Bounce rate really is an important metric to track when you’re trying to analyze the performance of your website. It’s one of a number of metrics that can help you understand how engaging your site is and whether or not your audience approve.
A high bounce rate always means fewer conversions, which nobody wants.
So how do you go about reducing the bounce rate of a site, which in turn, should help you boost conversions?
What is Bounce Rate?
Bounce rate is defined by Google as:
the percentage of visits in which users view only a single page of your site.
It’s the people clicking through to your web page, from any source, who leave without taking any further action, such as clicking through to another page, signing up for your newsletter or making a purchase.
Bounce rate is definitively not a direct organic SEO ranking factor.
However, it’s a good barometer of site performance and how users are engaging with your content once they’ve reached your site. That is something search engines really take notice of.
What is a "Good" Bounce Rate?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer as bounce rate is heavily influenced by the type of site a user is visiting.
If the site is informational, like a single blog post on a very specific topic (perhaps this one) then you’re likely to press the back button in your web browser once you’ve found the information you need.
On an e-commerce site, it’s quite the opposite. If you’re searching for a product you might need to choose a size, select a color, add another product to your basket, login, checkout etc. All of those steps theoretically mean that bounce rates should be lower on e-commerce and lead generation sites than they are on blogs.
GoRocketFuel.com did a fantastic study on average bounce rates. The image below shows you what their findings were:
[caption id="attachment_14911" "aligncenter" width="600" class=" "] "As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 % is roughly average. 56 to 70% is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc."[/caption]
As you can see, informational sites, like blogs and news pages, are expected to have a high bounce rate.
However, if you’re running an e-commerce site, you should be striving to get your bounce rate down to the 50% mark. It’ll take some time and a lot of testing, but for the long term increases in conversions, it’ll be more than worth it.
So we’ve talked about why it’s important to try and lower your bounce rate, but how do you actually achieve it?
Here are four really simple things for you to look at initially that will help you bring that bounce rate under control.
1. Site Speed
We all know that site speed is incredibly important these days.
Google can’t stop talking about it and are putting lots of measures in place, like the PagesSpeed Insights tool, the addition of loading times in Google Analytics, the Site Performance tab in Webmaster Tools … need I go on?
Site speed has officially been used as a ranking factor since 2010:
Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that's why we've decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.
As if that wasn’t enough to hammer home the importance of bounce rates, I always keep referring back to this statistic, contained in an infographic created by OnlineGraduatePrograms.com:
Focusing on site speed could help you capture some of this traffic which would otherwise bounce.
We do need to consider that as site speeds across the internet come down, so will users expectations. A few years from now, the four second time frame above is likely to look more like three seconds.
What can I do to improve my site speed?
a. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to fix on page problems
Fixing some of the issues relating to site speed can become very technical in terms of the server setup your web host uses.
The PageSpeed Insights tool I mentioned previously is a great place to start. Simply click here and enter your URL to let Google test the speed of your site.
You’ll get an analysis of both mobile and desktop site speed, both of which are important. (We’ll come back to mobile later).
Working through the "Should Fix" issues, like those shown below will help you reduce your load times to a more manageable level and recapture some of the traffic that might currently be bouncing.
b. Use a Content Delivery Network
Another "quick win" in terms of site speed is to use some form of Content Distribution Network (CDN). One of the most popular is the offering from CloudFlare.
CDNs essentially take a copy of files from your website, and insert them on a huge network of servers across the globe. This means that users see a reduced response time as they can get the files they need from a local server, rather than one that might be half way across the world!
CloudFlare claim that pages load "twice as fast" when using their CDN. That might not be true on every page load, but there are definitely significant benefits.
c. Reduce Image Sizes
Images are among the most speed sapping elements on your site. A big image can increase the load time dramatically.
Try and think about reducing the resolution of images you use on your site. If you’re uploading much larger images, then resizing them on your page to fit, you’re going to be wasting server resource. Try downloading the image, resizing it to exactly the correct size, then reuploading them.
Try this with the 20 biggest image files on your site to start off with and check what the impact is. Depending on where you start from, you might be pleasantly surprised how much of an impact this simple process can have!
You can get more advice on reducing your site speed by reading this great article on the SEMrush blog.
2. Use a Call to Action!
A call to action (CTA) is simply you, as the website owner, encouraging the user to take action. This might be to sign up for a newsletter, to purchase a product or even just to leave a comment.
Whatever action you want the user to take on any given page, you need to ensure that there’s some guidance for them on where they need to go.
Bounce rates can be dramatically higher when a page doesn’t have a call to action. It’s natural to expect that if a user reaches the end of your content, but doesn’t see anywhere to continue if they enjoyed what they read, they’re likely to press that back button and try somewhere else.
a. Where should I put my call to action?
Quite simply, there isn’t a set in stone answer. As so often in the digital marketing world, it’s a case of test, test then test again.
It could be something as simple as taking three example pages, that all have reasonable traffic but very high bounce rate, and placing the same CTA in three different positions. Say at the top, in the middle and at the bottom. Track the usage of these pages over a three month period and see which CTA was most used.
