In web analytics, bounce rate is the rate at which a web viewer comes to your site, and leaves after viewing only one page – usually within a special timeout period such as 30 minutes. A high bounce rate is a bad sign. It means people are finding your site but quickly determining its not what they were looking for and leaving or getting everything they came for in one gulp. You may think there isn’t a lot you can do about this but, in fact there are a few things you can do to reduce your bounce rate.
To get your bounce rate you need a web analytical tool such as Google Analytics. On some software it may be listed as the “Exit Rate” but for our purposes we will use Bounce Rate.
Here is an example of a bad bounce rate as determined by Google Analytics. It is from a infrequently updated website that has very little traffic.
WordPress allows for great SEO. In fact it is one of the best platforms for legitimate SEO around. This means you will get better indexing on Google and other search engines (yes, they do exist!) and you’ll get more traffic. The reasons why someone might bounce are many but I think the main ones are these:
- They only needed one bit of information and found it
- They had issues with your layout
- They found your site with a search that doesn’t associate with your site well
There isn’t anything you can do about the first issue. Some people are on the run looking for one thing so they come and exit as soon as they have that piece. In a way this is good – your site served a purpose.
The second reason is complex. There are many reasons why a potential visitor might be turned off by your layout. Every reason from taste to functionality are encompassed here. You want to always be sure your site is working, your css is correct, your site works for all the major browsers and that navigation is clear. If your site is really edgy it might be hard for visitors to comprehend it. On the other hand, if it is very plain your visitors may conclude that there isn’t a lot to see. Get the opinion of others as to the site’s presentation and navigation. Perhaps watch someone who’s never seen the site attempt to navigate it. If they seem hesitant it is probably time to fix your layout.
With Google Analytics you can actually see, by content, what your bounce rate is. You can focus on pages with the highest bounce rate. I find several of these pages, especially if they are 100% bounce rate pages, are ones where I am linking to interesting content on other sites. I often create blog posts, like this one, on other sites and give pointers to them from my own blog. This kills my bounce rate. If I wanted to not kill my bounce rate I’d come up with a strategy to delay the person seeing the content. My friend Bill Day at BillDay.com uses a method where he gives the first couple of paragraphs to his articles on his site and then the user drills down to get the rest of the article.
Another delay tactic is the one used here at WPMods.com – use excerpts instead of just presenting the whole article on the site’s main page. This is very useful. It gets the user interested in drilling down into the site and encourages more exploration. The longer you can keep someone’s attention the higher your conversion rate will be. There are articles here at WPMods about using the MORE tag and excerpts so look them up if you aren’t aware of them. Most themes can easily be altered to show excerpts instead of the whole content. You can replace
in the Loop. This is a pretty easy fix and generates better site usage and also cuts down on the bits delivered to those who really only wanted to see a single page anyway.
The reader’s intent for coming to the site should match the content. You can’t always control this. I had one website that was about one topic, but it had a photo on it that shot up in popularity because Google had it as one of it’s top 3 photos for that term. This skewed all traffic measurement because 60% of the site traffic was from people who were looking for that photo. If you pay for your bandwidth and have that close to your plan’s maximum its probably a good idea to get rid of any content that is drawing unwanted and irrelevant attention.
On a site about my consulting business I wrote about the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which is an earthquake zone that runs from New Madrid, MO down into Coahoma County, Mississippi. Sure enough that one page had search terms that were more interesting than most of the terms on the other pages. It formed a distraction to the site and frankly I’d rather have more traffic geared to what the site is about rather than them coming and leaving.
Use your analytics software to see what search terms are bringing people into your pages. Look at other sites with similar content and examine them. You can generate tag clouds for just about any site using tagcrowd.com. The tag cloud for this article gives good indications of what is important. The larger the font size of the term the more important it is to the content. One can see that Bounce Rate is pretty important, so I am certain that Google and other indexing engines will find this article and lead people here for the right reason.
A last exercise is to think like a visitor. Combine the information you have with how they are finding your site, where they enter it, how they would see it and navigate. Think of how to streamline this. Think of how to make the primary topic pop out. Get your visitors engaged in what they were looking for.
What are good brounce rates? There are no hard numbers but I can say from experience that the following makes a good guideline:
<20%: something is broken. It’s not realistic to have a less than 20% bounce rate.
<40%: Excellent. Keep up the good work.
<55%: Might need some tuning but still good.
>55%: Needs tuning.
>70%: You must have blinking text, loud and annoying music or a really broken web page! Get this fixed STAT!