Do people come to your site and then immediately leave? Then you’ve got a bounce rate problem. Here’s how to go about tackling it.
In a keynote speech last year, web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik described what happens with visitors on websites with high bounce rates: 'They came, they puked, they left.'
Bounce rate, simply put, is the measure of how many visitors come to a page on your site and leave without viewing any other pages. Really, it's the most basic expression of dissatisfaction with your site users can give you.
A site's bounce rate is easy to track with tools like Google Analytics. Such tools can show you the bounce rates on different pages of your website, how the user came to your site (organic search, paid search, banner ad, etc.), how the bounce rate has changed over time, and other data so you can really dig into where you might have a leak.
As a rule of thumb, a 50 percent bounce rate is average. If you surpass 60 percent, you should be concerned. If you're in excess of 80 percent, you've got a major problem.
Realizing you've got an issue is the first step in fixing it. Caleb Whitmore, CEO of Analytics Pros, a Seattle company, shares his tips for lowering your bounce rate.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Check Browser Performance
The developer who built your site might have worked exclusively in Firefox and failed to check its performance in Internet Explorer, Safari, and Google Chrome. Unfortunately, parts of your site that load fine in one type of browser struggle in others, says Whitmore. Your analytics tool can break down bounce by browser type to see if this is the culprit.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Improve Load Times
Is your site plastered with pictures and other bells and whistles? Sure, that might look and work fine on your high-speed Internet connection, but users with slower connections may well be leaving out of boredom. Analytics tools can once again show if your pages often load slowly of break down, and tools can segment these problems by the types of connections your users have.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Don't Interrupt the User's Experience
Is there something on your site that you think is cool but really isn't offering any value to the user? 'If you have a splash page when users enter, you're probably causing half the people to leave,' Whitmore says. You should also avoid intrusive polls and surveys.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Consider Points of Entry
Once you've identified pages with troubling bounce rates, you need to ask yourself a few questions, Whitmore says: Who is coming to the page? Why are they coming here? What is it that they probably want to do? This is where the quantitative side of analytics ends and you need to get to the qualitative. Services like 4Q can help by providing quick user surveys you can put on high bounce pages to see where your site fell short.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Study Your Keywords
If you're doing search marketing, look at your keyword report and see which keywords correspond to high bounce rates. 'All the time I see people run an ad that promises one thing, gets you in the door and doesn't give you that,' says Whitmore. Buying highly-searched keywords is ultimately useless if you aren't providing what the people searching for those words actually want.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Take People Where They Want to Go
Along the same lines, if you have an ad promising something and then redirect to your homepage, you're going to lose a lot of visitors. 'If you do that, now I have to learn how to use your site to search for what I was already promised,' says Whitmore. 'I don't have time to search your site over and over. I already searched and told you what I want.'
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Test Different Solutions
Think you've got a solution for your trouble spot? Great. But don't assume it's going to work. You should consider performing A/B and multi-variant tests when making even minor changes to your site. 'Something as simple as the color of a button and the words you put on it can have a huge impact on your bounce rate,' Whitmore advises.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Make Related Content Accessible
Providing related links to other content on your site can go a long way in keeping visitors engaged, but you'll have the best results the more relevant the content is. But you don't want to go overboard; users can easily be overwhelmed by too much information. Less is often more.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Analyze Searches within Your Site
If you don't already have a search box on your site, put one in. 'Let people tell you what they want,' says Whitmore. 'Don't make them navigate and hunt for it.' Google Site Search is free, and you can then analyze searches within your site and see searches coming from specific pages. If you have people constantly searching for the same thing on a given page, you can create a link to the relevant search. You can also begin to build content in the form of blog posts or product pages that focus on that search term.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate: Take Action
There are plenty of free or cheap web analytics tools out there, but don't let the price fool you: These tools can provide a serious amount of data—but data isn't the end game here. 'The value in web analytics comes from taking action,' says Whitmore. 'The best tool in the world is only to collect data and give it to you. Understanding what that data means and knowing what to go do and then actually doing it is entirely up to people.'
MATT QUINN contributes to the Wall Street Journal's corporate finance blog. He has also written extensively about banking and corporate finance for publications including Inc., American Banker, and Financial Week. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.