Reducing Bounce Rates for Websites & Blogs

by | Jan 4, 2012 | Best Practices, Blog, Blog Archive, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

Bounce rate is the measurement for the number of visitors who leave a website or blog within seconds of their arrival.  I like to call it the “THAT isn’t what I wanted” metric.  Sometimes the bounce rate is a problem – and sometimes it isn’t.  You can find the bounce rate easily for any webpage or blog that has Google Analytics installed; the  graphic below shows what a typical Google Analytics bounce rate table looks like.

For instance, blogs can often have a higher bounce rate than other websites because people come to read a particular short post – and leave as soon as they’ve seen what they came for.  So bounce rates of 40-50% aren’t uncommon even for very good blogs – but a bounce rate even higher might not even be a problem for a blog that delivers daily quotes, jokes, or cartoons.

On the other hand, most SEO experts suggest that a bounce rate of 20-30% is much more acceptable for most websites that are optimized for search engine marketing.  There is no real rule of thumb for what’s the right bounce rate to expect or accept, but there are a number of ways to make sure that your website and blog aren’t encouraging high bounce rates.

Let’s start with the fact that the page itself – its design and content – may not be the problem causing a high bounce rate.  Often the problem starts with the visitor’s purpose for visiting the page.  People bounce if they don’t find what they’re looking for – it’s that simple.  So before you can improve your bounce rate, take a step back and determine the visitor’s interest of motive for landing on that page.

Also, a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem.   For instance, many websites include “store locator” pages where customers can search for the branch nearest a particular location.  Those customers want three things:

  • The location
  • The hours of operation
  • An address or phone number

So if the page is a success, they might get what they want in less than five seconds.  That might look like a page with a high bounce rate unless the context for the page is considered.  But I’d call a page that gives customers the information needed to come in to make a purchase – in less than 5 seconds – a very well-designed, effective page, wouldn’t you?

Here are the four tips I share with clients who ask me about bounce rates.

1.      Consider traffic sources.  Were they following a keyword that isn’t relevant to the real purpose of the page? Or perhaps following a link to an image that attracts attention but isn’t core to your product or service?  If so, rework your page to focus on the keywords that are more likely to attract the right traffic.  At first, you may see less traffic overall – but the visitors who do arrive are more valuable because their purpose for visiting better matches your content.  Would you rather have 1,000 visitors who are actively looking for your company, products, and services – or 10,000 visitors looking for something you can’t sell?

Pictures may be one source of high bounce rates, especially images of celebrities or models in easily described costumes.  For instance, if you sell medical equipment that is used to detect early-stage skin-cancer, it might be tempting to use a beach photo to illustrate a page on the importance of cancer screening – but do you really want the traffic that comes from searching for images using keywords like  “beach photos” or “swimsuit photo”?  Probably not.

2.      De-clutter pages. It’s tempting to cram lots of information, resources, calls to action, and sign-up boxes on to each page.  Don’t — too much clutter drives visitors away. Each page should have a clear, primary purpose. While you can include a few secondary purposes, make sure those are relatively discreet and do not distract from the main purpose.

Optimize each page for no more than three keywords; you may include others in the tags on a blog post, but limit the number of keywords you’re optimizing for to limit the scope of each page.  This makes it more likely that visitors will find what they’re looking for instead of stumbling onto a page that only mentions the topic they’re interested in as an aside.

3.      Focus on the call to action. Think of each page as a landing page, and assume that visitors are arriving there based on a call to action or a search engine referral.  It’s easy to write web copy as if you were writing a book, with the assumption web pages are like chapters in a book, each following another.  But while authors may be able to assume that people start at chapter one and move through the book, bloggers and web developers cannot make that assumption.

So make sure that each page stands on its own.  Focus on product’s features and benefits on the product page.  On a newsletter sign-up page, tell people what they’ll get if they sign up, and make it easy for them to do so.  Treat your visitors the way you want to be treated, and give them what they want as quickly as possible.  Those who want to drill down for more information will do it through the navigation tools and links on the main page – and the rest will find what they need and then move on.

4.      Address the audience simply and clearly. You have 2-3 seconds to show a site visitor that the page they’re on will give them the information they want.  Don’t try to be subtle or clever.  Go with a simple, clean design.  Anything that makes the process of finding what they want quickly will encourage bounces.

Use sub-heads to help them find information on the page, and use graphics and illustrations that convey information clearly and simply.  Most of all, keep the copy short and simple, and focused on the page’s purpose.

Last, but hardly least, review your metrics regularly. It’s the only way to better  understand your audience.  Sometimes good ideas are just that.  Reviewing the metrics will help you to gauge your audience and their activity.  For example a blue link to a registration form or a “click here” button captures different use cases and provides guidance as to the best ways to get your desired activity.

Laura Bergeron is Director of Client Care at Distribion, Inc., where she manages training and best practices implementation for a diverse base of large, multi-channel distributed marketing organizations with more than 150,000 users.

Photo credit:  Beth Kanter made this screen shot from a Google Analytics report available on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.