Your website should be swimming with juicy content so potential customers are enticed to stay and don’t sashay away too quickly. Drawing visitors from their initial entry page to another site page (and then to another…) will improve bounce rate – one major factor that determines your site’s ranking.

Decreasing bounce rate is one of the toughest challenges in digital marketing. Depending on the goals of your pages, though, a high bounce rate may not be a big negative. We’ll get into that after we define bounce rate.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of your site’s visitors who leave (bounce) after visiting only one page. Google, the Mack Daddy of search engines, takes bounce rate into account when deciding where your site ranks for certain searches. Improving, and thus decreasing, your bounce rate is a matter of drawing visitors to visit multiple pages of your site.

There’s no step-by-step instructions on improving bounce rate, and that’s why decreasing bounce rate is so challenging. Site visitors go where they want to go. There are a number of reasons why visitors bounce after visiting only one page – some of them are completely valid, too. Keep in mind, 40% of users will bounce if it takes more than three seconds for a site to load, according to research from influencer Neil Patel. If the page they clicked on doesn’t immediately offer the information they seek or answer their question, then, bye bye.

OR, your page may have exactly what they want — and they still go bye bye.

High bounce rate — who cares?

Improving bounce rate across your entire site is a big undertaking. Before you take that on, look at the goals of your site — and of individual pages. Let’s pretend one of your landing pages aims for the No. 1 spot on Google for “urns.” It’s chock full of information — the definitive guide to all options of cremation containers. If educating visitors about urns is the primary goal, and you have a time-on-page average of three minutes, 36 seconds and an 87% bounce rate – that’s still a win!

How? Well, your goal is education. Visitors spent a lot of time on the page, got their questions answered and left. The page performs as designed. However, if the goal of that page is to convert visitors into customers who purchase cremation containers, then the metrics indicate the page isn’t performing quite as well.

Why? They got the info and left without making — or even considering — a purchase. E-commerce sites with a high bounce rate — 45.68% is the average ecommerce site bounce rate, according to Conversion XL — likely struggle with sales goals. The checkout process — or even the sales consideration process — means visitors likely see at least two pages on your site before bouncing.

Conquering bounce rate one page at a time

It’s usually begin with a single page when analyzing performance and addressing bounce rate. The source of a page’s traffic is a major influencer on bounce rate. For example:

  • Organic, new traffic: Users who find your site via a Google search don’t know you and whether or not your page has the answer to their question. So, it’s likely they’ll pop over for a quick peek and then they may bounce.
  • Social post traffic: Visitors were moved enough by a social post to click through to your site. These visitors are slightly more invested in your content and may stick around.
  • Organic, returning visitor: Your page came up in a search and users have been on your site before. They sort of know you and begin to see you as a trusted source, making them more likely to click around.
  • Paid traffic: You’ve got one opportunity to convince someone your product or service is better than the competition. If your ad plus your landing page do not immediately meet their needs, they will bounce. Consider also that a landing page used in paid campaigns typically doesn’t have website navigation options, meaning the visitor doesn’t have any way to “wander” back to the site, so bounce rate is always going to be higher.
  • Email traffic: These visitors are already in your network and part of your email database. They’ve been receiving emails from you. They have a sense of the company and how it may suit their needs. If they click on a link in a targeted email and go to your site, there’s a good chance they’ll spend significant time on that page and are more likely to visit other, related pages you present to them via links or calls to action.

Give visitors a reason to click

A call-to-action (CTA) is an important element for all your pages. A strong CTA, strategically placed in multiple places on a landing page, can improve bounce rate by enticing visitors to click to another page. Like most aspects of your site, CTAs are not a “set it and forget it” feature. At Savoir Faire, we analyze and adjust our clients’ CTAs regularly in an effort to improve bounce rate.

Looking at the page you want to improve, ask:

  • Is the CTA relevant to the content?: Linking to a related blog post or to downloadable content is one way to encourage clicks, as some audience members want to dig deeper into the subject matter. A CTA that has nothing to do with the content on the landing page may confuse or irritate your audience.
  • Is it actionable?: Use language or add a button to make it clear this is a link to another page. Words like “Click here,” “Dowload this,” “Check this out,” indicate this is a path to somewhere else.
  • Is it in the right place?: Some users read every word, scrolling from top to bottom. Others skim around. A CTA at the end of a post or the bottom of a page may not be enough. Consider placing one about 100 words into your content or add one to the left or right of the main navigation.
  • Is it noticeable enough?: Consider making the click button or the link text a complimentary color that will stand out and draw the eye.

We recently went into detail on CTA best practices in this post. (By clicking it, you help improve our bounce rate!)

Include versatile content

CTAs can’t do all of the work, nor can your page’s content. Sometimes, you have to hit your audience with a one-two combo. Determine how far down a page the average visitor scrolls before bouncing. Is it two paragraphs? Three? Then, add visual options that draw visitors across to other content before they have a chance to bounce. Consider a video message that grabs someone’s attention for longer than they are willing to read a blog post — and include a CTA as the caption to the video or within the first part of the video. Experiment with different media types to boost the success of your content – and expose your site to new audiences.

Improve your keywords

Look at the channels that bring your visitors. Then, determine if you can take existing content or new content and optimize it better for specific portions of your audience. One way to do that is analyzing and strengthening your keywords. Consider updating some of them to longer tail keywords that drive more qualified traffic. Having three- or four-word long keywords or phrases brings customers who seek something very specific – like “Spider-Man cosplay black suit.” Longer keyword phrases may result in a lower number of visitors to that content, but the visitors who land on your page are more likely to stick around on your site for a longer period of time because it’s so relevant to them.

Test site usability

If you find a large volume of traffic arriving and quickly bouncing, your content, site architecture or user experience may be off-putting to visitors. Again, they want immediate satisfaction in the form of information that answers their question or keeps them interested. You can encourage visitors to hang around longer with adjustments to your site’s architecture. For example, someone lands on your page via a social media link. The visitor clicks because the social post appeared to be relevant content, but the link brings them to the site’s homepage. That’s not what the visitor thought they were getting when they clicked the social post. Beyond providing the content the visitor is expecting, your site content and links should show a logical progression from one item to another. That way, visitors are more apt to click to other pages rather than just bounce off the site.

Watch page speed

In our mobile first world, page speed and screen load time have a huge impact on bounce rate. Remember, people want sites to load in less than four seconds. If your site does not load that quickly, Google may penalize your site compared to sites that do load quickly, by dropping your ranking.

Analyze page elements on desktop and mobile

Page speed isn’t the only thing that matters for your mobile site. You need to have a friendly user experience. Check to see if the elements on the page are too close together. Are parts of your content wider than the mobile screen? Are clickable elements large enough? These and other problems can get your site penalized and can negatively impact your bounce rate.

All of these tactics come down to regular monitoring and analysis of your site — both the desktop and mobile versions. Measuring and testing the site overall, or specific pages, provides opportunities to improve your bounce rate. We like a tool called Hotjar, which shows how visitors interact with your site though scroll tracking and visitor mouse movement. Use a tool like this to test the quality of your page and make adjustments to get visitors quickly acclimated to your content – and sticking around.

Bounce rate is just one aspect that Google uses to determine where your site pages rank in user searches. Determining the goal of each of your pages, one by one, will help you determine how important bounce rate is in the grand scheme. E-commerce sites, for example, aim for a lower bounce rate, whereas educational pages packed with thorough information and solutions may have a high bounce but result in very satisfied visitors.

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