3 ways to fight site abandonment

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It's like the Swiffer commercial, where an old sponge-mop is outside a window, peeking in at a housewife who has moved on to better mops, while "Love Stinks" plays in the background. The old mop is trying to win her back, even going so far as to hire a Mariachi band to court its perfidious ex-partner.

In this case, you're the sponge-mop.

We're talking about site-abandonment, and especially early abandonment -- the kind that leaves you feeling like a toddler dropped off at a nunnery, and you never know why, though you spend your life trying to find out.

Digital marketers, especially those who rely on campaigns to drive ecommerce, suffer greatly from abandonment rates, which can run as high as 80 percent for a typical landing page. All marketers are affected by it, even if their KPIs don't involve selling something online. In fact, any failure to complete a scenario -- any loss of traffic anywhere in the funnel -- is a symptom of abandonment: The target audience just didn't want to proceed. And isn't that the entire reason we perform web analytics at all? To find out why we can't get every single site visitor to do what we want them to do?

Perhaps a thousand types of measures have been devised about visitor behavior. The sheer number of report choices can nearly suffocate any search for the truth. There are so many interconnected measures that, at a certain point, it becomes like a house of mirrors -- no one can tell what's the real number or which measure can be relied upon for some type of objectivity.

In your search for objectivity, have you ever wondered if people's behavior is affected by how long they have to wait for your page to load? Have you ever abandoned because of load time?

Here are three ways, based on understanding load time, to help put abandonment in perspective -- and perhaps even decrease your abandonment rates:

Step 1: Admit you have a problem
The latest data shows that abandonment increases dramatically after a wait time of four seconds. In net time, four seconds is like four hours of driving: "Are we there yet?" becomes "Let's just pull over." And all of your marketing efforts suddenly become road-kill.

Slow load time can be caused by a number of problems, some of them obvious, some of them hidden, and all of them addressable.

The first thing you'll want to look at is content richness.

Ouch.

You may be thinking content richness is what everybody is looking for. How can you survive without Flash, without embedded video, without whirling, dancing eye-candy for a user base that seems to think a chance browser encounter should be as glittery as a stroll down the Las Vegas Strip?

Your content might be too rich, and yes, it might take too long to download. It might ask for too many plug-ins. It might be unsupported by your target user's browser.

Or, your page load problem may be caused by something that has nothing to do with over-rich content. It could turn out that your server is slower than a dinosaur in a dunce-cap; then again, you might have a peerage issue somewhere between you and Timbuktu. The hunt for KPI completion does not begin and end with earning kudos from your colleagues in a closed environment where everything runs at optimum speed and every link works just the way it ought to.

You need to get out of the conference room and into the real world. That's where the real story of page load begins and ends. And, as noted above, the trouble may not even be content richness. But how do you measure that? Read on.

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