How to Double Your Opt-ins With 1 Easy Step.’ For the sake of playing nice, I won’t link to any of these articles, but you’ve probably read more than a few.

The problem with these ‘1 easy step’ articles is that they gloss over one very important thing: they don’t tell you how much time it took to find that one easy fix. They don’t mention the 5-hour strategy session that identified that one necessary tweak. All they tell you are the results, and that you can do it too.

One of my favourite memes to circulate the web recently illustrates this point perfectly:

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Here’s another story to illustrate (and one you’ve probably heard before): A man calls a plumber to fix his sink. The plumber arrives, looks at the problem, and then proceeds to fix it with one swing of his hammer. He then turns to the customer and requests $100 for his services. When the customer objects that it only took 2 minutes, the plumber replies “It’s $10 to swing the hammer, and $90 for knowing where to hit.”

So in other words, though conversion optimization can appear simple (heck, we’ve all read case studies where changing button colour leads to incredible results), the discovery process behind finding out where to make your adjustments takes time.

That said, it’s worth it to the 1000th degree. There’s much to be gained from the insight gathered from conversion optimization testing. It may not be easy as 1-2-3, but it’s far from impossible.

But since your dumpster fire continues to rage, let’s dig in to what you can do about it.

Tools for identifying how and where users are leaving

The first step to putting out your dumpster fire is finding the source of the problem.

There are plenty of online tools—with varying levels of sophistication—that can help you zero in on why your traffic is bailing early. Here are three of the best:

Tool #1: Google Analytics

We won’t go too far into this one, as there are plenty of good Google Analytics tutorials available already. GA is sophisticated, easy-to-install and free.

GA will give you two key metrics as it relates to site abandonment: bounce rate and exit rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visited only a single page on your site before leaving. Exit rate is the percentage of users who viewed a particular page last before leaving.

As defined by Google:

For all sessions that start with the page, bounce rate is the percentage that were the only one of the session.”

For all pageviews to the page, the exit rate is the percentage that were the last in the session.”

Abnormally high exit and/or bounce rates are indicative of low relevancy.

You can find your site’s bounce rate by going to the Reporting tab in the top navigation bar, and then In-Page Analytics on the left sidebar.


To find your exit rates, go to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages in the left sidebar, and you’ll see the rate populate for each page.

The primary value here is identifying which pages have a high bounce and/or exit rate relative to other pages on the site. Both are a great first step to getting at the root of the problem.

Cost: Free

Tool #2: Crazy Egg

This is one of our favourite tools. Crazy Egg provides ‘heatmaps’ and clickmaps that show where users are going and clicking on your website. Here’s a sample heatmap below:

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Crazy Egg will help you identify issues on pages that your users are experiencing, and give suggestions for correcting these problems.

  1. Right off the bat, Crazy Egg will tell you which parts of your site are getting the most attention from users. The great thing is you don’t need experience with analytics to understand the heatmap/clickmap—the colour-coded legend is simple.
  1. It shows you everywhere a user is clicking, including places where there are no links. This is good insight, as it identifies places where users think a link should be. Maybe your users are clicking on an un-linked product photo? Maybe they think a particular graphic is a navigation bar? The insights into your user behavior are numerous.
  1. If you’ve ever wondered how far down the page your users scroll, a Scroll Map will tell you. Since many landing pages require a fair bit of scrolling to get all the way through, this feature is particularly handy for finding out what’s important to your users, and what isn’t. Further, Crazy Egg will identify the average viewing time for different parts of your page—another important measurement of user engagement.

It’s important to install Crazy Egg on your most important pages—pages with high-traffic and/or high revenue—in order to generate results. After this, the insights you glean from these high-traffic pages can be applied to other parts of your site.

Cost: Monthly plans start at $9.

Tool #3: ClickTale

ClickTale has a really interesting set of features. It lets you watch videos of your visitors’ screens as they navigate your site, along with many other useful tools.

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ClickTale provides videos of browsing sessions in Flash video format. Yep, with just a simple signup, you can become that creepy school principal spying on his student’s computer screens. Only you’ll get much more value of out this.

Another great feature is that you can sort videos by attributes such as country, total elapsed time of visit, and number of page views. So if you’re finding users from the U.K. who view two pages are bouncing at an unusually high rate, a library of videos awaits that shows how these users interact with your site, and where the problem lies.

And here’s our favourite ClickTale feature: it allows you to see how visitors are interacting with your forms. Drop Report shows you how many visitors drop out at each specific form field. Given how important forms are to conversion optimization, we consider this a very useful feature.

Cost: Monthly plans start at $99

Great, I now have some idea why my users are bailing. Now what?

