Getting traffic but not a lot of engagement?
I have bad news for you:
your visitors may be leaving before they even get the chance to read your content.
This post is all about a website’s bounce rate, what it is, and what you can do to keep readers on your blog.
Let’s jump right in.
What is Bounce Rate?
In simple terms, bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who leave a site without clicking anywhere else.
A more technical description of a “bounce” is a single-page session, which means the visitor only viewed one page before clicking the ‘back’ button or closing their browser.
It’s usually an indication that they found your content boring, or that they didn’t find the information they were hoping for.
So, instead of captivating and encouraging them to see more of your blog, they’ll end up leaving your site without as much as checking out your homepage.
With me so far? Good.
Before we dig deeper, it’s important to discuss the difference between a bounce and a genuine exit.
What is the Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?
To help you understand what bounce rates really are, here’s a useful infographic published on Neil Patel’s blog.
The keyword here is “viewing one page only.”
A bounce occurs when the user only visits one page prior to leaving. Exits, on the other hand, includes instances wherein users leave after opening multiple pages.
After all, you can’t expect users to stick around your website forever.
It’s all just a matter of making sure visitors leave your site with a good experience. And as far as exit rates and bounce rates go, the latter often means the visitor wasn’t satisfied.
Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Measured
Although a website’s bounce rate and exit rate are fundamentally different, both can be monitored using Google Analytics — a free, comprehensive web analytics service.
Monitoring bounce rate is important to determine whether or not your strategies are working.
That said, ensuring you have a Google Analytics account ready and waiting should be on top of your to-do list.
I suggest you check out this guide by Google to learn how to set up your account.
Go on and create set up your Google Analytics account, I’ll wait here. Just be sure to open it on another tab to avoid increasing my bounce rate — see what I did there?
Going back on topic, I’ve already written a complete guide to Google Analytics, (that includes strategies to scale your blog) so you should already have some idea of how it works.
You should be able to view your website’s overall bounce rate within a few clicks from the main dashboard. All you need to do is expand the ‘Audience’ section from the main dashboard and click ‘Overview.’
Your website’s bounce rate should be presented — along with a couple of other valuable metrics, like the total number of users who visit, their average session length, and so on.
That’s one way of accessing the bounce rate metric on Google Analytics.
You can also view it on the overview page of the ‘Behavior’ section. That’s where you can also find the exit rate for your website’s top ten pages.
By understanding how Google Analytics measures a website’s bounce rate and exit rate independently, it should be a lot easier to set them apart.
For now, take note of where to find these two metrics on your Google Analytics account. While you’re at it, you should take a couple of minutes to familiarize yourself with the Google Analytics interface — you’ll need it for some of the strategies that will be mentioned later.
What are the Effects of a High Bounce Rate?
Great, we’ve already established that a high bounce rate could be a sign that you need to make improvements on your website.
It could also spell trouble for your SEO campaign.
Although SEO experts have conflicting beliefs when it comes to bounce rate and its effect on search engine rankings, studies have proven time and time again that it does have an impact.
Semrush, for example, recently published a study that analyzes the top factors that affect a website’s rankings.
Guess what? Bounce rate is among top five — behind only pages per session, time on site, and direct website visits.
You may also notice that “pages per session” is also one of the top ranking factors as per the SEMrush study. Interestingly enough, this is a metric that is directly affected by a website’s bounce rate.
The same can be said for “time on site,” which is also referred to as “dwell time” or, on Google Analytics, “session duration.”
Remember, bounces are calculated as having session times of zero seconds — a fact that is confirmed on this Google Help article.
This happens because Google calculates session time based on the elapsed time before a user clicks to a new page on the same site.
Long story short, an SEO guru can claim that bounce rate does not directly affect search engine rankings. However, everyone can agree that bounce rate is directly tied to at least three proven SEO factors, namely:
- User experience
- Pages per session
- Time on site
How to Reduce Bounce Rate: 20 Steps You Can Take
Alright, that’s enough talk — it’s time for the walk.
Your next step, of course, is to set the right goals.
Just bear in mind that your objective here isn’t to reduce bounce rate to 0 percent. That would simply be impossible.
What you need to do is look for bounce rate benchmarks for your specific industry. You may actually be surprised how high bounce rates actually are in some niches.
Google benchmark reports are pretty credible, so let’s start there.
Going back to Google Analytics, head over to the ‘Audience’ page and select ‘Channels’ from the ‘Benchmarking’ drop-down menu. You should see a line chart that compares your website’s performance with thousands of other sites.
Before you click elsewhere, be sure to choose your niche under ‘Industry Vertical.’
