5 Surefire Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate
July 28, 2014
If you’re a website owner you’ve likely come across the term Bounce Rate in conversations with your web designer or SEO expert. Bounce rate is a term that is often misunderstood and confused with another term known as Exit Rate. Bounce rate is a key metric that we use to determine how well a website is performing both in marketing and user experience. Making a website design or marketing decision using bounce rate data without fully understanding what bounce rate is and its impact on user experience and conversion can be a catastrophic mistake for a business. I have more than eleven years of experience creating website interfaces and over this time I’ve come to be very familiar with bounce rate and have developed a surefire list of strategies I employ in order to reduce bounce rate for not only our clients, but our website as well. Before we look at ways to reduce bounce rate, let’s first clarify what bounce rate really means.
What is Bounce Rate?
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a website that leave after viewing only a single page. There are many reasons why a visitor would “bounce” without digging deeper into a website. Most commonly it’s a case of of misinformation through inadequate search engine optimization or advertising, where the visitor has landed on a website only to discover it does not offer the information they are seeking. Visitors may also bounce from a website due to slow performance (page load speed) or troublesome and confusing navigation.
What is The Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?
To fully understand bounce rate it is important to have a good grasp on what the difference between bounce rate and exit rate is. Exit rate refers to the page that a visitor leaves a website from. Exit rate does not necessarily signal a problem with the website unless it is the home page or dedicated landing page that owns the highest exit rate.
For example, a visitor may land on a website, read about a product or service and then make a purchase before leaving the site. When the user navigates away from the order confirmation page displayed after the purchase is made the user data indicates an exit from the website and adds another point to the exit rate for that page. This is a natural process and does not indicate a problem somewhere in the website design or user experience. By contrast, when a visitor lands on a page of the website and exits without navigating anywhere else within the website, this refers to bounce rate and often indicates either a problem with the website design, or with the marketing strategy in place to draw visitors to the site.
Common Scenarios For Bounce Rate
The following user behaviours are common indicators of bounce rate and usually tell us that the visitor’s expectations were not met when landing on the website.
When a website user…
- clicks the back button in the browser
- closes the browser window or tab
- enters a new URL in the address bar of the browser
- does nothing within 30 minutes of landing on the page (session times out)
According to Google’s own research, the average bounce rate of a website is about 50%. This number seems quite high if we consider that on most websites, half of all visitors leave the website without navigating past the initial landing page. However, the average is rather meaningless as goals, experience and content differ so greatly from website to website. If we look at some common bounce rate benchmarks and examples we can understand why this statistic is meaningless.
Blogs – 70-98% Bounce Rate
Due to the nature of blogs and how information is commonly shared across social media streams and back linking, it is more natural for visitors to land on a blog article page and then leave once they have finished reading. In this scenario visitors are far less likely to scan through archives of older articles, which leaves the bounce rate significantly higher than any other common scenario.
Landing Pages & Single Page Website – 70-90% Bounce Rate
Landing pages and single page websites are designed as a single page allowing users very little option other than to bounce. When looking at your website data the bounce rate can easily be deceiving if you are employing a landing page marketing strategy or if your website design features only a single page offering visitors nowhere else to go.
Retail Websites – 20-40% Bounce Rate
In this scenario we typically see lower bounce rates as users that land on a retail website are often visiting with a higher intent on making a purchase (also know as a conversion). Visitors typically land on the website, scan through the product section and often review several products before making a decision on a purchase before leaving the website.
Service Websites – 10-30%
Service websites most often enjoy the lowest average bounce due to the type of content found in these scenarios. Visitors are directed to this this type of website to inquire about or collect information regarding a service they are in need of. By the very nature of the content, visitors dig deeper on service websites than any other.
Why It’s Critical to Reduce Bounce Rate
Reducing the bounce rate on a website is critical for several reasons. First and foremost, reducing the number of visitors that leave without digging deeper into the website ultimately turns into more conversions and more money in your pocket through increased sales. The goal should not be to attract the largest quantity of visitors, but instead to attract the most customers with online intent (also know as Online Customer Intent or OCI). What we have here is a classic case of quality or quantity.
Additionally, reducing bounce rate can lead to savings in both time and money. By creating clear and focused marketing for your business you make better use of marketing investments over time as you will be attracting visitors with an interest in your offering rather than users who mistakenly land on your page due to confusion or marketing materials that are not communicating effectively. If you run a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign, imagine how much you could reduce your marketing investment if you reduced the amount of mistaken click throughs to your website? Consider how each mistake takes a bite out of your marketing budget.
