Do your web pages have a high bounce rate?
There’s nothing more soul-destroying than working hard to build your websites landing pages only to find out that 90% of your visitors bounce!
In this article, you will discover the main causes of a high bounce rate and most importantly, how you can start fixing them right now.
You’ll learn about:-
- What a good bounce rate is for different landing pages
- How to find out what your current bounce rate is
- The impact high bounce rates have for SEO and rankings
- What causes a high bounce rate
- Some simple solutions to fix your high bounce rate pages.
Let’s get stuck in and get down to the nitty-gritty!
If you didn’t know, a bounce means that a web user visits one of your pages and then leaves without viewing any more. So in effect, a one-page visit.
It’s natural for some visitors to bounce. However, when those high bounce rate pages are your business pages that should be converting, it becomes a real issue.
What’s a good bounce rate?
A good bounce rate will be between 25-40%. Any higher than this and you will want to spend some time figuring out why visitors find your content so unappealing.
Your main business pages should have a lower bounce rate of 40% or lower. Whereas articles and blog posts will commonly have much higher bounce rates. In some cases, it isn’t uncommon to get 80-90% bounce rates for informational style content.
How can I find out what my bounce rate is?
To know what your current bounce rate is, you will need to view your website’s traffic data from Google Analytics or other web stats program.
In Google Analytics, it’s just a case of clicking on ‘Audience’ then ‘Overview’, which gives you the bounce rate for the whole site.
Alternatively, if you just want to see the bounce rate for your main landing pages you can go to ‘Behaviour’ in the left menu, then ‘Site Content’ then ‘Landing Pages’. You will then see something like this.
You can then filter further to find out which pages have the biggest bounce rates and then go about fixing them.
Don’t just look at the bounce rate column though! Check the Average Session Duration as well, as the two are closely connected.
Do high bounce rates cause SEO and ranking issues?
A high bounce rate isn’t necessarily bad for organic keyword rankings. I manage hundreds of pages that rank right at the top of Google yet many have high bounce rates.
Articles and blog posts generally have a higher BR and this can be difficult to reduce as with this kind of content, people just want to find the information they are after and then leave.
It’s all about user intent!
If the visitor is just looking for certain information, stats or a recipe for example, then they are more likely to bounce once they have found what they are looking for.
If however, their search is more commercial in nature, i.e. to purchase something, they are more likely to click through and hopefully take the action you want them to take. For example to buy something, subscribe to your newsletter, make an enquiry or use an online tool.
For your money pages or those where you want people to convert, it will be more about driving them into your sales funnel and get them clicking through to the desired outcome or end goal.
One major way that a poor bounce rate can hurt your rankings is if users are searching on Google using a specific keyword, staying on the page for a few seconds and then bouncing.
This may then tell Google that your page is not worthy of ranking for that particular keyword. After all, why would you deserve to rank if nobody wanted to stick around for very long? As a consequence, you may see your rankings drop for that keyword over time.
You want people to engage with your site, read your content and then click through to other pages. This sends all the right positive signals to Google. It says that your page is engaging and of value to your visitors. It also says that Google was right to rank you so highly and that they made the right decision.
If you have a blog post and users are spending three or four minutes reading your content, a high bounce rate may not be a factor in the pages ability to rank. The high dwell time means they are enjoying the experience and found the content useful. Exactly what we want!
So make sure you look at the big picture and not just the bounce rate figure when looking at your analytics data.
Reasons For High Bounce Rates And How To Fix Them
So let’s look at some of the possible reasons for a high bounce rate and how you can improve them.
#1 Page Speed
The speed at which your pages load is essential. It’s not only important for SEO with Google telling us that it does have a slight bearing on rankings, but also on bounce rate.
Many experiments have been done over the years on the effects of page speed on bounce rates, rankings and web page conversion rates.
Neil Patel recently did a major experiment on the effects page speed has on rankings which you can see here https://neilpatel.com/blog/does-speed-impact-rankings/
His results showed that the TTFB (Time to first byte) was a major factor in rankings for the first three sites in each Google SERP result. Below you can see the bottom axis is ranking position and the left axis is the TTFB time and the correlation it has to ranking position. Just look at those top three results!
Image Credit: Neil Patel
If your pages do not completely load within two or three seconds, your bounce rates are going to increase and your conversion rate will most likely drop as a result. As mentioned above, your rankings could also suffer.
In one case study American retail giant Walmart saw that for every one second of page speed improvement, they experienced up to a 2% increase in conversions! That’s most likely many millions of dollars for a company of that size….https://rigor.com/blog/how-walmart-com-correlates-web-performance-to-business-performance
There are a number of online tools that you can use to check your page speed times.
Google Analytics has a section in its reports to highlight any speed issues your pages may have which is connected to the Google Page Speed Insights tool.