From there, you can start using this CTA across the site and get into A/B testing or multivariate testing. Then you’re well and truly down the rabbit hole …
b. What should my CTA say?
Once again, we come back to that ever-present mantra, test, test and test again.
The copy you use on your call to actions should avoid using really generic terms like "Download" or "Submit."
Try and give your users a specific reason why they should click this CTA. "Get Advice from Company X," "Try Company Y’s Industry Leading Software" or "Find Your Perfect Property for Less with Company Z," for example.
Try and get the copy to imply action — "Start Saving," "Build Your Site Now" or "Start Reading my Free Whitepaper," for example.
c. What should my CTA look like?
Asking this question really does open another can of worms. I’m guessing by this point you already know what I’m going to say about testing it …
Color, design, fonts, backgrounds, position and size all have an impact on how effective your CTA will be.
There are some very basic best practices to follow though:
- Contrast the color of your CTA with the default colors of your site to attract attention to it
- Try and only include one CTA on your page — you don’t want to confuse your users!
- Make your CTA big enough to attract attention without distracting from the main content of the page
Other than that, it’s a case of testing what works for your site, and more importantly, your audience.
There are lots of other resources out there to help you learn how to guide your customers to your CTA, including SEMrush’s excellent series, part 1 of which is here.
3. Reduce Distractions
This is almost a follow up to the point I’ve just made about there being only one CTA on your page.
When you land on a page and there’s just a little too much going on, it can make you frustrated, and ultimately lead to you leaving the page.
Thanks to WiderFunnel.com for this excellent example of how a user can be completely distracted by the things happening on a page, ultimately leading to them leaving your page:
I’m sure most readers have experienced a page with a huge banner above the content and a big CTA below the banner. Then, before you finally get to the content you want, a pop up interrupts your view. Normally by that point I’m ready to leave unless I know the content is going to be something special.
If your site is sending a confusing message or distracting the user from what they came to the site to do, you’re likely to see lower conversion rates and higher bounce rates.
- Focus your pages on the content the user would expect to see after clicking the ad or organic result
- Try and make pop ups less obtrusive, don’t let them take over the entire page
- Try and avoid using multiple calls to action if at all possible
- Don’t confuse your users by using lots of different colors on lots of different parts of your site, try and lead their eyes to your call to action once they’ve consumed the necessary content
- Don’t use auto play video or audio on your sites. It’s a pet peeve for many users and it can distract them if it’s not the sole purpose of the page
- Create individual landing pages that focus specifically on providing a user with the content they need, followed by a call to action
Ultimately, as we’ve already mentioned, you want each page on your site to have a purpose. You should do what you can to ensure the user doesn’t get off track. Focusing on the next action they need to take is likely to give you the lowest bounce rate, and in turn, the best conversion rate.
4. Internal Links
The humble internal link is often overlooked as a form of reducing your bounce rate. While the CTA we’ve already talked about reigns supreme, there’s a lot of benefit to be had by giving your users the opportunity to read related resources on your site.
You’ll notice that throughout this article I’ve included links to SEMrush posts, as well as some external resources.
Say if you wanted to know more about how you can make the most of internal links, you might want to click here to read point 5 on e-commerce sites making the most of internal links. Adding these internal links give the user the chance to consume more of your content, which they hopefully find useful.
Posting this after stating "reducing distractions is important," this might seem a little strange. However, internal links are expected on content pages. The big factor here is that if a user clicks through to another post, which they also take value from, it serves to increase the trust your site has and increases the chances of them converting using your clear CTA on the second, third or fourth page they access.
Evidently, you would rather have someone move on to another page on your site than leave altogether!
Do Any Other Factors Influence Bounce Rates?
Human beings are complex; there’s never going to be a one size fits all solution that will lead to a low bounce rate. Most of what we know about conversion rate optimization can be boiled down to some best practices, but ultimately, each site is different.
The only way to really know what’s going to have an impact is by testing it on your own website.
Here are a few ideas of other things you can work on to help reduce your bounce rate:
- Play around with your main navigation; can you encourage users to click on one option more than another?
- Does changing the font size have any impact?
- Always keep an eye on technical issues, like 404 errors, in whatever tool you choose. If a user lands on a broken page, of course they’re going to bounce!
- Are you targeting the right keywords on the page? Is this page ranking for the kind of terms that you expect it to? Could you tailor the content more effectively to the terms it is ranking for?
- Is your website mobile friendly? Do you have a dedicated mobile site or a responsive design? Mobile traffic is exploding right now. We all know how terrible it is viewing a desktop site on a mobile browser — so get yourself set up with some kind of mobile solution … quickly!
Don’t forget that testing will always be key here. There are lots of tools out there to help — so get out there and see what you can discover.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this post!
Have you seen a dramatic change in bounce rates at some point in the life cycle of your website? Did you have something that you found helped reduce bounce rates? Have you made any changes which caused more people to bounce from the site?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.