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Bring Engagement Up and Your Bounce Rate Down

Pat Marcello
Bring Engagement Up and Your Bounce Rate Down

One of my clients is having a horrible time with bounce rate, which has been running around 80% for weeks. The problem? The site is too “me” centered and not enough “you” centered.

When people come to your site, they’re looking for information, something to help them or something cool to buy. When they come from a search engine, they’re looking for something specific.

But let’s back up a minute and talk about what bounce rate is.

Bounce refers to the length of time a visitor stays on your page before “bouncing” off it. Bounce rate tells you how many people left before 20 seconds or so, as opposed to all visitors, including those who stayed longer than a short time.

So, 10 people come to the page and eight of them leave before 20 seconds. Your bounce rate is 80%, which is WAY too high.

Google and all other search engines take this stat very seriously. So, if they’re sending you traffic and you have a huge bounce rate, I suppose they figure, “Why should we?” Right? It means they’re serving your site up in the SERPs (search engine results pages) for certain keywords that they’re picking up from your site and the links pointing to your site, but you’re not delivering the goods.

It’s like giving a show that nobody wants to watch. Bad. Very, very not good.

So, let’s think about some things you might do to raise your engagement level so that even if people weren’t eager to stay on your page when they arrived, you had something there that they couldn’t look away from. You could say “like a train wreck,” but well… This is better because nobody has to die.

Here are some tips to help you lower your bounce rate.

Put Your Best Stuff Up Front

I always give my potential clients advice. Some like what I tell them, while others shy away. That’s cool. Some folks just can’t handle the truth, which is an indication to me that they don’t want to change. Why help folks who won’t do what you recommend?

The “acceptance factor” often depends on how big the people’s egos are because I’m not one for pulling punches. I give everyone a genuine report on what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. They can take it or leave it, but I tell the truth.

One cardinal sin I’ve seen is that some folks make their websites about them. If you’re not a Hollywood star or a rock musician, this is a terrible approach! Nobody gives a hoot about you online! That doesn’t mean they won’t, ever. They just don’t know you yet. As I mentioned above, websites should be all about your visitor.

What do folks want to see when they arrive? Well… the easiest thing to change and make them happy is to put your blog up front. BOOM! You have constantly updating content (or you should) that will engage people who are looking for information about your niche. They’re probably not ready to buy if they typed in a general keyword, anyway. This gives you an opportunity to bond with visitors and make them happy with what they’re learning or smiling about. Just be sure that you’re writing good content and not rehashed garbo. That won’t work or help your bounce rate, either.

Use Images

This seems like a no-brainer, but I read lots of blogs, good and bad. Some good ones survive without images because of who’s writing them (like Seth Godin, for example) or because there’s a passion in their cause that people respond to. But if you haven’t yet passion or genius, you have to rely on something else.

Yes, some of us are also good at words alone. I don’t gamble. I use both words and images to get people to stick around. Not everyone will, but an interesting image helps. No doubt about it. And if it’s ambiguous, well… You have a better chance of them sticking just to find out if it is or if it isn’t.

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay,, or other paid stock photo sources, use sites like, where all of the images are not just free but free to modify and change to your purpose. There are other sites like this. Use them!

Polls are Good

OK, so who doesn’t like a good poll? I mean, I always want to know if I’m thinking with or against the pack for curiosity’s sake alone. So, I usually participate and read the results. If you make some detailed, extraordinary results for the answers to your poll, you’ll do well.

What do I mean by “detailed, extraordinary results”?

Let’s say your poll is about astrology, just for the heck of it. The question is: “Which sign do you feel most compatible with?” I’m sure we all have some idea. But that’s not the illustration. Let’s say you choose Cancer, which is me so I can make fun of us Cancerians without reprisal. (At least I hope not. This is just for fun.)

So, a pop-up arises or a page opens and it says…

So, you think you like Cancer, huh? Well, don’t plan on moving because they’re really hard to budge. They grab on until all their fingernails are broken and bleeding and then, they’ll still say no. They’re crabs. They do like to change homes, but like the hermits they are, only when THEY decide that the shell is too small. Even then, the shell better be pretty darned nice and a huge improvement over what they have now or you’ll never get them out of the old one. Ever.

Yeah, people tell me I’m like that and I know it’s true. The amazing part is that I’ve lived all over the country from California (shout out to my California friends) to Pittsburgh and went kicking and screaming all the way to a new city, every single time. Glad I did, but I’m not a quick pick up and go type of girl.

Anyway, you get the idea. Make people laugh or give them some really cool stuff to think about and they’ll come back every day/week/month just to check out your new poll. Make it fun!

Give Them Things

Bribes are always good. OK, so ethical bribes, but bribes nonetheless. Have your optin box and your offer right up in their faces as soon as they arrive.

Then, give them something SO amazing that they’ll think, “Wow! If this stuff is free, imagine what the paid stuff is like,” right? And then, like the guerilla marketer you are, get them coming back to your site with a follow-up series. Tell them about important blog posts, about milestones your brand reaches, and about new products and information that you’re adding, paid and unpaid. These visitors will stay to read what you’re doing. You’ve already primed them and your bounce rate improves.

I survey my list. I send new opt-ins immediately to a survey at as soon as they sign up. I ask them what they want to know more about. This gives me cues for content. If I already know what people want to read, why not give it to them? That keeps them engaged, for sure, and again, your bounce rate improves.

And don’t be shy… I ask how often they want to receive emails from me. Almost 57% said every single day.

The Bottom Line

Engagement is very important in search. If your bounce rate is too high, search engines aren’t going to like it. They’ll think that your material is inadequate, inappropriate or just plain crap.

Use one or two or all of these ways to help with your engagement factor and write good content! Nothing happens on the Internet until somebody writes something or posts a cat picture.

Maybe that’s the answer. Post all the cat pictures you can. Bounce rate problem solved. (I’ll stay, for sure.)

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Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager at, a full-service digital marketing company that serves small- to medium-sized businesses. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was "Google's Fetch and Render: Why It's Important."
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