Another popular tool is the page speed tool from GTMetrix
A good alternative is webpagetest.org which shows your TTFB and other speed metrics. You can also search from different countries around the world.
These tools can scan your site’s pages and help you to understand where your website may have bottlenecks in terms of load time. Each provides a number of solutions and further guidance on how to fix each issue.
Quite often there will be a number of easy wins such as compression of images or adding a few lines of code to your .htaccess file. Then there will be more complex solutions such as using a CDN or making changes to your website’s layout or code.
Personally I would recommend using a cloud-based firewall/proxy such as Sucuri which costs just $9.99 per month. It’s not only a lot faster but will also add a big layer of security leaving you less vulnerable to external hacks and other attacks.
#2 Poor Navigation
If users can’t easily navigate from your landing page to other parts of your site, they are going to get frustrated and bounce!
Every aspect of your website’s navigation is fundamental in the user’s journey and will ultimately decide whether they stick around for very long or not.
- Make sure your navigational elements are clear and are obvious to the user.
- Use breadcrumbs to remind the user where they are within the structure of your site. Breadcrumbs are also good for search engines to learn about the structure of your site.
- Make sure the anchor text/labels clearly convey where the user will be going and what they can expect to find there.
- Make sure you have main navigation links and menus in familiar places where users expect to find them, for example, a horizontal menu at the top and a menu down the left or right of the page.
- Keep navigation options to a minimum. This is especially important on key landing pages where you have your call-to-action and want the user to convert. Too many links and navigation can be a distraction.
- Avoid using buttons for navigation as search engines may not be able to read the text in them. They may also be less accessible to the visually impaired and load slowly, affecting the pages overall load time.
- Try to avoid generic navigation labels such as ‘products’ or ‘services’. These can be vague to users and not especially helpful in SEO.
- Dropdown boxes for navigation can also be a big no-no. They can not only be frustrating for users but depending on how they have been coded may also be difficult to crawl by search engines.
#3 Not Enough Landing Pages
There are only so many keywords you can realistically target with one landing page. The more you try to target, the more confusing the page could become to your target audience.
The less focused it is, the less likely it is to convert.
A good solution for this is to create more landing pages targeting those high-value keywords that have commercial intent.
Then, make sure you link to other well-related pages to make sure users are clicking through and not bouncing.
This will improve your bounce rate and most likely boost your rankings as well.
Or, if you have sufficient content or content opportunities, create a content hub with sub-pages linking back to a central hub page which targets the biggest and broadest keywords like in the image below.
You would then link to cluster content from the main pillar/hub article. These articles would be more in-depth and would be optimised for many long-tail keywords based around a particular aspect of the main content. These cluster pages then link back to the main pillar/hub article and to each other where necessary.
This will also provide Google with a more semantic understanding of your content, structure and meaning. It shows Google that the content is related and that your content has topical authority on this particular subject.
The pages also benefit from any links that they get as they are well connected which passes link juice (page rank) between the hub and cluster pages.
#4 No Call To Action
This one is important and another possible cause of high bounce rates.
If a user hits your page, views your content, but doesn’t go any further it could be that you are just not telling them what you would like them to do!
Sounds simple, but it is easy to forget why they are there in the first place.
Make sure that your pages tell the user what they need to do next. This we call CALL TO ACTION or CTA.
If you don’t provide some kind of instruction on what the user needs to do next, they will bounce.
So ask them to subscribe. Offer them a link or two to further related reading on the subject. Get them to request a quote, buy a product or contact you in some way.
Sometimes it’s the most obvious thing that is missing.
View your content as a prospective customer and you will have a better understanding of where you are going wrong.
#5 Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly
Does your site render correctly when viewed on a mobile device or tablet?
If I check any of my client’s Google Analytics data, I can see that the number of users that visit their sites via mobile devices can be anything from 40 to 70%.
Couple this with the fact that from July 2019 Google started using ‘mobile-first indexing’ to populate its main index and rank web pages and you can see why it is so important that your site renders well on all mobile devices.
We all spend so much time on the move, browsing and searching via our phones and this is only going to increase further over time.
If your site is not responsive, you will want to address that as a priority. If you don’t, I can assure you that your visitors will bounce big time!
The simple way to check this is to use Google’s mobile testing tool to see if your pages are responsive.
Hopefully, you will see something like this.
If not, the tool will alert you to any issues you can either fix yourself or get your developer to fix.
Nearly all websites today will be mobile-friendly.
If you have a WordPress site there are plugins that you can use to make your theme responsive such as https://jetpack.com/
If your theme uses Bootstrap it should be fully mobile-friendly.
Another stumbling block when it comes to bounce rates is readability. From the moment a user hits your page, if they struggle to read what’s on the page, it could cause them to bounce.
Your visitors’ experience of your business will begin the moment they attempt to read your content. With time at a premium, you’ll want to keep your content to the point and write with brevity in mind.