Once your industry is selected, select ‘Bounce Rate’ from the first drop-down menu just beneath “Industry Vertical.”
You then have to select ‘Benchmark Bounce Rate’ from the drop-down menu just next to the previous one. This tells Google Analytics that you want to compare your website’s bounce rate with that of the industry average.
Where does Google obtain the industry averages?
Simple — all the other brands that measure their website’s performance on Google Analytics.
This should give you an idea of how much you should improve as far as bounce rates go.
In the screenshot above, we can verify that, on December 20, 2018, the website in question had a bounce rate of 76 percent — noticeably higher than the industry average of 57.89 percent.
This means we should aim to reduce your website’s bounce rate by at least 18.11 percentage points to match the industry average.
That is our goal, and here are the strategies we’ll use to achieve it.
1. Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed
Statistics show that 40 percent of users abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. This is a lot worse with mobile users, who’d leave 53 percent of the time upon arriving at a sluggish site.
Google also states that, for mobile users, there is a 90 percent difference between the bounce rate of sites that load in a second and those that take five seconds.
The good news is, there are several things you can do to improve your website’s loading speed without hiring a professional web developer.
Some strategies include:
Use PageSpeed Insights to detect issues
PageSpeed Insights is a free tool from Google that detects performance-related issues on your website. It will also present you with a list of “optimization suggestions,” which can help deal with the specific problems discovered.
Compress your images
One of the biggest bottlenecks to website loading speed are high-resolution images, which are actually crucial content pieces that increase engagement. The least you can do is to use a tool like ShortPixel to compress your images without affecting quality.
Minify your website’s code
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an experienced developer to optimize them. With a tool like Minify Code, you just have to paste your code and let it do all the heavy lifting.
Use a simplistic theme
When talking about user experience, your website’s appearance isn’t everything. Unfortunately, not every blogger seems to get the message.
Upgrade your hosting
As a new blogger, you may be tempted to buy a one-dollar hosting plan from a cheap service provider.
Sure, you don’t need a high-end hosting solution if you don’t have a lot of traffic yet. But once you get a steady stream of traffic pouring into your site, you should upgrade to a better web hosting solution to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.
For more ways to improve your website’s loading speed, read this guide.
2. Match your Content with User Intent
To make sure your content satisfies the needs of visitors, it’s crucial to pay attention to their intent.
Don’t worry — it’s a lot easier than you think. In fact, the intent behind any online search can only fall under three categories:
- Informational Search
First off, an informational search is when a user performs an online search for research purposes. They usually aren’t interested in purchasing a product or service.
- Navigational Search
A navigational search, on the other hand, occurs when a user already knows exactly what they’re looking for. This means they’re only using the search engine to find the official website of a particular company.
- Transactional Search
Lastly, a transactional search is done by users who are specifically looking to buy or hire something. These are the kind of audience you should target if you’re trying to increase your sales.
A keyword research tool with a filter feature will help you look for target keywords with the intent that matches your content.
For example, suppose you own a wedding photography blog and would like to promote your landing page. This means you want to target users with a transactional search intent, right?
With a tool like the Semrush Keyword Magic Tool, you start with a seed keyword like “wedding photographer.”
Right off the bat, you should be able to find keywords that have transactional intent. These are keywords with commercial terms like “buy,” “hire,” “price,” or “cost.”
You can also use the tool’s filter feature to easily sieve out transactional keywords from the bunch. Simply click ‘Advanced filters’ and type in a commercial term that makes sense for your keyword.
Within seconds, you should find target keywords that could draw in the type of audience who could appreciate the content you have in store for them.
If you’re interested in trying out SEMrush yourself, check out this Semrush review and tutorial to learn how to use it effectively. It includes a 30-day Semrush trial offer as well — only for MasterBlogging readers!
3. Use a Compelling Featured Image
By now, every marketer knows that most online folks have a short attention span.
Even with stellar writing skills, it’s hard to entice them with a thick wall of text devoid of any color whatsoever. If you want to pique their interest, your blog content needs to have a compelling featured image that catches their eyes.
4. Create a “Table of Contents”
Another way to capture your audience’s attention from the get-go is to display a “table of contents” at the beginning of your post.
If you’ve been an avid follower of my blog, you’ll know that this is one of my habits when writing and publishing content.
It’s a really neat trick if you want to give readers a quick overview of what to expect.
It’s also incredibly easy to do as well. For WordPress users, there are several free plugins you can use to help you implement this feature.
5. Use Exit-Intent Pop-Ups
Most bloggers generally agree that pop-ups can divert the audience’s attention away from your content, especially if you don’t have anything valuable to offer.
