Online Marketing Lesson 38: 10 Techniques to Lower Your Bounce Rate

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Bounce rate is a very important metric for website owners. It basically tells you what percentage of your visitors are “bouncing” away after landing on your site (e.g., they just visit one page and leave before clicking on to a second page inside your site). A bounce can occur for several reasons, including:

  • The visitor hit the “Back” button on his browser.
  • The visitor closed his browser.
  • The visitor clicked on one of your ads
  • The visitor clicked on one of your external links.
  • The visitor used the search box on his browser.
  • The visitor typed a new URL on his browser.

All the actions above would cause the visitor to leave your site. Provided he did any of these actions right after arriving at your site (and before clicking on to a second page), it would be counted as a bounce. In fact, the formula for finding the bounce rate on your website is:

Bounce rate = Visits that left after one page / Total number of visits

For example, if during a certain month your site received 120,000 visits, out of which 80,000 bounced after visiting just one page, your bounce rate for that month would be 80,000 divided by 120,000, which equals to 0.66 (or 66%). Notice that you can calculate the bounce rate of your whole website or of single pages inside it.

Obviously, the lower the bounce rate on your website, the better, because it means that visitors are getting engaged by your content and design and that they are clicking to visit a second (third and so on) page on your site.

How do you know the exact bounce rate on your site? A web analytics program like Google Analytics will automatically track the numbers for you.

What Is A Low Bounce Rate?

At this point, you might be asking yourself what a low bounce rate is. Is it 60%? Is it 30%? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer for this question. What is considered to be a low bounce rate will vary, depending on the type of website that you have, on the sources that are sending traffic to you and so on.

Content based websites like blogs and news portals, for example, will naturally have a lower bounce rate than online stores or product based websites because on the former visitors will want to read more articles, while on the latter they will either purchase something or leave right away.

If you want some ballpark numbers, consider that a bounce rate of 80% or higher is considered high, regardless of the type of website you have. Bounce rates between 40% and 80% are considered normal for most websites and a bounce rate below 40% is very good. Some content sites and squeeze pages can have bounce rates below the 20% mark, but this is rare.

10 Techniques To Lower Your Bounce Rate

The ballpark numbers presented above are not that important. As we mentioned before, each site has its own bounce rate. The important thing is that you monitor yours and that you try to decrease it gradually over time. Below you’ll find 10 techniques that can help you with that.

1. Display more content above the fold

A simple way to reduce your bounce rate, therefore, is to display more content above the fold. By “content” we mean the stuff that is really going to satisfy the needs of your visitors; the information they came looking for in the first place.

Elements that are not considered “content” include the header graphics, the navigation menu, the sidebars, the ads, the buttons and so on. By displacing some of these elements below the fold, or removing them completely, you’ll increase the amount of content above the fold and the chances of engaging your visitors with your content, which will lead them to click to a second page on your site.

If you have a header image with a height of 300 pixels, for example, you could substitute it with a shorter one, making space for more content.

2. Move or remove your ads

If you monetize your website with advertising you’ll need to find a balance. Too many ads and your bounce rate will sky-rocket, which will hurt your earnings over the long run because visitors will not return to your site. Not enough ads and your earnings will also suffer, for obvious reasons.

Testing is a must here. If your bounce rate is already high, try moving the ads around to less intrusive locations, and track the results. You might even need to remove some of them to make the bounce rate acceptable.

If your bounce rate is not that high and you want to add more ads, do it gradually. That is, insert one more ad and track the bounce rate for a couple of weeks. If it hasn’t increased too much try adding another ad and track it again.

3. Link out moderately

We don’t recommend that you never link out to external sites for fear of losing visitors. This is a myth that old webmasters cultivated. Linking out to quality and relevant sites is a good practice, as it will provide value to your visitors and allow you to network with fellow site owners.

