6 quick tips to help reduce your website bounce rate - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

Bounce rate is defines as the percentage of visitors who leave a site without navigating to another page. They arrive on the site and essentially “bounce” away. Bounce rate is a great metric that acts as signal to measure how sticky your website is. However, what it won’t tell you is the reasons why people aren’t navigating further in to your website. Common reasons include browser compatibility, poor navigation, slow page load times and poorly written copy, but without doing some research you are pretty much blind.

Obviously if your website is only one page bounce rate isn’t a metric that you should be concerned about, as every visit will be recorded as bouncing! However, if you want visitors to spend more time navigating your website (e.g. a blog or brochure website) or you want to convert them in to customers (e.g. an ecommerce store), here are some ideas to help you reduce your bounce rate.

The first step is to identify which pages have the highest bounce rates. Without this information everything you do will just be guess work and you won’t be able to measure the impact of your changes.  Google Analytics is the de facto choice for many webmasters and one we use here at Heart Internet. For the purposes of this post I will presume you are using Google Analytics. To find out your website’s bounce rate and the bounce rate of individual page go to: ‘Content ‘> ‘Top content’.

Segment and analyse

Rather than tearing apart your website and making major redesign decisions I would start by investigating any groups that have a higher bounce rate than normal. For example are you seeing a high proportion of Chrome users leave? If so, that could indicate a problem with the browser showing the page incorrectly rather than a problem with the design or lay out. (To check your Chrome user’s behaviour go to: Visitors > Browser capabilities > Browsers > Chrome)

Use clear navigation and calls to action

As the designer of a website you can become blind to bottle necks, dead ends and hidden links. Because you know where links and tabs are, they are obvious to you. To ensure this is the case for all your visitors, use heat maps to check people are clicking on the areas of your website you want them to. If you are willing to pay, Crazy Egg is a good choice, if you want a free solution Labsmedia’s ClickHeat is often recommended (although I haven’t personally used it).

Check your page load times

Since as early as 1997 page load times have been identified as a major usability issue. The simple truth is your website’s visitors will be much more likely to go further in to your website if your load times are quick. Use tools such as Google Webmaster and Pingdom to check how fast your pages are loading. Anything over a few seconds and you should look at ways to speed this up. Scripts, external file and media are all major factors in slowing down a web page. For example, if you use a CMS such as WordPress deactivate any plugins you are not using to speed up the loading time of your site. If you have hand coded your websit,e can you reduce the number of files being requested (such as CSS files) by combining them?

Keep the page focused and to the point

Whether you like it or not and no matter how long you spend writing you website’s copy “on the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” (source: https://www.useit.com/alertbox/percent-text-read.html). Headlines clearly positioning who you are and what you do along with short punchy sentences and paragraphs backed by images are far more effective than trying to force paragraph after paragraph of sales pitches on to them. I always think https://www.mailchimp.com/ is a great example of this being used in practice.

Provide a search box

If you have a complex website with hundreds or thousands of pages, offer a search box to give users the ability to quickly search and find the content they want without any fuss. As well as offering a way to send visitors directly to the information they are looking for, search boxes also act as an escape mechanism when they become stuck in navigation.

“Popular/ More like this/ related” links

Listing related posts or products on the page can help to reduce bounce rate, making it easy for those who are interested in reading more to find this information in one easy click.

Are there any methods you have used that proved to be effective you would like to share? If so, leave a comment below.

(Image credit: https://www.conversionstats.com/blog/website-analysis-some-like-it-hot/13/)

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  • Richard Kotze

    15/04/2011

    A tip to add to page load speed:

    The reason to combine CSS file and Script files is it reduces the number of requests sent to the server and checking if the document has changed from the cached version. So when a user lands on your site the external files are downloaded and cached on the users machine. These are then used instead of downloading from the server again.

    Just to optimise this a bit more its best to add expiry dates to these files, then a request will only be sent to the server when a file has expired.

    Important note is the actual HTML files are not cached on the users machine so embedding CSS and Script into HTML pages only makes them heavier, so it is best to use external files.

    Another tip: CSS files go to the top in between the head tag this gets the layout set and stops the content from jumping. JavaScript files should be placed at the bottom by the closing body tag because a browser stops loading the page until the script file is loaded. This means a user sees the site is loading and less likely to leave your site, even if your script has not fully loaded yet.

    Also if you are using third party scripts like google analytics or facebook like button make sure you use an asynchronous method – this allows the site to keep loading even if the third party script has not finish loading.

     
  • 15/04/2011

    Richard,

    Great tips, thanks for that.

    Matt

     
  • Ian Spencer

    15/04/2011

    Excellent blog and some good points.

    One of the most important things you mention is to look at which pages have the highest bounce rate, rather than just judge the site as a whole,

    This is because one page can dramatically alter your stats, so as you say, narrow down and then deal with the problem rather than just assuming “everything” needs changing.

    Ian

     
  • 15/04/2011

    Ian,

    Thanks for the positive feedback. Yes you are right, it’s important to look at individual pages (home page included) rather than the top level site average.

    Matt

     
  • Linksbuilder

    18/04/2011

    Can you talk sometime in the future about the difference between bounce rate and %exit? How is % exit measured differently from bounce rate? Which of these numbers is better to look at?

     
  • 18/04/2011

    Google defines each of Google Analytic’s metrics here https://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=99118

    %exit reports back the % of visitors who left that page regardless of where else they went to on your website. Bounce rate reports on the % that arrived and left on the same page.

    Cheers

    Matt

     
  • Linksbuilder

    19/04/2011

    Thanks a lot for information Matt:)

     
  • Steve

    11/05/2011

    While in an ideal world i agree with keeping the page “focused and to the point” it’s often not viable when you need content for SEO purposes.

    You more often than not need quality content on a page to help acheive the high relevance and subsequent search position.

     
  • 11/05/2011

    Steve,

    Quality content does not necessarily mean a lot of content. There are a lot of examples of webstes being ranked in the top 10 of Google’s SERP with out having a novel’s worth of copy on their home page e.g. themeforest.com and woothemes.com for the keyword “wordpress themes”.

    Matt

     

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