But what if you present your pop-up after they lose interest in your content and tries to close the tab?
That’s how you can keep them interested.
A typical approach is to promote an opt-in bribe of sorts to convince them to reconsider their decision to leave.
You should’ve encountered several blogs and business websites that promote a free eBook or a discount in an effort to convert you into an email subscriber. However, this strategy can be a double-edged sword, especially if you cater to marketing-savvy users who know exactly what you’re up to.
If I were you, I’d use a free pop-up form like Poptin to check whether or not it will have any adverse effects on the experience of readers.
Just like most pop-up form builders, Poptin uses a WYSIWYG or What You See Is What You Get editor that makes the design process a breeze. It also has a turnkey automation feature that makes your pop-up appear whenever users click away from your site.
6. Be Smart with CTAs
If you don’t want your audience to leave, then you better show/tell them what to do after they’re done reading your content.
That’s what a CTA or Call-To-Action is for.
Put simply, CTAs are phrases like “Download Now” and “Get Started” that compel users to be more than just visitors. They are crucial pieces of a lead generation strategy since they often serve as links to a registration or download page.
I, myself, depend on multiple CTAs on my website to entice my readers to take a step further.
One example is my “Get Instant Access” CTA, which can be found on my site’s “Freebies” page.
Below are a few tips that will help you create convincing CTAs for your website:
- Be Value-Oriented – Don’t just tell your readers what to do — also tell them why they should do it.
- Use Casual Language – If you can, veer away from generic, boring language and use a conversational tone. Feel free to spice things up with colloquial phrases like “get the ball rolling,” “right at your fingertips,” and “get yours at a low-low price!”
- Track the performance of CTAs – You can use Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of CTAs. This will allow you to fine-tune your strategy over time.
7. Develop a Solid Internal Linking Strategy
In addition to CTAs, you can also encourage your audience to stick around by peppering your content with internal links.
To demonstrate how internal links work, I’ll show you one right now.
If you click here, you’ll be taken to a complete guide on how to use internal links to your full advantage. Congratulations — you just clicked on an internal link!
Of course, there are more to internal links than just sending readers to another area of your website. The number one rule is to only use internal links between related pieces of content.
Whatever you do, don’t use internal links that lead to pages that don’t have anything to do with the current post. This may only ruin the reader’s engagement and force them to leave your site even faster.
8. Include Navigational Elements on the Sidebar
Not all internal links have to be embedded in anchor text within the content’s body.
All links found in your sidebar, footer, main navigation menu, and images count. When used correctly, these links should also give your audience a reason to explore your site.
You know me — I wouldn’t give you advice that I haven’t tested myself. Take a look at the screenshot below to see how I use sidebar navigational links on my blog:
Don’t forget to add links to your contact page, “about us” page, and other essential areas of your site. If you think a navigation menu won’t go well with your website’s design, you can always include them as footer links.
Here’s how Semrush craftily uses footer links to help readers find more content to read:
9. Implement a Site Search Feature
While categorized navigation links are helpful, they’re not as good as a search bar that leads readers straight to the content need.
If you haven’t even built your blog yet, a fully functional search bar might seem hard to implement on your site. On the contrary, a lot of pre-made themes from website builders and have a search feature built in.
Content management systems like WordPress also have a pre-built search widget that can be added to your sidebar and footer. It can also be added to your header if you optimized for Google AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages.
10. Use a Heatmap to Spot Hot and Cold Zones of Your Design
If you are trying to integration navigation features that help readers view more content, be sure these elements are placed where readers can see them.
You can skip the number-crunching with heatmap tools like Hotjar or Crazy Egg, which visually highlight areas of your site that users either ignore or focus on. It may take a while before enough data is generated for your heatmap, but once done, the results are fairly self-explanatory.
11. Enable On-Page Social Sharing
A reader bouncing off of your website isn’t always a bad thing.
Sometimes, they just want to share your amazing piece of content on social media.
Unless you implement on-page sharing functionalities on your site, they might resort to a more traditional method of sharing content — copying the page URL, moving to the social media site, and pasting the link to their status update.
A free tool like Sumo Share eliminates the need for them to leave your site just to share your post. It integrates a floating, social media toolbar that moves along the screen in a non-intrusive way.
12. Improve Readability
Making your content more interesting doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you don’t want them to get bored, don’t put off them off with thick walls of text. Learn to use better spacing and font sizes — all while writing using an engaging, conversational tone.
A useful habit to keep in mind is to avoid writing paragraphs that are too long. Each of them must be short, but they must also deliver a complete thought to readers.
