Note: To start with the fundamentals of bounce rates, read Marketing 101: Understanding Bounce Rates.
Here’s our best practical advice for how can you improve your bounce rate. Not all of these suggestions will be relevant for every website, but doing all you can to lower your bounce rate will contribute greatly towards increasing the overall success of your site.
- Page content – An obvious first place to take a close look is the content of each entry page in your website: Does it provide real value? Does it entice the visitor to read on and explore the site more deeply? Is the information fresh and current? Does the page content follow naturally from the headlines? Is it well-written in terms of the quality and style that is appropriate for your audience? Does it project credibility? Is the text presented with good readability? (Readability tips: divide text into small paragraphs, break it up with images, use bullet/numbered lists when appropriate and include subheadings for each section of the page.) If your page content does not successfully address the needs or wants of your visitors, they’ll vote with the browser’s Back button instead of sticking around to read more of what you’ve got to say.
- Design and usability – Maybe your content is great, but it’s wrapped in a design that turns users off. Or maybe the site is just too hard to use. The “user experience” (UX) of a site is a huge factor in encouraging visitors to stick around and spend more time clicking around your site. You can read about this yourself in countless places online, or retain the services of a professional UX designer to evaluate your site and suggest ways to improve the design and functionality.
- Calls to action – This is an important subset of design/usability: Your pages should be designed to make it clear to visitors where they should click next: a button to perform a particular action, a link to another relevant page, a form to fill in or any other action that you want visitors to perform. If your calls to actions are weak, uninteresting or difficult to spot, visitors may click Back instead of proceeding deeper into your site. Likewise, you want to make sure that you aren’t confusing your visitors by showing them too many calls to action. Click here to read all about improving your calls to action.
- Site navigation – Another important aspect of UX is how easy it is to navigate around the site. If users find it too hard or uninviting to look around the site, they won’t. Make it easy to spot links to other pages that will be of value to the visitors of the page, with “You might also like” types of links beside/below articles and, even better, a balanced number of relevant in-line internal links that make it easy and obvious to find related content.
- Ad messaging/keywords – If you’re paying for ads to direct traffic to your site, it’s really important that the messages being conveyed by your ads, and the keywords you’re bidding on, match the content users will find after clicking an ad. Many users are already somewhat wary of ads, but will click them when they appear to be very relevant. Therefore, it’s super-important that the landing page clearly and immediately demonstrate to visitors that it relates directly to the ad’s message and keywords. If already-skeptical users don’t instantly see that they’ve come to the “right place,” they’ll disappear just as quickly as they arrived.
- Mobile-friendly pages – Does your site use “responsive design” techniques so that it looks great on large and small screens alike? A large percentage of your visitors are probably using their phones to see your website (check your analytics reports to see what screen resolutions your visitors are using – Google Analytics even reports on the size and orientation of the browser window being used). If your site isn’t good-looking and easy to navigate on small screens, many of those users will just hit Back, increasing your bounce rate.
- Page load speed – While no one enjoys waiting for a webpage to load, if a page takes too long to appear – poof! – your visitors will disappear even before they see the page. Slow-loading pages (generally considered as those that take more than two seconds to appear) almost always result in high bounce rates because users click the Back button even before they see what’s on the page. To check how fast your pages are loading, use a free online tool, such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which also presents specific recommendations for improving load times.
- Selfish pop-ups – One sure way to send visitors running as soon as they see a page is to include elements that drive people crazy. Make sure that your pop-ups are functional and deliver the user some sort of value. If you’re collecting email addresses, state the value of being on your list by highlighting any coupons, campaigns, or sneak peaks that come with being on a list.
- External links – It might be very generous of you to provide links to other websites of relevance to your audience, but if many visitors are clicking on those links, you’re directly increasing your bounce rates. Since your goal is probably to keep your visitors clicking around your site more, consider very carefully whether or not you should be including any external links on your entry pages.
- Broken links – If your site contains broken links, visitors might be trying to read additional pages, but are unable to because links they click lead nowhere! For this reason (and other important ones), it is important to regularly scan your site and make sure that all links are working properly. Two free online link-checking tools are W3C Link Checker and Dr. Link Check.
An Extra Bit of Bounce Rate Wisdom
Any good website analyst will tell you that looking at a monolithic bounce rate metric has the potential to be misleading. Best practices dictate that you segment your visitors and look at the bounce rate of each segment individually.
For example, looking at desktop and mobile visitors separately might be able to tell you a lot about differences in experience that your site delivers via different types of devices – as opposed to problems your site might have with its content or design.
Another example is looking at the bounce rate of visitors segmented by traffic source – if particular traffic sources have unusually high bounce rates, then (a) they will be skewing your overall bounce rate up, and (b) you might want to stop trying to acquire traffic from those sources.
Likewise, segmenting by the keywords that led visitors to the site can generate insights that can improve keyword targeting and content strategies.
Something else to consider is if a bounced visitor is actually a bad thing on your site (or on particular pages). Reasons why bounces reported by analytics software might not actually be a problem include when a visitor:
- Picks up the phone to call you to place an order even if she doesn’t click into a second page
- Found the information she was looking for immediately without needing to look around any further
- Clicks a Like or Follow link to connect with you via social media
- Clicks a link to an external site controlled by you, or that compensates you for clicks or referrals
- Completes a form on the landing page that doesn’t then redirect to another page on your site
There might be other reasons as well; the point is that you need to take into account all the possible scenarios and understand how they impact your bounce rates – and when there is really a problem to solve.