The tools we’ve discussed should give you actionable information—and I stress actionable—because without actually doing something about it, it’s not terribly useful.

Now it’s time for the next step: plugging the holes in your site that are leaking visitors.

Strategy #1: Optimizing and A/B Testing Your Important Pages

Through our award-winning conversion optimization business, we help customers improve the performance of their site through the principles of A/B testing.

But I’m not here to push those services, as this post is all about what you can do to improve your site’s performance. So what I’ll do instead is share the formula we’ve developed that shows what to prioritize when optimizing your own pages for our Crowdvert clients:

In our research / experience, conversion improvements come from one of 7 factors that fit into the following formula:

CR = (Motivation + Urgency + Ability)*Relevance + (Clarity + Focus)* Trust


Motivation = How well the you encourage the visitor to take your desired action.

Urgency = How well you convey the value of acting now.

Ability = How well the visitor can accomplish your desired action.

Relevance = How well the user’s expectations align with what they experience on your site.

Clarity = How well you make it clear to the visitor why they should choose you.

Focus = How well every part of the process supports the visitor’s path towards your desired action.

Trust = How well you convince users that you can provide what they’re looking for.

So for any page you evaluate, consider these 7 factors. It’s a good place to start developing your A/B testing hypothesis.

And with these 7 factors as a primer, I want to recommend a fantastic free beginner’s guide written by online marketing and conversion optimization experts Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam.

The guide is called The Definitive Guide to Conversion Optimization, and you can find it by clicking the image below:


Neil and Joseph have done a great job of laying out the principles of conversion rate optimization in simple terms, and the graphics really help make the information more digestible.

We highly recommend you set aside some time to review this guide in its entirety, and further, take some time to check out Neil’s excellent blog at

Implementing the principles in this guide will likely require learning new skills related to online marketing in order to succeed. But it’s all worth it in the end, as to our knowledge, it’s the most bottom line-driven online marketing practice out there.

Strategy #2: Using exit overlays

Time is a valuable commodity for all marketers. With so many ideas to pursue, it can be difficult to prioritize and focus our efforts on what’s truly generating returns.

And when it comes to conversion optimization, the outlay of time is the greatest drawback for most marketers.

So if you fall into this category, and don’t have the time or inclination to conduct your own conversion optimization experiments, what can you do to plug those holes in your site without draining a huge amount of time?

Let’s crystallize the question: if you had only 2 hours to optimize your site, what would you do?

For us, the answer lies in a new marketing technique that utilizes what’s called exit-intent technology.

In a nutshell, exit-intent technology uses exit overlays to recover value from abandoning users by capturing email addresses, social followers, sales leads—and eventually—paying customers. Exit overlays use tracking algorithms to detect when a user is about to abandon a site, and use what’s known as ‘pattern interrupt’ to convince the user to hang around a little longer.

A rooster exit overlay on, launched when the user begins to abandon the page

The big advantage is that after designing and implementing your exit overlay, the process is automated.

So while it will require ponying up for a monthly subscription service to launch your exit overlay—and will require some investment to set the creative direction—it’s comparable to the costs you’ll incur to run your own A/B tests, and the time investment is far less.

Five more advantages to using exit overlays:

  1. Exit overlays pull value (leads, sales & signups) from the massive pool of users who commonly abandon websites without taking your desired action—and that pool is pretty damn big.
  1. Exit overlays can segment abandoning users into different groups—first-time visitors, returning visitors who haven’t purchased, users who are about to abandon a shopping cart—and tailor your overlay’s message accordingly.
  1. Since many users aren’t willing to commit on their first visit, exit overlays are a great strategy to gain contact information from abandoning users, especially if your ‘ask’ is an opt-in for a newsletter or email subscription.
  1. Exit overlays don’t compromise the on-site experience by interrupting users or activating when a user is trying to follow a different path on your website.
  1. Exit overlays can vastly reduce or eliminate the cost of re-targeting users who have abandoned your site.

After hearing feedback from numerous clients about the need to automate certain conversion optimization tasks, we spent the past 13 months developing our own tool that uses our advanced exit-detection and targeting technology.

The tool is called Rooster, and it’s designed for one purpose: to recover value from users who abandon your site without taking your desired action.

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The early results have surprised even us. We’ve had a client increase sales leads from their website by 300%. Another client converted over 28% of their sign-ups generated through Rooster into paying customers. Most importantly, none of our customers have received any negative complaints that Rooster disrupts the user experience.

If you’re interested in finding out how many abandoning visitors Rooster can convert into leads, sales and signups, it’s now available on a free 30-day trial.



One response to The Dumpster Fire That is Your Site Abandonment Rate

  1. In a dumpster… really?

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