How To Lower Your Website Bounce Rate

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by Jason Knapfel

No matter what your business goals are online, whether it’s to maximize pageviews for ad impressions, or you’re a local contractor looking for new clients, when people come to your site, you want their next action to be on your site. If they leave immediately after landing on one of your pages, congratulations, you’ve just been “bounced.”

What is Bounce Rate, Anyway?

For the uninitiated, the bounce rate of a page is the percentage of people who land on your site only to leave without moving to another page on your site. Simply put, they weren’t compelled to take action once they arrived… and that’s usually a problem no matter what your commercial intent.

What is an Acceptable Bounce Rate?

Sorry Roger, we want less bounce to the ounce.

That’s not an easy answer, since there’s a different one for nearly every industry. Not only that, an acceptable bounce rate will depend on what kind of page a visitor is landing on. If you run an e-commerce site and people land on a product page, you want to minimize the bounce rate, which signifies people are either not being convinced to buy your product or they were not the ideal audience for that page or your site to begin with.

Instead of itemizing what is a high, low, or the just-right bounce rate for different industries, let’s look at how we can lower it on pages we know are vital to conversion, no matter what industry you’re in.

Create “sticky” content – It’s important to create content that engages readers. It makes them “stick” to your site, wanting to explore and learn more about your business. Obviously, not all businesses utilize the same kinds or volume of content. Either way, monitor its performance closely. You will find many interesting clues as to what works, what doesn’t, and how important the bounce rate is for any given page. This is particularly true if you are consistently blogging and/or creating landing pages associated with ad campaigns. Is there a consistent subject theme with the lower or higher bounced pages? If so, do more of the former and less of the latter (this stuff is so easy, right?).

Analyze onsite SEO – What search terms are your pages ranking for and bringing people to your site? You may need to put a tighter focus on the content and meta information to draw more appropriate visitors.

Reexamine your linking strategy – Are there other pages on your site that make sense to link to? If you’re a content publisher and ad impressions are the name of the game, simply sending them to other relevant and interesting content is great. But you have to be a little more prudent in most other businesses.

If you provide services to your local community (plumber, lawyer, heck, a math tutor), sending people to another page simply to keep them on your site is a stall tactic that is just delaying the inevitable exit page (a metric often confused with bounce rate). There needs to be more urgency to have your visitors act and a call-to-action revamping may be in order.

Open links in new windows – Are you linking to other sites in your blog? Opening them in a new window will lower your bounce rate. It doesn’t guarantee they will come back to your page, but there’s a better chance if your site is still visible in a different tab.

Make sure UX isn’t more like SUX – Maybe you’re fortunate enough to be getting highly relevant traffic to a web page, but your bounce rate is unacceptably high. Does your site load painfully slow? In an age where people want and sometimes need information yesterday, an extra second may mean your visitor will move on. Can people easily navigate and find what they are looking for? If not, they will get frustrated and leave.

When a High Bounce Rate Isn’t So Bad

An example of a page where a high bounce rate may not be such a big deal? A landing page that leads to visitor phone calls. In fact, in that case, a high bounce rate may be a good thing if the primary goal is to solicit phone calls (assuming you hear the phone ringing off the hook!).

What if a page has been read by a large number of people, in part because it was shared socially by many of those readers. You could say to yourself, yeah the bounce rate is higher than I’d like, but we got a ton more relevant traffic due to the “shareability” of the content. So the percentage may be high, but those who did stay on your site were in much higher numbers than an average page. What would you rather have, a 60 percent bounce rate on a page read by 200 people or an 80 percent bounce rate on a page read by 5,000 people? I was never great at math (calculus is the reason I’m a writer and not an architect), but 1,000 is better than 80 conversions any day of the week. Now, that’s not to say there isn’t room to lower the bounce rate in this example, just a suggestion on how to measure success.

It’s also important to note that mobile device visitors may be playing a significant role in your less-than-ideal bounce rate. Last fall, Shareoholic announced an extensive study on mobile use and found, among 200,000 publishers, the mobile bounce rate was nearly 10 percent higher than with desktop visitors. Since mobile use is growing by leaps and bounds, it underscores the importance of addressing the issue.

There are few absolutes in managing your bounce rate. The best way to get your desired results is to dive in and start tinkering. See what works and what doesn’t. Nothing is better than firsthand experience.