Bounce rate is a metric often ignored because people aren’t sure how to interpret it. When bounce rate comes up in a discussion, the most often asked question is, “What’s a good bounce rate?”. The answer: it depends. The average bounce rate for a site is very dependent upon what kind of site it is (blog, retail, news, etc.) and which industry it caters to. Instead, it is often more important to pay attention to changes in bounce rate, especially when bounce rate increases. Below are some factors that affect bounce rate.
1. No Call to Action
Lets say you create a piece of content and distribute it across multiple channels. Users go to the URL to read the content. Now what? There’s a reason you wanted to drive visitors to your page–now that they are armed with the information you presented to them, what action are they supposed to take? Is it to purchase a product? Download an app? Subscribe to a newsletter? Without a clear CTA, visitors are more likely to bounce.
Without a call to action, your audience is just like:
2. Misleading Titles
Brands and publishers are all vying for users’ attention and to gain that attention, titles need to be compelling. But there’s a fine line between compelling and misleading. Ashamedly, a lot of us have been click baited–“You’ll never eat apples again once your read this shocking fact!”. Sure, titles like that may get people to your site, but it surely isn’t going to get them to stay (and likely, they’ll leave disappointed). From an SEO perspective, your rankings could take a hit if Google see’s that people are clicking on your page and then immediately clicking back to the search results page.
You know the feeling:
3. Poor formatting or visually unappealing content (ex: no paragraph breaks)
Readers are shallow. If your landing page looks like crap or has chunky paragraphs, people will leave. Even if your page is rich with content, it needs to at least look snackable and easy to scan. It’s rare that someone landing on your site is going to read your content word for word. Most of us scan a page before we commit to reading it to make sure it at least looks like it’s worth our time. Because of this behavior, visual cues and visual breaks are important. Here are some tips:
- Avoid long, blocky paragraphs. Instead, keep paragraphs around 3-4 sentences.
- Use relevant images to complement text (this will help quickly reassure user’s that the page is relevant).
- Break content into sections by using headings and subheadings.
- Use lists to make information more digestible.
Y U NO USE PARAGRAPH BREAKS!
4. Increased production of non-brand content (or content in general)
It’s not uncommon to see an increased bounce rate after launching new site content (particularly blog posts and articles). This is especially true for informational pieces such as one-page tutorials or “how-to” articles (people tend to leave once the receive the information they were seeking). To minimize bounces, consider adding a related posts section or internal resources for further reading. If you are mentioning products in your content, be sure to add internal links to those products.
People tend to leave once they get what they want:
5. Not setting external links to open in a new tab/window.
There is nothing wrong with adding external links to your site or content. Doing so allows you to provide additional information to the user and backup any claims you may have made. At the same time, however, you don’t want to send people away from your site, resulting in a bounce. A simple solution is to ensure that all of your external links open in a new window. To do so, all you need to do is add target=”_blank” after your external link like so:
<a href=”http://www.example.com” target=”_blank”>anchor text</a>
If you send users away from your site, you might not see them again.
6. Soft 404s or empty pages/out of stock pages
If you notice a sudden increase in bounce rate for a particular page, this could be an indication that a soft 404 is occurring. A soft 404 is a non-existent page that displays a “Page Not Found” error message but the server returns a 200 status code instead. Checking for soft 404 pages is easy. You can either physically visit the page and check the status code by doing inspect element > network or you see all your soft 404s by checking Google Search Console.
7. Poorly designed interstitials or popups
If popups can be avoided, they should. But if email subscriptions are important to your line of business, then they may be necessary. Therefor, if you are going to use popups, do so in a way that is the least disruptive and annoying to your users.
- Do not force the user to provide information (such as email addresses or creating an account) to access your content. Make it easy for them to opt-out.
- Avoid using popups that delay or prevent page loading.
- Don’t hide the ‘x’ or put in an unconventional location in an attempt to confuse or slow-down the user when trying to close out the popup.
- Make your interstitials skipable instead of forcing the user to wait 5 seconds before the can proceed.
- Make the popup as unobtrusive as possible. Test using message bars instead of boxes or semi-transparent popups versus opaque. Also avoid popups that take up more than 75 percent of the page.
Popups that are difficult to close are frustrating to your users.
8. Poor mobile experience
If you are hosting an unresponsive desktop site to mobile visitors, expect the bounce rate to be through the roof. The less mobile-friendly a site is, the higher the bounce rate will be. Mobile visitors tend to interact less with with sites compared to desktop users, so bounce rate on mobile devices will naturally be higher. To see if a website is mobile friendly, run it through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
Your website should be mobile-friendly.
9. Related material
So a user landed on your page, and read most or all of your content. Great! You just won half the battle but now what? Ideally, you want to present them with related content to encourage them to stay on your site. Think about when you finish watching an entire show on Netflix–the credits are rolling and you’re contemplating what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. But then, Netflix algorithmically serves you suggestions for what to watch next. You need to provide your audience with those same suggestions. Add a ‘related articles’ section towards the bottom of your content or on the sidebar. Or, add relevant, internal links within the body of the content.
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