A low bounce rate is touted as one of the ideal qualities of a website; other ideal website qualities include high average times on pages and high numbers of unique page views. At its core, a low bounce rate is an indicator that visitors to your site are actively engaging with its content.
How is bounce rate defined?
According to Google, bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing only its first/entry page. Within the content drill-down area of Google Analytics, you can locate your site pages and their respective bounce rate percentages.
Many individuals assume that a page’s bounce rate is defined by a “set” amount of time that a visitor spends on that particular page. That is actually not the case. Google can’t determine how long a visitor is staying on a given page until that visitor goes to a different page. At that point, the timer starts running. So, a visitor to a page must take some kind of action on that page, like clicking on it, before Google can consider that visit a success.
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Is a high bounce rate always bad?
The common refrain is that high bounce rates are bad. However, that is not always the case depending on the goals of your web pages and your website. Here are some cases where high bounce rates aren’t necessarily a reason to panic:
- Your website leads visitors to products on other networks such as Amazon or eBay.
- You make money when visitors click on affiliate links or ads.
- Your website collects information via surveys, lead forms or email newsletter sign-ups.
- Your customers navigate to and call your 1-800 business line.
As these examples show, it’s not always desirable to have visitors spending a lot of time on your website- in fact, it might even be counterproductive and indicate that they are not finding what they are looking for. So, if you are achieving your website’s goals and seeing conversions, then having a high bounce rate shouldn’t be perceived as an issue.
When are high bounce rates an issue?
When there is low or no conversion. If your intention is to have visitors convert, yet your website registers few or no conversions, then analyzing your bounce rate will help you pinpoint the source of the problem. This process is sometimes called conversion rate optimization (CRO) and involves strategies such as A/B testing, funnel analysis, and split URL testing.
So, when it comes to poor conversion rates, where could the problem stem from?
Lack of informational content
One common reason for a lack of conversion includes insufficient content for visitors who are in the interest, research and purchase phases of the buying cycle. Fortunately, this issue is easily resolved by increasing informational and educational content and balancing its focus between customers who are “just browsing” and those who wish to learn more.
On that front, if your content consists mostly of product pages, add pages that contain informational content such as product manual or user guide. Also, publish educational content such as product reviews, case studies and white papers. You might even wish to republish customer comments or social media observations.
Lack of appropriate keywords
Your website is probably associated with given keywords; however, are they the right keywords? If your site keywords don’t match its intentions, then your visitors will not have a good user experience.
Irrelevant keywords can result in the wrong type of traffic. So, while your website stats will report a lot of visitors, those visitors will not match the intentions of your website, resulting in a high bounce rate.
You can use Google Analytics to learn which keywords your website is optimized for. By checking that information against your AdWords search queries area, you can learn which keywords are being used to locate your website. Once you have your keyword list in hand, create content that includes keywords your audience is using to search for your web pages. Also, add those keywords to your meta and alt text descriptions.
Confusing site navigation
Sometimes, you might see a high average time per visit on your website yet still have a high bounce rate. This is often the case if your site’s visitors are confused by its navigation and/or cannot find a certain page.
To find out if your website has confusing navigation, you should first locate your site’s XML map. If you don’t have one yet, you can generate it on platforms like WordPress by installing and using an XML map generator.
With this map in hand, check your site’s behavior flow on Google Analytics. You might learn that visitors go into various dead ends on your site. You might also learn that your site’s visitors drop off on a certain page and don’t even access its lower level pages or resources.
You might also consider generating heat maps of your pages to see where visitors go and where they don’t. Hotjar, Crazy Egg, MouseStats and Lucky Orange all offer free trial periods of their heat map tools, so you can check out your website without paying a dime.
Reorganization of your site’s content is needed if your navigation stymies and confuses your visitors. Alternately, you could call out and showcase the pages that your visitors are always looking for on your home page and/or other higher level pages.
An unappealing offer
When it comes to CRO, you need to have a thick skin. Sometimes, your audience won’t be interested in a percent discount on your products. Then again, maybe everyone is just waiting for you to announce your promo code or freebie.
Audience preferences are a fickle and fluid thing, so you’ll need to try different approaches to win its interest and improve your conversions. This is also where A/B testing comes into play. Fortunately, you can set up free A/B testing with Google Analytics.
Extra credit: Unmatched audience interests
Google Analytics provides information on your audience’s self-identified interests. If your website doesn’t contain content pertaining to your audience’s interests, that could also be increasing its bounce rate.
It is worthwhile to take a look at audience interests when planning out your content creation and editing strategy, and then try to match some of that content to your audience.
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High bounce rates and your website
A high bounce rate isn’t always bad news for your website; however, it is a matter that should be investigated in detail. By doing so, you can make improvements to your content, organize it more effectively, and better understand your customers’ buying journey.