However, you should link out moderately. For example, placing a “Blogroll” or “Sites We Like” section on top of your sidebar would be a bad idea because it would encourage visitors to leave your site even before they had a chance to read your content.

4. Make your navigation structure as clear as possible

Users must understand how to navigate your site quickly and easily. If they have trouble finding what they are looking for they will just leave.

First of all pay attention to your main navigation menu. Make sure it contains all the most important links, like the “Home” and “Contact” ones. It would be a good idea to include these important links in the footer as well.

Second, make sure users know what is clickable and what is not. If the titles of your posts look like normal text, for example, users will not know that by clicking on them they’ll be redirected to the page with the full post.

5. Tweak the size and format of your content

Web surfers have some characteristics you can’t ignore if you want to have an engaging site. First of all they have a short attention span. If you are displaying huge blocks of text on your homepage, for example, your bounce rate might suffer, because people will move away before they get a chance to read your content. It would be a good idea to use smaller paragraphs, and to make sure that all your content is easily scannable, in case visitors just want to get the important parts out.

Second, web surfers get bored easily. If you want them to stick around and visit more than one page on your site, therefore, you’ll need to hook them. The easiest way to do this is with catchy headlines. Professional copywriters often spend more time working on the headline than they do on the rest of the article. In other words, craft your headlines carefully and your bounce rate might decrease.

6. Use images wisely

As mentioned in the previous point, creating hooks that will grab the attention of your visitors is essential to keep them interested on your site. Another way to create hooks is by using images.

If you include a funny or descriptive image in each of your posts, for instance, you’ll be increasing the chances that readers will notice them and stay around to read the whole article.

7. Show related content to visitors

Showing related content to your visitors is a great way to reduce the bounce rate on your site. Why? Because users will have a much greater chance of clicking on a link that is related to something they are already interested in.

The simplest example of this technique is a section with links to related pages at the bottom of each post on your blog or website. You can also experiment with different headlines to see which ones perform better. Examples include “Liked this article? Then You’ll Love These” and “More articles on this topic.”

8. Show your best content to visitors

Apart from showing related content, you should also show your best content to visitors. The logic is the same: visitors will be more likely to click on the links if they feel that those links point to popular articles that other visitors liked in the past.

You could create a “Most Popular” section on the sidebar, for example. Other places you can display your popular content includes the bottom of single posts, the bottom of the RSS feed and so on.

9. Make your website load faster

The loading time of your site is one of its most important usability factors. Previous market research confirmed that most Internet users would not wait for websites that took 4 seconds or more to load. They would just move on.

Considering the spread of broadband connections around the world we can assume that this “4 seconds” figure is getting smaller every day. If you want visitors to stick around, therefore, your site needs to load as fast as possible.

Here are some tips you can apply to achieve this goal:

  • Reduce the number of images in your design, and optimize the size of the images in your content.
  • Reduce the amount of external widgets and scripts that are being loaded on your pages.
  • Consider using a caching solution (e.g., WP Super Cache plugin.
  • Consider changing your hosting provider to one with faster servers.
  • Consider removing elements from your website to make the overall HTML file smaller.

10. Get traffic from better sources

Most webmasters forget that the bounce rate is affected not only by factors inside your website. Traffic sources can also affect your bounce rate. For example, traffic coming from a social bookmarking site like Digg.com will have a much higher bounce rate than traffic coming from search engines or from a referring website.

If after tweaking internal elements your bounce rate is still high, therefore, you could try to get traffic from better sources. Natural links from other websites and blogs tend to produce lower bounce rates, so you could start focusing on those. You might want to read the lesson on link baits again for this purpose.

Action Points

  1. Install Google Analytics or a similar software on your website and track your bounce rate for a couple of weeks.
  2. If you find out that it is too high, start applying some of the techniques mentioned in this lesson to lower it gradually.
  3. Remember that bounce rates between 40% and 80% are considered normal for most websites, so don’t get obsessed trying to get yours too low.

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