Bounce rate is the rate at which people immediately navigate away from your site. It acts as an indicator of how useful, engaging or inviting your site is to visitors.
To get your sites bounce rate, use an analytics service such as Google analytics. While different industries and types of sites vary on average bounce rate, a general rule of thumb is that you want to try and keep your bounce rate below 50%. Your goal should be to have at least 55% of your visitors to stay 10 seconds or more. That seems to be the sweet spot.
There are numerous possible explanations for why your bounce rate might be high. The first thing I’d suggest is putting yourself in the shoes of your visitor. This isn’t easy when you have been slaving over the same site day after day, but try and take a fresh perspective. Is your design easy to navigate? Is the content interesting? Is your content relevant to the search terms that are acting as sources of traffic?
Again, check Google analytics, and look at your “traffic sources”, this will tell you what sites are sending you traffic and which search terms are sending you the most traffic. If your content isn’t congruent with the type of traffic coming your way, spend some time to remedy that.
One of the biggest causes of a high bounce rate (especially from mobile devices) is a long load time. The importance of site load time seems toe be an ever-increasing metric in Google’s algorithm and something you definitely want to look into. Use site load time tool like:
http://tools.pingdom.com/ OR http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/ to help rank and identify your sites speed issues.
Huge images and lots of includes will often be the culprit. Here is a technical list of common causes of slow load times are. If these look like Greek to you, don’t worry, just send this article to your web guy:
Many of you WordPress users out there tend to snatch up every single cool sounding plugin or widget and install it on your site. This can become excessive and often negatively impacts load time. You don’t need 3 SEO plugins on your site, often times they do the same thing, or are just a gimmick. If you are a hoarder of WordPress plugins, use something like plugin hog detector to identify which plugin is slowing your site down (remember to deactivate it after you run a test).
Something else to keep in mind while we are on the subject of plugins, is if you don’t need it, get rid of it. If you haven’t had your site hacked you are one of the lucky ones. Often times a free plugin or theme will be the culprit that let the hacker in. I have seen it time and time again. So, if it seems questionable or you aren’t benefiting from its use, delete it.
Another little trick to reduce bounce is to put an interesting or enticing photo mostly below the fold of the page. Position the image so that the top ¼ of the image is “peeking” out and will require the visitor to scroll down to reveal the rest of the image. This engages the user and gives you another few seconds to pique their interest and have your content viewed. While this is a really small action, the user is engaging and the ball is beginning to roll.
Image content can really make a difference in bounce rate.
Visitors are looking for a good user experience, pleasing and interesting content, and images. If you haven’t already seen my article on image hacks, take a minute and give it a look see.
Use emotional trigger words in your headlines (and sub-headlines), you can find a good list of them with a quick Google search. We are emotional beings and we want to be moved. By including things like faces, and emotional trigger words, our visitors will be more engaged and more likely to give your site the time of day.
Other tricks worth testing are animated gifs and auto play video. But again, be mindful of load time. Some site owners use user interactive content to try and lower bounce rate, like polls, voting, and the like. While I think that is the right idea, often times it doesn’t enhance the content the user is looking for. So, unless you are giving the user tailored results or personalized information, don’t bother with this. You also want to limit outgoing links. For instance the link above to the explanation of what “above the fold” means, is actually a “no-no.” You want your content to be rich, informative, moving, and interesting, but don’t give your visitors a million ways to exit your site (unless you are reddit.com).
Above all else, watch the analytics, do content experiments, and try new designs. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone who is starting out. That is why I wrote this article with more easily applied tips and tricks. But, the day your site is generating a return on your investment, it’s time to learn about or find someone who is an analytics and testing wiz. That is what will take your site from good to great. In the interim, follow the steps I mentioned and watch your bounce rate drop and your Google rank climb.