Now that we understand what bounce rate is and how it affects our business, let’s look at some methods we can use to help reduce bounce rate.
5 Ways You Can Reduce Bounce Rate
1. Deliver Upon Expectations and Optimize For Intent
If your website analytics data shows a bounce rate above the expected average for your industry it may be an indication that your website design or content is not engaging your audience. It may also be that your marketing is not clearly communicating your product or service offering and may be misleading visitors into thinking that your website offers something that it does not.
One of the most surefire methods to reduce bounce rate is to set up users’ expectations through the design and content of your website and marketing materials. Whether that be the call-to-action in an ad or a headline that matches page content, the more clearly we communicate with our audience, the better chance we have of retaining them on our website. In order to create a positive relationship with our brand, we do not ever want visitors to land on our site and feel deceived or cheated by our efforts to get them there. In general, I live be the rule that visitors should have some idea of what lies ahead when they click through to a web page.
2. Create a Better Website Design
First and foremost, invest in a professional website design. A professional web designer will have the experience to take your vision or existing branding and build it up to communicate more effectively with your audience. Over my decade-plus in web design, I’ve heard from countless clients shortly after deploying their new website that their newly on-boarded customers chose them from the crowd because of the professional design and clear messaging on their website. This is fantastic to hear from clients and also reinforces my theories on creating great website design.
Some ways you can enhance your website design to lower bounce are are:
- Make sure your website is responsive – a responsive web design will adapt in real time to fit just about any device giving visitors the best possible user experience and accessibility to your service or product anytime, anywhere.
- Use clear, consistent and intuitive navigation – when website visitors struggle or cannot find what they’re looking for quickly, they leave the website and end up on the competition’s website. It takes a lot of time, money and effort to put your website in a position to attract the right visitors. Don’t lose them once you’ve got their attention due to a poor user experience.
- Communicate a clear and precise message on the landing page – whether it’s your home page or a dedicated landing page within the website, you have only a few critical seconds to convey your message to each visitor. If this message is not instantly recognizable visitors are apt to bounce for another website.
- Ensure page content is easy-to-read – if you’re working with a professional web designer you will notice the drastic difference in readability that some subtle typographic fine tuning can make. If your content is easy to read on all devices from desktop to mobile you create a more positive and enjoyable experience for visitors. If your page content is more than a few hundred words, consider splitting it up with related imagery or diagrams to give the reader a little break between concepts in order to fully comprehend and process your messaging.
- Pay attention to page load speed – the longer your website takes to load each page, the higher the risk you run of losing visitors along the way. Anything more than 3-5 seconds often leads to a bounce rate of more than 80%. For more tips on increasing page speed, follow up on our article 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Responsive Web Design.
3. Be Active On Social Media
Social media has become one of the key ways that we connect with brands. In many cases, consumers now research a product or service through social media rather than visiting the company’s corporate website. As this behaviour becomes increasingly more common it is more important than ever to be active on social media, which in turn can help meet the expectations of visitors as they learn more about your business before clicking through to your website.
By using social media as a communication tool, we are able to push targeted content to our audience and keep them engaged with our brand rather than having them come directly to us. Using this strategy, we are able to help reduce our bounce rate as users are already informed on what we have to offer before they land on our website.
4. Eliminate Distractions
As much as you want to make your website stand out from competitors, avoid over designing the experience and cluttering up your page layouts. Simple, elegant web design is proven to convert more visitors into customers because the message is clear and there are no distractions, like auto-play or pop-up videos for example, that either confuse visitors or interrupt their natural discovery process by inviting them to divert their attention elsewhere. Tommy Walker of Conversion XL discusses this subject in great detail using a collection of great case studies to reinforce this concept.
5. Open External Links in a New Tab or Window
This concept seems so basic, yet is so often overlooked. When linking to an external page or website from your content make sure that when a visitor clicks on the link that the external site is loaded in it’s own browser tab or window. This will ensure the visitor does not leave your site accidentally or if they get caught up in information on the external page when they are finished, your website is still front and centre.
Share Your Strategies Proven to Reduce Bounce Rate
I’m sure there are many more ideas web designers employ to help reduce bounce rate and I would love to hear them all. If you have a method that is proven to help reduce bounce rate, I’d be happy to add it to our growing list of successful strategies with a credit to your hard work and research. By sharing our experience I believe we can help our online community build a better, more effective web.