If you’re a website owner you’ve likely come across the term Bounce Rate or “b testing” in conversations with your web design agency or search engine optimization expert. Bounce rate is a term that is often misunderstood and confused with another term known as Exit Rate. Bounce Rate is a key metric in web site analytics data that web designers and developers can use to determine how well a website is performing both in marketing and user experience. Making a responsive web design or marketing decision using bounce rate data without fully understanding what bounce rate is and its impact on user experience and conversion can be a catastrophic mistake for a business. It is imperative that website owners understand what the terminology means and how it is measured before we can devise a strategy on how to reduce bounce rate.
I have twenty years of experience creating custom web site interfaces for some of the world’s most exciting brands and one of the most interesting byproducts of these relationships has been the one on one consultation and training I’ve received working alongside their world-class search engine optimization partners. Over this time I’ve come to be very familiar with bounce rate and how to use Google’s Analytics to determine and measure each bounce within a web site. Over the course of my career, I have developed a surefire list of digital marketing strategies I employ to improve user experience and reduce the bounce rate for not only our client’s websites but our site as well. Before we look at ways to reduce the bounce rate, let’s first clarify what bounce rate really means.
What is the Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?
Common questions asked in initial client consultations are “why is my bounce rate so high?” or “What is a good bounce rate in 2020?”, “How is bounce rate calculated?” and “Can you reduce my high bounce rates with better rate optimization?” I’ll address all these questions and then some in this article.
The answer to all of the above questions is a resounding and confident “yes”, but it is important to understand what we’re up against when analyzing before we dig into the details and learn how to reduce your bounce rate.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a web site that leave after viewing only a single page. There are many reasons why a visitor would “bounce” without digging deeper into a web site. There is even such a term as “good bounce rate.” The most common website-specific issues related to a high bounce rate are poor user experience and slow load time. Additionally, high bounce rates can be caused by cases of misinformation through inadequate search engine optimization, poorly placed blog posts or shady digital marketing. These scenarios occur when the visitor has landed on a web page only to discover it does not offer the information they were seeking, or the page immediately requests a name email from them. However, the most common reasons for a high bounce rate is that visitors become frustrated with an underperforming web site due to slow performance (page load speed) or troublesome and confusing navigation.
What is The Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?
To fully understand Google Analytics bounce rate it is important to have a good grasp on what the difference between bounce rate and exit rate is. Exit rate refers to the page that a visitor leaves a web site from. Exit rate does not necessarily signal a problem with the web site or digital marketing unless it is the home page or dedicated landing page that owns the highest exit rate. High exist rates are generally flagged in your web analytics and do not require immediate intervention to reduce your bounce rate.
For example, a visitor may land on a web site, read about a product or service and then make a purchase before leaving the site. When the user navigates away from the order confirmation page displayed after the purchase is made the user data indicates an exit from the website and adds another point to the exit rate for that page. This process in the conversion rate is natural and does not indicate a problem somewhere in the web site design or user experience. By contrast, when a visitor lands on a page of the web site or blog post and exits without navigating anywhere else within the web site refers to bounce rate and often indicates either a problem with the web site design or with the marketing strategy in place to draw visitors to the site. These scenarios are where we would want to consider rate optimization to make your page content more informational and address the user interface design to make sure we eliminate the high bounce rate.
Why is it Important to Reduce a High Bounce Rate?
When Google or any other search engine for that matter crawls your web site it looks at more than two hundred different factors both on and off-site to figure out where to rank your web site in relation to other web sites carrying the same keywords or phrases. One of the most important metrics that Google and other search engines takes into consideration is the bounce rate. Websites that have a significantly higher bounce rate than their competitors are at a significant disadvantage because search engines see the bounce rate as a loud and clear signal telling the world that your website or web content is not engaging, up to date or may even be completely irrelevant. This ranking factor is a good thing for all of us – no one wants to visit a web site only to find out the content is years out of date or the ad that they clicked on ultimately tricks them into clicking through to a web site or page that only partially answers their query at best. As sad as it is to talk about, there are still many websites and digital marketing platforms out there that target the general public with click bate and garbage articles that offer no value at all to users and are solely designed to make someone money based solely on click-through traffic to private blog networks. As far as I’m aware, Google has made a concerted effort to come down hard on these websites for this extremely deceptive practice and these scenarios are becoming increasingly far and few between. As search engines refine their algorithms to catch, penalize and eradicate these black hat search engine optimization practices we can rest assure that the web is slowly becoming a smarter, more content-rich environment for legitimate businesses to market themselves.
Common Bounce Rate Scenarios
Before we discuss the tried and true methods I have tested and found success with over the last twenty years in order to reduce high bounce rates within a website, let’s take a look at what some of the most common bounce rate ranges look like for websites. It is important before we begin to understand that websites in various industries operate successfully with bounce rates that often seem so high and perplexing that one wonders how they succeed at all. This fundamental website analytics measurement is imperative in understanding the industry and audience you are designing for in order to ensure that you can accurately assess and address pain points when tackling a web site redesign for clients big and small. The following user behaviours are common indicators of a high bounce rate and usually tell us that the visitor’s expectations were not met when landing on the website.
