Website bounce rate, or the number of visitors who arrive on your site and hit the “Back” button without ever visiting another page of your content, often gets the short end of the stick by webmasters. Certainly, in many cases, there are more glamorous analytics metrics to attend to, including the results of highly useful split tests and conversion rate optimization experiments.
That said, the bounce rate of each of your website’s pages gives you an important glimpse into whether or not visitors are forming a connection with your website. It isn’t a full picture (as situations exist that cause bounce rates to be naturally high), but seeing bounce rates of 60 to 80 percent or more across all of a website’s pages should give you cause for concern.
If you’re seeing these high bounce rates that are indicative of overall user dissatisfaction with your site, consider any of the following techniques to help keep visitors on your pages longer:
Technique #1: Check Browser Compatibility
Seeing a high bounce rate typically indicates a potential disconnect between the visitors arriving on your site and the content they anticipated seeing upon their clicks. As mentioned previously, it’s possible that the visitors to a given page on your site have found this information and clicked away immediately, resulting in a naturally and understandably high bounce rate.
However, this situation shouldn’t be seen across every page on your site and—even in cases where the desired information has been identified—indicates a lack of compelling content that would cause these visitors to engage further with your brand.
But what if the problem is even simpler than that? In some circumstances, a high bounce rate has nothing to do with the quality of the content you’ve provided and everything to do with the fact that your website isn’t displaying properly in your visitors’ browser windows. They can’t even see your site correctly in order to access its content, resulting in a quick click of the “Back” button.
Too many beginning webmasters test their sites on the single browser they’ve used throughout development, failing to realize that what looks good on one browser might display completely differently in another. To prevent this situation from negatively influencing your bounce rates, check pages that demonstrate a high bounce rate using a cross-browser compatibility testing tool like Browser Stack.
Technique #2: Make Your Purpose Known
If there aren’t any issues with the way your website is performing across different browsers, one of the next most likely causes of high bounce rates is a site design that buries the information visitors are looking for.
I’m guessing that you’ve encountered at least one website like this before … You’ve clicked through to the site because the company’s search engine snippet looked so promising, only to be confronted with a bad design or bad content organization structure that makes your desired information nearly impossible to find.
In these cases, you aren’t going to waste all day searching. You’re going to head back to the search results and try your luck with another listing.
If your website isn’t cleanly organized and immediately intuitive to its own visitors, your would-be readers are going to have this same reaction, leading to higher bounce rates. To determine whether or not this issue might be affecting your own website results, consider trying a service like the “5 Second Test,” which allows you to poll actual website testers on whether or not your page information is immediately apparent to users.
Technique #3: Avoid Pissing Off Your Readers
Of course, some bounce rate problems are even easier to diagnose that browser compatibility issues or poor site structure decisions. In some cases, readers are clicking away from your pages because you’re pissing them off!
If new visitors to your site are inundated with pop-up banners, interstitial ads, and automatically-loading chat windows, you can kiss your normal bounce rate good-bye. Think about it … Before these readers have even had a chance to uncover the information they’re looking for, they’ve been asked to opt-in to your list, buy products, and even chat with a stranger! Chances are you’d be clicking away pretty quickly in these situations as well.
The only real test for this bounce rate issue is your own gut check. Navigate through your pages with a fresh set of eyes and determine how many of these interruptions visitors must content with instead of reading your content. Even though these tools (when taken individually) might be good for your conversion rates, putting them all together is only going to piss off your visitors and jack up your bounce rates.
Technique #4: Improve Your Page Load Times
Another important factor contributing to website bounce rate that you’ll want to consider in your site analysis is your site speed. While most website users access the Web today using higher-speed connections than the modem dial-ups of the past, site load times can still be an issue if you’ve packed your pages full of slow loading visual elements.
To check your current load times against other sites in your industry, give the free Google PageSpeed Insights tool a try. Not only will this program measure your current site speed, it’ll give you recommendations on how to get your pages to run even faster.
Making these changes can have a positive impact on both your overall bounce rate and your SEO performance, as Google has long since made it known that page load times are considered as a ranking factor by its search engine algorithms.
Technique #5: Create Better Content
Finally, even if your website works beautifully in all browsers, your content is clearly accessible and your site loads as fast as a single page HTML site, there’s one more factor that can bring down your webpages’ bounce rates: Your content might just suck.
Truth be told, you can build a website that’s perfectly designed to attract readers and hold their attention, but if the content that you fill these pages with doesn’t provide anything valuable to the people reading your site, your bounce rate will continue to be high.
So if you’re concerned that this might be the case on your site, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my content free from grammatical and spelling errors?
- Does my content provide information that readers within my industry actually consider valuable?
- Does my website offer content that’s unique from other sites in my industry?
- Could my content be construed as offensive in any way?
- Is the average reading level of my content on par with expectations within my industry?
Webmasters are told over and over again how important it is to have plenty of text-based content on their sites. But while most site owners use this as a rallying cry to fill their pages with useful information, some webmasters rush the production of their content in order to meet these arbitrary-seeming content standards. The result, unfortunately, is often shoddy, low-value content that leads to high bounce rates and poor website performance overall.
Clearly, these aren’t the only five techniques that can be used to address high bounce rates, as the causes of this phenomenon are both complex and uniquely specific to each site.
However, these techniques should provide a good starting point for sites that are interested in boosting the number of visitors who stay on their sites past their initial landing pages. Give them a try and see if you don’t see a difference in your visitor retention rates!
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Bruce Rolff