In some cases, the first couple of paragraphs of text can be the difference between your visitor getting to the bottom of the page or bouncing, never to return again.
- Keep your sentences short and write as you speak.
- Use correct grammar, check your spelling and try to use a writing style that will appeal to the majority of your visitors.
- If you write the content yourself, make sure you use a tool such as Grammarly that can correct your grammar and spelling in real-time prior to publishing.
- Another thing to consider is the size of your text on both mobile and desktop devices. If the text is too small, it will be a struggle to read. A dark text on a light background is also the best option.
- Make your paragraphs small and have a maximum of five or six lines per paragraph.
- Break the text up with images, videos, quotes, charts, lists, tables or embeds etc. Nobody likes the idea of reading large blocks of text. It’s too much of a challenge!
- Use subheadings to clearly define each section of the content.
- Use lists to highlight key points.
- Ask questions to keep the reader engaged and participate in the conversation.
There are a number of online tools you can use to work out whether your pages are easy to read or not. Try the free tool at http://www.read-able.com/
#7 Not Enough Engaging Content
User engagement is vital, not only for SEO but for conversions as well.
The whole point of producing any content is to keep the user engaged which is what usually doesn’t happen when a visitor bounces.
So how can we make our pages more engaging?
Firstly, think about user intent.
Why would the user be visiting this page and via which keywords? Are they commercial keywords or informational?
You will need to make sure that the content is well aligned with the user’s intention and that the content fully engages the user.
This is not only great for your bounce rate but will also massively increase the average time on page metric which is no doubt being used by Google within its RankBrain algorithm. This is one of the signals Google will use to assess whether users are finding your content of benefit after clicking through from the search results.
Instead of using just plain text, try adding other elements into the mix such as images, videos, buttons, charts, embeds, Tweets, image quotes, links, infographics and lots more.
There’s more to life than text!
Whether to use pop-ups or ‘interstitials’ on your site is a contentious issue and a subject that has been debated among web designers and marketers for a long time.
The fact is that the vast majority of web users hate pop-ups as they disrupt the user’s journey and interaction with your site.
There are some cases where pop-ups can be ok if done right. For example, having pop-ups on specific pages and after the user has been on the page for a certain amount of time.
From an SEO perspective, some pop-ups can also damage your reputation with Google. If the pop-up is too intrusive, it can have a negative effect on user experience and you could potentially be hit with a Google penalty or indirectly see a drop in rankings.
In fact, in 2015 Google waged war on websites using interstitials due to the negative impact that they can have on usability, especially on mobile devices which have become the primary tool for surfing the web.
If a user navigates to your site from the search results and is immediately hit by a pop-up, overlay or other interstitials (what a horrible word!), it can frustrate users and prevent them from accessing the content they expected to find.
As a result, any site deemed to be using pop-ups incorrectly or in a way that impairs a page’s ‘mobile-friendliness’, can be penalised in the mobile search results.
In 2017, Google’s webmaster blog said,
“Starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.”
However, there’s no denying that pop-ups do give webmasters the opportunity to grow their newsletter subscriber list, so it is understandable that a business may want to use them in some way.
If you must use pop-ups, make sure they are not too intrusive and are well designed. If not, it could have a negative impact on your bounce rates and rankings.
Have you heard of push notifications?
Push notifications are those little pop-up messages you see in the corner of your browser window and notify users to new content or other promotional messages from a website.
Take a look at services such as Subscribers.com which has a free service for up to 200 subscribers.
In terms of CTR, push notifications rock! Subscribers.com’s own data suggests that the CTR for push notifications ranges from between 5% to 20%. That’s phenomenal compared to traditional newsletter blasts where you get a CTR of around 2% on average. Opt-in rates are generally much higher as well!
The service is dead easy to install especially if you are using a CMS such as WordPress. I did it myself and it took me around 5 minutes tops to get it up and running.
The great thing about push notifications is that they don’t require a user to stop and enter their personal details to receive your newsletter. There’s none of that boring verification stuff either!
This in itself helps the user to keep flowing through the site with fewer speed humps and restrictions.
Another added benefit is that there’s no requirement for a user to use their email inbox to view your messages. With most people’s inbox full to the brim, this is a massive advantage and means that not only is your message in real-time, but it also doesn’t get lost among all the other emails or sent to the spam folder….
In this article, you have discovered some of the major causes of a high bounce rate and how to easily go about fixing them.
Don’t forget though. Bounce rate isn’t everything and shouldn’t be viewed in isolation.
A high bounce rate in most cases won’t affect your rankings, however, it most probably will impact your conversion rates.
Remember to check the average time on page and other metrics to see the bigger picture.
Although the causes in the article are not exhaustive, by addressing them, you should be able to significantly reduce your bounce rate.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share and link to it.
Thanks for reading!