What is your bounce rate and 7 ways to improve it

Photo:  Jed Villejo

There is a little known secret that may be costing you money and readership loyalty and this little bugger is called Bounce Rate.

What the hell is a bounce?

A bounce is the internet equivalent of eye-contact. In technical speak, as per Google, “a bounce is a single-page session on your site” meaning “when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits” without visiting any other page. Therefore, the bounce rate, the percentage of single-page sessions divided by the total number of visits, is a good indicator of basic user engagement on your website.

For most of us, the homepage is the gateway to the rest of our website so we need visitors to click on something to access another page where we sell services, products, or share valuable information. We need them to engage.

Is a bounce rate always bad?

Yes, if you fit in the category above. However, if you run a single-page blog like Marketing superstar Seth Godin’s whose latest article is the first thing visitors see, you may have a high bounce rate even though people are highly interested in what you publish. Especially if your articles do not have internal links. Regular readers may come every day to read the latest content without every digging into the archives since they are already familiar with your work. The visitor may be super engaged but only take action on a single page if the main goal of your website is:

  • To capture emails. For example, if you host a landing page of an app.

  • To get people to watch videos. Even if a visitor watches the video 15 times, Google Page Views tracks it as one session.

  • To create outbound links to other websites. For example, if you have an curation blog that aggregates content from other webs.

  • To download a PDF or other media files

  • To link to an email address or click-to-call phone number for clients to contact you directly for services

Google calls these kinds of interactions Events and you can actually monitor your events in Google Analytics to track visitors’ use of outbound links, the success of your lead magnet by tracking PDF and other media downloads or measure the time visitors spend watching a video on your site.

Why is my bounce rate so high?

Remember that your bounce rate is an indicator of user engagement. Therefore most factors that affect your bounce rate all have do with how relevant your content is and how easy it is for the visitor to access. These factors include:

  • Website loading speed. According to a 2016 Think With Google survey, if it takes the website more than three seconds to load, ⅖ of its visitors will bounce.

  • Broken links short-circuit the user’s experience. They build expectations up and then promptly lead to disappointment.

  • Poor responsiveness. A large number of people are not accessing websites via their mobile devices, mostly smart phones. If the website is not optimized and images and text end up on top of each other, the user will dismiss the website as broken and bounce.

  • Poor navigation. The more clicks required to access the content or product, the more disengaging the website. For example if you sell apparel, it would be great if the customer could add to cart with one click straight from the main shop page instead of having to go inside the product page.

  • Lack of hierarchy in design. The design of the homepage let the visitor know quickly who you are, what you offer and how it can help improve his life. If the design is confusing or lacks clear calls to action to internal pages, visitors will bounce.

  • Pop-ups and interstitials (ads that must be closed before the visitor can access other content on the site). Online marketing guru Neil Patel recommends delaying your pop up by 3-5 seconds to avoid Google’s policing. Still, like other forms of interruption marketing, interstitials are incredibly irritating to many people and can lead to customer backlash. Instead, consider including a lead magnet or newsletter signup within the body of the homepage or in the footer.

How do I improve my bounce rate?

  1. Create internal links. None of your pages should be left alone. They should link to other content on your website. Create a website the way you write a basic composition. You need an Introduction, Body and Conclusion. Your Introduction (Homepage) must include your main arguments (Link to Silo Pages). In the Body (All the Silo pages, develop and provide supporting evidence (links to Internal Pages) for the main arguments. And the conclusion (About, Contact) restates the Introduction.

    A basic cheat sheet for a good website layout is index to silo to internal pages. Your homepage is your most important index page and therefore it should have multiple links to your silo pages or main sections like Blog, Shop, Services or Lookbooks, that then lead to secondary pages ( for example, a blog post, a product page, or a single gallery). This is the way to make a persuasive, engaging website.

  2. Lose weight.

    • Keep your content succinct and eliminate superfluous text. The heavier the website, the slower it loads.

    • Try to keep all images within 2500 pixels margin for optimal loading speed.

    • Limit the number of images/ videos used as backgrounds.

    • Consider hosting videos that appear on your website on another server like YouTube or Vimeo.

    • According to HTTP Archive, an organization that collects and analyses website content, the average website weighs 1544.7 KB. Enter your website’s URL in this program to find out your website’s weight and more ways to improve it.

    • Use the tool Pingdom.com to check the loading speed on your site: it will tell you which are the files that are slowing it down. They offer a free 14-day trial.

  3. Clean out your codes

    • Remove unused code. The longer your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the slower the page loads. Be economical with your styling details. Use what you need, ditch everything else.

    • Use Javascript sparingly. Javascript is a programming language that usually lives off your site but has to be called in every time your website loads. The more javascript used, the longer it takes the page to load. There are some cool features that require javascript but think carefully about whether it adds value to your user’s experience before you load it up on your site.

  4. Fix broken links regularly. You can run this program Deadlinkchecker.com to find and repair broken links periodically.

  5. Optimize responsiveness

    • Choose a clean, minimalist design that adapts easily to any screen. If your website has a complex design layout, hire a professional web designer to customize the mobile versions for you.

    • If you already have a website up, run it through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to get a responsiveness report and suggestions for improvements.

    6. Make it easy to find. Make the most important draw on your website the easiest thing for the visitor or customer to find. It may sound obvious but small tweaks can help win over a new reader or client. Try the following tips:

    • Keep the main menu at the top of the page

    • Highlight the most important page (for example, Book Now) on the menu in a different color

    • Place the shopping cart on the main menu and make it available on all pages

    • Keep service and product descriptions clear and succinct

    • If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, make sure the address, contact information and maybe even a Google map appear in the footer.