Understanding Bounce Rate

When it comes to website metrics, you generally want to see high numbers on whatever analytics reporting system you use. You want lots of unique visitors, long amounts of time being spent on your site, and page hits to go through the roof. However, there is one number that you almost always want to be as low as possible, and that’s what we’re going to discuss here.

What Is Bounce Rate?

Google Analytics will report bounce rate, showing you how many people visit only a single page of your site and leave.
Google Analytics will report bounce rate, showing you how many people visit only a single page of your site and leave.

Anytime people come to your website, that is considered a visit. If a person comes to your site and leaves after only viewing the page they landed on, that is considered a bounce. They essentially “bounced” off of your website.

Your bounce rate is the number of visitors who bounced, divided by the total number of visitors to your website (those who did and did not bounce). As a metric, this number can show you what percentage of your visitors are not viewing more than one page of your website.

I mentioned that the bounce rate is a number that you almost always want to be as low as possible–almost being the operative word. For some websites and pages, a high bounce rate is normal. For instance, if you have a one page website, a high bounce rate is perfectly normal because there are no other pages to view. If you have your contact information on every page (such as a phone number in the header of the page) for the purpose of being contacted by visitors, a high bounce rate can be considered normal as long as you’re being contacted.

For websites that want flow through traffic, such a site that sells products, you will want a lower bounce rate. The more often people click through your site, the more they learn about your products and are likely to buy something. If you have an advertisement supported website, the more a visitor clicks through your site, the better it looks to your current and potential advertisers.

What can a high bounce rate tell you?

A high bounce rate can indicate a need for improvement in either your content, your site design, or both. If a visitor lands on a page on your site and can’t find their way to any other relevant or interesting content, they’ll leave. If they land on a page and it is either wrong, doesn’t make sense or is badly written, they won’t stick around. Make sure you write and present your content in the best way possible, and utilize a layout that makes the visitor want to continue to other areas of your site.

Things that can cause a bounce:

Lots of pop ups

Everyone hates pop ups, and using them can cause negative reactions to your website, especially if there are more than one per page.

Overloading your site with advertisements will cause your visitors to leave your site in a hurry
Overloading your site with advertisements, popups and other invasive items will cause your visitors to leave your site in a hurry

Overloaded Advertisements

Following right along with multiple popups, overloading your pages with advertisements can drive a visitor away in a hurry. It’s understandable that your website may be ad supported, but don’t over do it. It can get to a point where the content is being overpowered by advertisements and the visitor has a hard time using or reading your page.

Noise (music, sound effects, autoplaying video ads)

Unless you are running a music or video website, it’s not a good idea to have music or videos automatically play when the page loads. The visitor may already be listening to music, so your website shouldn’t interfere with what they are doing. I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve immediately left because of autoplaying noise that I don’t want to hear.

Content Issues

Make sure that your content is correct. If what you’re presenting is badly written or simply incorrect, the visitor is unlikely to visit the rest of your website. The same goes for dry and boring content. You don’t have to sound like a technical manual, even if you are a writing technical manual. Try to to keep your readers interested because if they bounce for this reason, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever return.

“Top X Pictures” showing one picture per page

A trick used by some webmasters to increase their page views is to show a list of pictures across several pages, but placing only one picture on each page. This is highly annoying to a user. Rather than being able to see the full list of pictures on one page, you have to click through multiple pages, loading a new page each time. It’s a time consuming trick that drives some people away from the site, especially if the user doesn’t notice that they must click through several pages to view the pictures.

Slow pages

If a page is taking too long to load, it may be the only page they ever try. Make sure your site is loading quickly, and take any necessary steps to speed it up.

What is considered a high bounce rate?

This is a very hard question to answer. The reason is simple: not all websites or content are the same. A photo gallery for cars may have a lower bounce rate than a photo gallery for kitchen designs. A blog about current events in your hometown may have a higher bounce rate than one about current events in your state. Take into account that there are several types of websites that span across countless subjects. They won’t all have the same bounce rate.

Also, as I mentioned before, your site may have a high bounce rate because it’s only one page or has a call to action that doesn’t require the visitor to go further into the site to complete.

So how do you determine what a high bounce rate is? If you know other people who have similar websites, they may be able to give you an idea of what to expect. If not, you can research your website niche to find out what others are reporting. The best way I have found is to simply wait and review your analytics over time. If you have new content being added on a regular basis, you’ll be able to see how some pages rank against others.

If there doesn’t seem to be any consistency in bounce rate across your different pages, it’s likely that either some of your content is better than others, or your topics are so different from each other that judging an average bounce rate this way may not work. Compare the topics of pages that have a wide range between their bounce rate. Some pages will inherently have a higher bounce rate than others. For instance, your contact page will likely have a higher bounce rate than a list of your blog posts.

How can I lower my bounce rate?

While it’s true that you will always have visitors who bounce away from your site after one page view, there are ways that you can lower it. Below are a few effective methods I’ve used.

Internal Links

Internal linking can help reduce your bounce rate and provide your visitors with more information on your own site
Internal linking can help reduce your bounce rate and provide your visitors with more information on your own site

If you have a page that is discussing a topic which relates to other pages on your site, you can link to those pages within your content. This can attract a user to visit pages related to the content they are already reading, without having to leave your site. Link keywords and phrases to their relevant content found in other areas of your site, but don’t overdo it. A paragraph full of links can be irritating to look at for a visitor.

Related Posts

A list of related posts are internal links that connect to pages on your site with similar content. Depending on the way your posts are told to relate, you may be connecting to posts that have the same keywords, were written by the same author, or are in the same category on your website.

Related posts will usually show at the bottom of a page in a list, sometimes with a thumbnail image that represents the related page. It can attract a visitor to click through and read more of your content that relates to what they are already reading. Most Related Posts features on a website are generated automatically based on the content being viewed, which will make it easy to include.

Make your navigation easy to follow

A site that is easy to navigate around is going to have a much better chance of reducing it’s bounce rate. Use a clean, well designed navigation that isn’t complicated or overly cluttered.

Use your sidebars

On several sites I work with, we maximize the visibility of other areas of the site by using the sidebars. Showing links to other categories, new posts and related posts, visitor comments, and featured content, we have managed to reduce the bounce rate significantly as opposed to not using that space.

[info color=”light” ]Tip: Try using pictures to catch the visitors attention. When using a Featured Post widget in the sidebar, we also include an image to accompany that post. It catches the visitors attention better than just using text, and can help to reduce your bounce rate with each click through.[/info]

These tips should help you reduce your bounce rate and keep visitor traffic flowing through your site. There are many ways to reduce your bounce rate, but one of the best is to consider the site from a visitor’s point of view. Look at it from an outsider’s perspective, or better yet, ask others what they think of your site. Look for the negative so you can improve and keep people moving through your site to see the content you worked hard to build.

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