Bounce rate is on of those controversial metrics that those of us in the digital marketing world often argue about. Generally speaking, bounce rate is used as an indicator of a site’s overall user experience.
The idea being that if a person shows up on your site then immediately “bounces” off your site entirely instead of lingering to look around, then theoretically that’s bad. You likely have a high bounce rate.
Here’s how Google defines bounce rate:
“The percentage of single-page visits (i.e., visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page).”
The reason I said “theoretically” it’s bad is because it doesn’t really fit all situations. If you listen to SEO’s then presumably the reason the person bounced off your site right away is because the user experience is bad. They left because your site sucks.
That could be true but it could also be lots of other reasons. It could even mean the user experience was actually great! So great that the person came to your site and immediately found what they were looking for and left. Maybe they’ll come back later for something else.
A great example of this would be for a recipe site. If a person is looking for a specific recipe and finds it on your site they’ll probably bounce off because they got what they came for. That doesn’t mean the same person won’t come back later for another recipe. So that site may be doing great but also have a high bounce rate.
So as you can see bounce rate is not exactly cut and dry.
With those caveats out of the way let’s get down to the purpose of this post. By and large bounce rate is something you need to keep an eye on. You want people to stay on your site for as long as possible consuming your content.
With attention spans growing ever shorter and devices in our hands that provide instantaneous information there’s just no need to waste time looking at a website that sucks. What I mean by sucks is a poor user experience.
If I do a Google search for something and click on a link to a site that doesn’t load right away I’m gone. If I click a link to a site that gives me 2 dozen pop-up ads before I can see the content I’m gone.
I want what I want when I want it and I’m going to get it from the site that makes it the easiest for me to get.
I have no idea if I actually coined that quote or not. I literally just thought of it. If I stole that from someone please know it was not intentional. But it’s the truth. That’s not just how I feel it’s how everyone feels when searching for something online even if it’s subconscious.
Will all that in mind here are 5 tips for reducing the bounce rate on your website:
1. Look At Page Load Times
As I mentioned above I’m not going to wait for my content and neither is anyone else. There are too many other places to get it without having to wait. This is especially true for mobile devices. If your pages take more than 3 seconds to load you need to figure out why and fix it. One big reason for long load times is big images. Make sure to add image compression to your site. If you’re on WordPress there are some great plugins for this.
Google has a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that will clock your pages and tell you how to improve load times.
2. Easy Navigation
Make sure your website is easy to navigate. The clearer it is the more likely someone will stay and look around. Whatever content the person came in to see make sure they can easily see related content they might want to check out as well.
3. Easy Site Search
Do you have a search bar on your site? If you don’t you should. Make it easy for people to type in what they’re looking for and find it. Maybe they came from Google looking for one thing but thought of something else related you might have. Help them easily find it!
4. Start With A Great Design
You can eliminate a lot of user experience issues from the jump by starting with a great web design. If you want people to spend time on your site then make them want to. It should look and function the same on any device. That’s why I encourage everyone to use self-hosted WordPress as their website platform. Find a beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly WordPress theme and you’ll be starting out on the right foot.
5. Readability Is Key
Readability is absolutely critical to a successful website. In the age of 140-character tweets and cable news soundbites people digest information very differently than they once did. No one is going to read huge blocks of badly formatted text (or even well formatted text).
If it looks like a big block of interrupted text on your desktop imagine how it will look on an iPhone. See what I mean?? It gives you a headache just thinking about it.
Format your content into shorter paragraphs and add bullet points when possible. Throw in some pictures and video where applicable.
Here’s the bottom line. If you build a great website, write great content, and provide an excellent user experience then you won’t need to obsess about bounce rate. If your site is easy to navigate and people can find what they’re looking that’s all that matters.
People will “bounce off” at times when they came for something specific and others will stick around to look at additional content. You can’t control how people use your site but you can provide them opportunities to use it how you would like them to.
Be sure to also read my 6 SEO tips for bloggers. This ties in with that. Bounce rate should be part of your SEO efforts.