What’s Behind Your High Bounce Rate?

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A high bounce rate is a death knell for any website, as it means that much of your hard-won traffic is exiting at the landing page, without clicking through to any other page within the site. If you can’t retain your traffic, the likelihood of making a sale from the site is low.

If the traffic exiting your site has reached unacceptable levels, it’s time to sit down and take action. The first place to start on your quest to encourage visitors to stick around is to identify what’s causing them to leave in droves in the first place. A site’s bounce rate is a standard analytics metric, so you will likely uncover lots of useful data when you begin to dig around for clues.

The following points are common causes of a high bounce rate. If you recognize your website in two or more of the following scenarios, the mystery of your departing visitors has been solved …

1.  Does your site appear in SERPs for irrelevant or outdated keywords?

Appearing for irrelevant or outdated keywords is a common flaw of poorly managed paid search marketing campaigns, but it can also afflict organic listings. If your site is ranking for unsuitable keywords, visitors clicking through expecting to find something specific will be disappointed when a glance at the page doesn’t reveal what they were looking for. In this scenario, the site viewer is more likely to return to the search results than browse around the site in order to satisfy their original search query.

Tackling this issue will take some work and may require either an overhaul of the paid search campaign or a new SEO keyword strategy. For irrelevant pages caused by outdated PPC adverts, a commitment to keeping keywords up to date with fluctuating stock levels and services is needed. A complete review of keyword choice across the campaign should also be scheduled, and any general or irrelevant keywords linked to landing pages showing high bounce rates removed.

If the problem is at an SEO level, it’s important to revise the previous keyword strategy and create a new list of primary phrases to focus optimization efforts on. Coupled with this, it may be necessary to review landing page keyword usage and density to ensure cohesion between on- and off-page efforts.

2.  Is your site design as good as it can be?

Websites are very visual creations, making presentation and first impressions all important. Poor site design is a massive turn-off for many visitors and rather than waste time trying to get to grips with the site, a large percentage will simply exit and click back to the search engine results page. Poor design is often coupled with a poor navigation structure, which makes it impossible for even those willing to persevere with the design to find what they are looking for.

To drive down a high bounce rate, make your landing page as attractive and easy to use as possible. Even relatively simple changes such as introducing an eye-catching logo or image, incorporating a clearly visible call to action such as ‘Call now’ or ‘Download brochure’ or adding more white space instead of a busy screen can make a big difference to bounce rate.

The addition of a breadcrumb trail and simple navigation structure should also be factored in when considering design issues – if a new navigation framework makes it easier for a visitor to move through the site, bounce rates will fall simply by providing a pathway toward more useful information elsewhere on the site.

3.  Is your content compelling?

Having successfully lured a browser through to the website – either via a PPC ad, organic listing, or third-party referral – the onus is on the landing page to encourage that visitor to stay put. If the landing page fails to hold the user’s attention, a high bounce rate will ensue. A page with a lack of compelling content runs this risk by failing to engage the reader enough to make them want to stay.

Interesting, relevant content makes a website sticky and will win over even the flakiest of browsers. While identifying causes of bounce rates, ask yourself if your content is as fresh, informative, and relevant as it could be. Is too much of the content hidden below the fold? If so, simply rearranging its placement on the screen could be enough to lower exits from that page. If, however, your content leaves a lot to be desired, commit to investing in a decent copywriter to add information of interest or make time to sit down yourself to draft out new text. Something as simple as a case study, video-based product demonstration, or news item is often enough to turn around a high bounce rate and increase site conversions.

4.  Is your product information causing problems?

A lack of clear description, missing images, no titles, and high prices can all send site visitors quickly back to the search results. A high bounce rate on product pages could be due to any of these issues and will need to be investigated thoroughly, not just to bring the bounce rate down, but to drive sales from the site up.

A good place to start when assessing the reasons behind bounce rate on product pages is to check out competitor pricing and ensure your own costs are in line with the industry standard. If your price is higher out of necessity, consider adding value with free shipping or loyalty cards to bring you closer in line with rival vendors.

Detailed descriptions are also a must, as is the addition of images and product video where available. Don’t be afraid to bring in other elements to product information pages such as testimonials or catalog downloads to make the page stickier. As with any major change, implement each element individually and monitor the impact on bounce rate and other site metrics before extending across every product sold.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article but what constitutes a high bounce rate? Are there any typical industry averages? In the offline world we know 90% of our advertising isn't going to be effective so we take that into consideration. In a typical bricks and mortar store we know we'll sell to one out of every two people who walk in the store. In a typical sales presentation we know we'll sell to one out of every four, and to have gotten face time with those four we would have had to have called around 64 others. That's all sales 101, but what are the comparable figures for online? Are they coming to the site as they would an offline store, or do they need to be presented to? Or, are they responding to advertising, cold calling or something else? How we measure the bounce rate needs to be determined by the method of attraction and engagement used to get the customer to the site.

  2. Mark: Exactly what I was wondering about. What's a "good" bounce rate? It's complex and has many variables, as you pointed out in your reply.