If one paragraph exceeds two sentences, I’d review it and see if I could explain things in a simpler manner.
See how I write my paragraphs to improve the readability of my articles:
13. Use Google Analytics to Track Individual Page Performance
In most cases, a website’s bounce rate is skewed by only a few pieces of content.
Google Analytics will help you find these problematic pages so you can zero in on quality issues that make readers leave prematurely. Just log into your dashboard, navigate to the ‘Behavior’ section and choose ‘All Pages’ under the ‘Site Content’ submenu.
Once there, click on the ‘Bounce Rate’ column header to sort your pages according to this metric.
14. Pay Attention to Mobile Friendliness
Since there is now more online traffic on mobile, optimizing your website for smartphones and tablets is no longer an option.
The Google Mobile-Friendly Test is an excellent starting point if you aren’t sure about the mobile experience on your website. It’s quite like PageSpeed Insights, which automatically scans your site for potential optimization opportunities.
15. Minimize Distractions
When writing a blog post, adding links to credible, external sources is a great way to help readers understand technical terms. It also allows you to build relationships with potential influencers who can accelerate the growth of your brand.
However, it’s easy to go overboard with your external links, especially if you’re covering an advanced topic.
As a result, the presence of too many links may sidetrack readers and cause them to lose interest.
That said, go easy on the external links and be sure they’re set to open a new tab in case you do use them. This can be done by adding the target=”_blank” attribute in your hyperlink HTML code.
Apart from external links, you should also avoid smothering your web content with ads, especially if they appear before your content.
16. Customize Your 404 Pages
Broken links are another reason why your audience may leave your website without clicking anywhere else.
From a user’s perspective, a 404 or “Not Found” error pages is like a dead end. It straight-up kills the experience since there’s nowhere else they can go to get something meaningful out of your site.
That’s why many bloggers like myself present custom 404 pages that allow readers to resume their experience. In my case, I show my audience a search bar to help them find anything useful.
Of course, that’s just one way of creating a custom 404 page. Click here for more tips on how to design better 404 pages for your site.
17. Integrate Trust Elements
Even with the best content and value propositions in the world, your audience may still abandon your site if they don’t trust your brand.
That’s why your website should include trust elements like security seals and various certifications from the services you use. These elements establish your credibility and win your target audience’s confidence.
Websites that sell products through PayPal, for example, may include verified logos and banners to show customers they’re in good hands.
If your blog only contains pure content, the least you could do is use an SSL certificate, which you can obtain from your domain registrar or hosting service.
18. Sprinkle Your Content with Visuals
If your blog post will cover an elaborate topic, incorporate visual content such as infographics and, if possible, videos to keep readers hooked.
I personally use a ton of screenshots to help convey my point — as you can see with this post. With a tool like Jing or Evernote Skitch, you can also insert annotations in your screenshots to make it easy for readers to digest the information.
If you’d rather try your hands at visual content types like infographics and custom Instagram posts, you can use a drag-and-drop tool like Canva.
19. Write an Accurate Meta Description
Most, if not all, readers will feel disappointed and misled if your content has little to nothing to do with its title.
This is, of course, the blogger’s fault for not using an accurate post title. Still, it’s entirely possible for readers to have the wrong idea when they click on your page in search engine results.
A good meta description will straighten things out by giving the audience more context on your page.
The specific steps to editing the meta description depend on your website platform. WordPress users, for example, can use the Yoast SEO plugin to write a custom meta description for each page without touching code.
MOST IMPORTANT: Make Sure Your Content Quality is Top-Notch
Finally, a lot of bloggers tend to overthink and overcomplicate their content strategy.
If they feel like their content is underperforming, they might come up with a million reasons why readers are turning them down. Some of them, however, fail to realize that their content simply isn’t that good to begin with.
For beginners, I urge you to check out my comprehensive guide on how to write top-quality content for your blog. I got a lot of great stuff in there that will definitely help you get a running start in blogging.
For those who already got their feet wet in the industry, a simple proofreading tool suggestion probably won’t hurt. I recommend a free-to-use, lightweight browser extension like Grammarly, which automatically detects spelling and grammar issues in your content.
If you’re interested in Grammarly’s premium version, check out this page to get a 25 percent discount — a simple parting gift for reaching the end of this post!
I hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide on bounce rates as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Truth be told, blog optimization is a learning process that never stops.
The strategies above will help you deal with the problem of bounce rate, which will definitely have a positive impact on your website’s traffic, search engine rankings, and overall profitability. Still, it’s only a matter of time before the next challenge in your blogging career will present itself.