When a website user…
- clicks the back button in the browser
- closes the browser window or tab to leave the site
- enters a new URL in the address bar of the browser
- does nothing within 30 minutes of landing on the page (session times out)
According to Google’s own “b testing” research, the average bounce rate of a web site is about fifty to sixty percent. These percentages admittedly seem to be quite high initially if we consider that on most websites, half of all visitors leave the web site without navigating past the initial landing page content. However, the average bounce is rather meaningless as goals, experience, conversion rate and content differ so greatly from web site to web site. If we look at some common bounce rate benchmarks and examples we can understand why this statistic is mostly meaningless.
Blogs – 70-98% Bounce Rate
Due to the nature of blog posts and how information is commonly shared across social media streams and backlinking, it is more natural for visitors to land on a blog article page for just enough time to skim through an article and then leave once they have finished reading. In this scenario, visitors are far less likely to scan through archives of older articles, which leaves us with high bounce rates compared to other common scenarios whether reviewing b test data for desktop or mobile devices.
Landing Pages & Single Page Website – 70-90% Bounce Rate
Landing pages and one page websites are designed as a single page allowing users very little option other than to bounce. These figures can also suggest a good bounce. When looking at your website data the bounce rate can easily be deceiving if you are employing a landing page marketing strategy or if your website design features only a single page offering visitors nowhere else to go.
Professional Websites – 50-65% Bounce Rate
Most professional businesses own a web site or in some one form or another. For many, a basic digital brochure style web site for their business is all that is needed to focus web site visitors on a primary call to action. The average bounce rate for these types of web sites according to historical web site analytics data tends to land in the 50-65% range across both desktop and various mobile devices.
Retail Websites – 20-40% Bounce Rate
After reviewing bounce rate Google Analtyics overtime for this scenario we typically see lower bounce rates as users that land on a retail site are often visiting with a higher intent on making a purchase (also known as a conversion). Visitors typically land on the website, spend more time scanning through the product section and often review several products before making a decision on a purchase before leaving the website. Retail websites that operate with a good bounce rate below 50% tend to experience more “time on site” and click-through rates than others as well.
Service Websites – 10-30%
Understanding the user experience on most service-focused websites shows us that they most often enjoy the lowest average bounce tracked in Google Analytics due to the type of content found in these scenarios. Visitors are directed to this type of website to inquire about or collect information regarding a service they are in need of, ultimately requiring users to spend more time on the site greatly reducing the average bounce rate. By the very nature of the content, visitors dig deeper on service websites than any other according to bounce rate Google Analytics.
Why It’s Critical to Reduce Bounce Rate
Reducing the bounce rate on a website is critical for several reasons. First and foremost, reducing the number of visitors that leave without digging deeper into the website ultimately turns into more conversions and more money in your pocket through increased sales. The goal should not be to attract the largest quantity of visitors, but instead to attract the most qualified leads or customers with online intent (also know as Online Customer Intent or OCI). What we have here is a classic case of quality or quantity and the content on your site in partnership with a strong call to action will play a key role to reduce your bounce rate.
Additionally, reducing bounce rates can lead to savings in both time and money. By creating clear and focused digital marketing content to address the higher bounce rate for your site will help you make better use of marketing investments over time as you will be attracting visitors with an interest in your content or service offering rather than users who mistakenly land on your page due to confusion or marketing materials that are not communicating effectively. If you run a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign to make your site profitable, imagine how much you could reduce your marketing investment if you addressed your high bounce rate and reduced the number of mistaken click-throughs to your website? Consider how each mistake takes a bite out of your marketing budget and leads to a high bounce rate.
Now that we understand what bounce rate is and how it affects your business – or all businesses for that matter, let’s look at some methods we can use to help reduce a high bounce rate.
Is It Possible to Lower Your Bounce Rate?
Absolutely! By analyzing your existing website traffic, keywords and analytics data with a little fine-tuning and elbow grease it’s not very difficult at all to lower your bounce rate and provide people with a better website experience whether you operate an e-commerce website or are simply writing a blog. By keyword tracking in paragraphs and reconsidering design elements, you can quickly build trust in readers and make relevant changes across sites visit by visit. Tools like Google Analytics help us think about code and text changes that every website owner can employ to improve the user experience offered on their website, right out of the box.
5 Ways You Can Reduce Bounce Rates
1. Deliver Upon Expectations and Optimize For Intent
If your website analytics data shows a high bounce rate above the expected average for your industry it may be an indication that your website design or content is not engaging your audience. It may also be that your marketing is not clearly communicating your product or service offering and may be misleading visitors into thinking that your site offers something that it does not.
