The new beta version of the Safari 4 browser is jam-packed with new features: 150 according to Apple. One of the most appealing features is called “Top Sites”, which is the ability to have your favorite sites shown as graphical previews, as shown below.
What’s so special about Top Sites? Besides the fact that it provides a nice graphical view of your favorite sites, it lets you know if they’ve also been updated since your last visit. That’s right. Safari automatically fetches for new site content in the background and lets you know (using the blue stars in the right corner) that your top sites have been updated.
While this is very convenient for the user, it introduces new challenges for web analytics practitioners. Primarily, the inclusion of your site in your visitors’ top sites means an increasing amount of artificial traffic. Primarily, if you’re in a situation where users of Safari place your site in one of their top sites and don’t end up visiting your site, the traffic will likely show as bouncing traffic. This results in an increase in your bounce rate even though the visitor never entered your site.
We have tested the inclusion of a number of sites in Top Sites and have seen the traffic registered in web analytics even though we never visited the sites.
Safari 4 is currently in beta, so only a small percentage of your audience is exposed to “Top Sites”. Once generally available, this is sure to cause an increase in bounce rates for some popular sites. More importantly, the Safari market share has been on the rise, according to the figure below by Market Share. The latest figures show the market share at 8%. This means that as Safari continues to gain traction, this problem is bound to get bigger.
So as you’re analyzing your data, keep this trend into consideration as it could impact your overall bounce rates.