I should probably have written this a few days ago.
Are we normal?
It all started when I was training some local government web folk on the dark arts of Google Analytics.
One of the pieces of data that Google Analytics (or indeed many other analytics tools) will give you about visits to your website (which Google Analytics calls sessions) is what proportion of them are “bounces”.
Someone bounces on your site if they only view one page in their visit*.
So if your page is there to provide helpful information, you’d probably be quite pleased with a high bounce rate because it suggests people are searching for information, finding it and leaving again.
On the other hand you might have designed a site which encourages people to browse around, stumbling across new things. In which case bouncing would be bad.
And, of course, local authorities are service providers. If people come to your website to pay for things, request things, or book things then they (hopefully) won’t bounce either.
So the question these folk asked was “Is our bounce rate typical for local government?”. Which is an interesting question and one I couldn’t directly answer.
Is that the right question?
Now obviously the key question should be “Is it the bounce rate you expected when you designed the site?” In fact I argue you should always know what good looks like before delving in to analytics tools.
But it’s always nice to compare to others. It’s always useful to be able to think “I would expect my site to behaving very much like X council” and then find out if it is or isn’t.
And a question that always bothered me when I was responsible for local government digital services was what level of mobile traffic I should expect. Other councils had higher proportions of mobile traffic than my council. But was this a factor of serving a rural population? Was it a factor of the sort of services and content we provided? Was it an aspect of the way we marketed our services.
The more I thought about it, the more interesting (and useful) I thought it would be if we could see this data for each local authority.
So I decided to ask them.
It’s my fault
So, I’m afraid I’m responsible for a flurry of FOIA requests flying around the country. I’ve tried to keep the request specific and simple to answer.
I hadn’t quite appreciated how much email traffic it would generate or how much admin it would involve me in. But hopefully in a few weeks I should have a large dataset of some key metrics.
This is not about league tables or declaring winners: the only correct bounce rate is the one you intended for your site. This is about trying to help describe the ranges and differences between types of authorities and different parts of the UK.
I’ll be sharing it all back and I hope that it will be a useful contribution to the sector.
That said, I may think twice before embarking on a mass FOIA again…
*Inevitably it’s actually more complex than that but that’ll do for the purposes of this blog post.