Look, it’s easy to get traffic. If you have money, you can throw it all at ads and attract as many people as you want. And then you can boast about how your site receives a million visits a month.
But that doesn’t matter really. If your traffic doesn’t stick, if they leave your site as soon as they arrive, then it’s all for nothing. I mean, the point of attracting all that traffic is to get some of them to buy something from you, right?
A better measure of your site’s performance and marketing efforts, then, is the bounce rate. The bounce rate is defined as the percentage of people who only visit one page of your site, or the visitors that don’t make it any further than the landing page.
Googling “Bounce Rate” gives us this handy definition
And if we want to get mathematical….
It follows that the lower the bounce rate, the more pages a user will view, the longer their session will be, and the more opportunities you will have to convert them.
While bounce rate does vary by industry, any marketer worth their salt will agree that the lower the better. In this post we’ll look at 7 factors that will help you keep users interested, engaged, and on your site for longer.
Important! In some cases a high bounce rate is a good thing. For example, if you operate a weather website (non-profit / government run), then obviously you want your visitors to be able to get their weather information as quickly as possible. In this case, your website is doing a good job of giving people what they need quickly. This is why bounce rate isn’t an important SEO ranking factor. Sometimes a high bounce rate is the sign of a good user experience.
1. Target the Right Users
Even if you average a million visits a month, your bounce rate is going to be off the charts if they are the wrong users for your service or product. It doesn’t matter if you are using inbound marketing, PPC, or telepathy to attract visitors. If you don’t know who your ideal customer is and you’re trying to attract everyone, then you are seriously undermining your efforts.
Start by establishing buyer personas, outlining the steps of your conversion funnel, and then figuring out what content your ideal customers would like to see at each stage. As opposed to the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” method, spending time on these steps will yield long-term results.
Take UserTesting for example, they are a company focused on providing reviews and feedback for websites and have a very active blog. Check out the titles of 3 of their recent blog posts:
- 11 Tweet-Sized UX Tips from User Experience Pros
- Navigation, Layout, and Content: Why Trust Matters
- Dark Patterns: The Sinister Side of UX
It’s obvious that they are after people seeking UX and site design advice and have dedicated the majority of their blog to attracting those types of visitors.
2. Trust and Credibility
So you’ve figured out who your ideal customers are and even managed to attract some to your site. Assuming they know very little about your company, the next step is convincing them you are legitimate and worthy of their time. Use the following elements to do this:
- Social Signals – Everything from share buttons to social feeds can demonstrate that other people value and support your company.
- Reviews/Testimonials – Few things carry more weight than the words of an independent party. People love to see their choices validated and as long as your service or product doesn’t suck – including these on your site is a no brainer.
- Trust Seals – Displaying badges from Norton, VeriSign or similar will show visitors you are serious about privacy and reduce any concerns they might have about the security of your site.
Newegg has their badges located in their footer so that they show on every page, helping users feel secure about browsing and shopping on their site.
3. Quality Content
Content has always been a huge factor in attracting and keeping visitors on your site. However, with more than 350 WordPress posts being published every minute, the quality of your content matters now more than ever. To stand out from the crowd, try and make sure everything you publish meets the following criteria:
- Relates to Your Users – Think back to the UserTesting example from before. Make sure you know your users well enough to be able to craft content that they will find valuable. Try and publish posts for every step of the buyer’s journey so no user is left out. To take it even further, consult Quora or Reddit to see what relevant questions are being asked and start writing content to answer them.
- Is Engaging – Engagement comes in many different forms. From blog comments to Facebook likes, getting your users to interact with your content is a huge step in lowering bounce rates. Try and add something interactive whenever possible, including videos, slideshows, and even social share buttons. If you can get users to interact then it’s much more likely they will explore your site further.
- Points to Other Areas of Your Site – Just because a visitor loves a post doesn’t guarantee that they will explore other areas of your site. It’s always a good idea to nudge them with links to recommended reading, related posts, or similar products towards the bottom of the page. A simple plugin can help achieve this and encourage users to dig deeper into your site.
In the image above, this site does a good job of giving visitors the option to check out other areas of the website (thus keeping them around longer).
4. Compelling CTAs
The importance of quality copy extends beyond your blog posts and into other aspects of your site as well. In addition to page titles and product descriptions, CTAs are especially important because they represent a crucial link between browsing and converting. Here’s how to take yours to the next level:
- Break the Mold – While classic CTAs like “Add to Cart” and “Download Now” probably won’t hurt you, they certainly aren’t going to make you stand out. The best CTAs I’ve encountered are ones that emphasize value or are so clever you read them twice.
Neil Patel’s site really drives home the point that you are getting a deal with his free course.
Dollar Shave Club consistently uses humor throughout their site to keep you engaged.
- Test Your Design – One of the things I love most about CTAs is they are so easy to change and test. Everything from the font to the location is easily edited with a few clicks and can completely change the performance of that page.
5. Faster Page Load Speed
Slow load times are kryptonite for any site. When the average user expects a page to load in under 5 seconds, even a 1 second delay can result in 7% fewer conversions, 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in user satisfaction. So yeah, it’s important.
To determine your load times consult Google Analytics or a tool like Pingdom.
Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to reduce load times for good:
- Optimize Images – There is usually no need to use a 5mb image on your site. Reducing the size is an easy change to make and can really improve performance if you have a lot of pictures.
- Prioritize Content – Move the most important stuff above the fold so it loads first, even if the rest of the page is dragging.
- Reduce Plugins – Every plugin on your site will slow it down, so go through and evaluate whether you can live without any of the ones you have active.
- Improve Hosting – If all else fails consider upgrading your hosting for better bandwidth, storage, and processing power.
6. Better Design and Usability
It takes the average visitor 2/10s of a second to form an impression about your site and less than 3 seconds to reinforce that opinion by viewing the rest of the page. If your site is relevant and beneficial to the user, then a high bounce rate could be due to poor design and usability. In addition to staying up to date on current technologies, consider the following:
- Meet Expectations – You need to take all necessary steps to ensure your site meets the expectations of your visitors. Incorporate best practices for navigation, layout, and design to keep you site current and your users focused on your content.
- Solicit Feedback – Not sure if you have a good site design or just want some reassurance? Ask your users for feedback, recruit friends to give you their opinions, or hire a company like UserTesting to take an objective look.
Maybe you’ve seen the news that mobile searches have surpassed those on desktop for the first time ever. While this is far from unexpected, there are still many, many, sites out there that are not optimized for mobile traffic. Visitors using mobile devices will interact with your site far differently than those using a PC, so make sure your site is up to the task.
- Make It Responsive – Your site should automatically adjust to the device on which it is being viewed. If yours doesn’t, then many of your pages are going to be unreadable to mobile users.
- Increase Text Size – Mobile users are limited by the size of the screen, meaning many things like smaller fonts and buttons are going to be harder to read. Prevent users from getting frustrated by increasing the size a little bit.
Does the Improved Bounce Rate Beat the Test?
Improving your bounce rate(s) is a smart testing hypothesis to start with. However, it’s rarely a good idea to improve your site without testing the changes. Be sure to implement your “Bounce Rate Campaign” into your testing plan for the year. Did improving bounce rate improve conversions? Or did it just improve the bounce rate? Make sure these questions are answered and analyzed after your changes have been made.
As I mentioned, bounce rate can be an overlooked metric. It’s one of those everyone seems to acknowledge, but very few actually worry about.
However, when you realize that improving it can improve many other aspects of your site, it’s clear that it’s worth some added attention. Almost all of the above mentioned tips will impact more than just your bounce rate, so dedicate your time building a site that your users will love.