Bounce rate, as defined by Google is a measurement of the number of users who visit your blog and then leave after a single one of six different measurements occurs. These six measurements are all different forms of engagement. Though the six measurements – Pageviews, events, transactions, social interactions, events and user defined tasks – are complex on their own, the end result is that there are two primary causes for a bounce.
If you took a look at that second point and felt confused, don’t worry; that’s normally. Most webmasters tend to think of bounces as universally bad; high time on page, high engagement and other such metrics depend on a low bounce rate. However, if a user finds exactly what they want, they don’t necessarily have an incentive to stick around. It means you have accurate targeting for your audience, but low quality incentives to click around your site.
If you have a high bounce rate, how do you find out why and what do you do to fix it?
Popups have been blocked by default by virtually every web browser for years, so webmasters started using code to create scripted boxes to appear over their content. Some show up within a few seconds of page load. Some show up when the user scrolls to the end of the page. Still others appear when the cursor moves outside of the window or towards the close button. Some of them are decently effective at facilitating conversions, while others cause an instant bounce. If you run one of these scripted popups, run some tests to see their effect on your bounce rate. You may be better off without them.
If you want users to stick around on your site and find their way to other blog posts, category pages, shop pages and purchase confirmations, you need to make it as easy as possible to navigate your site. Poor navigation makes your users feel frustrated and angry when they can’t find what they’re looking for. Use heatmaps and click tracking to identify where your users are trying to go and do what you can to get them there.
Two easy ways to boost your in-site navigation are to provide a site search and to create a user-readable sitemap. You can use an XML sitemap as a base for a user site map easily enough; treat it as a table of contents for links and write short descriptions of each page to help users find what they’re looking for.
If your site takes more than 2-3 seconds to load, you’re losing a percentage of your readers every additional second. The average web user today has an incredibly short attention span and an even shorter tolerance for delay. Rather than wait for 5+ seconds only to find your site unresponsive, most users will simply leave and find another source for the information they’re trying to find.
You can affect your site speed in a number of ways. If you’re running WordPress, for example, check your theme and any plugins for excessive loading times. If you’re running on a cheap web host, look into upgrading your service or transferring to a faster host. If you’re running distributed ads, make sure they aren’t trying to load from a dozen sites at once, which strains the average Internet connection.
Already, mobile traffic is becoming dominant. Hard to believe, when many households still don’t have cell phones and the first Internet-capable smart phones came out less than ten years ago. Still, mobile traffic is surpassing desktop traffic and is more essential than ever before. Your site absolutely needs to support mobile users, otherwise you’re alienating up to half or more of your traffic.
A high quality responsive design is the best option for most blogs and ecommerce websites. The old method of using a mobile specific subdomain is falling out of favor, partially due to the wide range of device sizes and resolutions available. It’s worth the investment to design a responsive site for mobile.
Remember a handful of years ago, where every site had sidebar, top bar and footer banner ads, along with ads dividing paginated articles and ads interspersed within the content? Those days are long gone. For one thing, the average user tends to ignore ads, making them less effective. Many users even block them with browser plugins. Beyond that, Google has taken to penalizing sites that use too many ads in too small a space.
Rather than using ads, abandon them as much as possible and work to optimize your user throughput. Guide them from landing pages to conversion pages, don’t rely on ad impressions and clicks.
Your users are visiting your site to read your content. If they’re having trouble reading your content, they’re more than likely going to back away to find the information presented in a better way. Here are a handful of readability issues that hurt your site:
If your site has any of these issues, you need to perform a readability audit on your site and fix what issues you have.
One incredibly simple and easily overlooked cause of bounces is a setting on your links. If a user clicks your link, where does it open? If you answered “in the same window,” you’re needlessly increasing your bounce rate. Set links to open in new tabs/windows so users can click links and set them aside for later reading without disrupting their current read through your content.
All of the above issues are problems that increase your bounce rate without benefitting you in any way. If you can identify such problems on your site and fix them, it’s easy enough to get a lower bounce rate across the board.