One of the most trusted methods over time to reduce bounce rates is to set up users’ expectations through the design and content of your site and marketing materials. Whether that be the call-to-action in an ad or a headline that matches the page content of a blog post, the more clearly we communicate with our audience, the better chance we have of retaining them on our website so that they spend time engaging with our content and eliminating the higher bounce rate. In order to create a positive relationship with our brand, we do not ever want visitors to land on our site and feel deceived or cheated by our efforts to get them there. In general, I live by the rule that visitors should have some idea of what content lies ahead when they click through to a web page.
2. Create a Better Website Design
First and foremost, invest the time and money in a professional site design. The average life expectancy for a corporate web site these days is three to four years. If you have a really great and forward-thinking web site designer and use an open-source content management system like WordPress you can actually extend the lifespan of the website by a number of years. I digress… that’s a story for another article. A professional web site designer will have time and experience to take your vision or existing branding and content marketing and build it up to communicate more effectively with your audience. Over my extensive time in the web site design industry, I’ve heard from countless clients big and small shortly after deploying their new web site that their newly on-boarded customers when asked, reported that they chose their business out of the crowd because of the professionally designed user interface and the clear content messaging on their website. This is one of the most fantastic types of feedback to hear from my clients and it also reinforces my tried and tested theories on creating a great web site design and user experience.
Some ways you can enhance your web site design to lower bounce are:
- Make sure your website is responsive – a responsive web design will adapt in real-time to fit just about any device giving visitors the best possible user experience and accessibility to your service or product anytime, anywhere. Additionally, Google now prioritizes responsive web sites in mobile search. If you have not already transitioned your web site to a responsive
- Use clear, consistent and intuitive navigation – when website visitors struggle or cannot find what they’re looking for quickly, they leave the website and end up on the competition’s website. It takes a lot of time, money and effort to put your website and content in a position to attract the right visitors. Don’t lose them once you’ve got their attention due to poor on-site user experience.
- Communicate a clear and precise message on the landing page content – whether it’s your home page or a dedicated landing page within the web site, you have only a few critical seconds to convey your content messaging to each visitor. If this message is not instantly recognizable visitors are apt to bounce for another website.
- Ensure page content is easy-to-read – if you’re working with a professional web designer you will notice the drastic difference in readability that some subtle typographic fine-tuning of the content on your site can make. If your content is easy to read on all devices from desktop to mobile you create a more positive and enjoyable experience for visitors. If your page content is more than a few hundred words, consider splitting it up with related imagery or diagrams to give the reader a little break between concepts in order to fully comprehend and process your messaging.
- Pay attention to page load speed – the longer your website takes to load each page, the higher the risk you run of losing visitors along the way. Anything more than 3-5 seconds often leads to a bounce rate of more than 80%.
3. Be Active On Social Media
Social media is one of the key ways that we connect with brands of all shapes and sizes. In many cases, consumers now research a product or service through social media rather than visiting the company’s corporate web site. This is primarily based on social proof and customer reviews which all lead to momentum. It takes considerable time, effort and budget to build that momentum through digital marketing, social ads and remarketing to grow a business. As this behaviour becomes increasingly more common it is more important than ever to be active on social media, which in turn can help meet the expectations of visitors as they learn more about your business before clicking through to your web site and engaging with your precise, well-written content and CTA’s.
By using social media as a digital marketing and communication tool, we are able to push targeted content to our audience and keep them engaged with our brand rather than having them come directly to us. Using this strategy, we are able to help reduce our high bounce rate as users are already informed on what content we have to offer before they land on our web site enabling us to effectively set reasonable expectations.
4. Eliminate Distractions
As much as you want to make your website stand out from competitors it is a practice in mental fortitude in some cases to avoid over-designing the experience and cluttering up your web page layouts. Simple, elegant web site design is tried and proven to convert more web site visitors into customers because the message is clear and there are little to no distractions, like auto-play or pop-up videos or engagement forms for example, that either confuse visitors or interrupt their natural discovery process by inviting them to divert their attention anywhere but where we want them to focus. Tommy Walker of Conversion XL discusses this highly popular user experience subject in great detail using a collection of great case studies to reinforce this concept.
5. Open External Links in a New Tab or Window
This concept seems so basic, yet it is so often overlooked in web site design today. When linking to an external web page or website from within your page content make sure that when a visitor clicks on the link that the external site is loaded in a new browser tab or window. This will ensure the visitor does not leave your website accidentally or if they get caught up in content on the external page when they are finished engaging with yours, your website is still front and centre.
Share Your Strategies Proven to Reduce Bounce Rate
Without a doubt, there are so many more ideas web designers, web developers and search engine optimization experts employ every day to help reduce bounce rate and I would love to hear them all in context. Whether you focus on the front end website design or are strictly focused on refining the entire digital marketing funnel, there should be a workflow to follow for everyone. If you have a method that is proven to help reduce higher than average bounce rates, I would love to hear about your experiences – what worked, what didn’t – and I’d be honoured to add it to our growing list of successful strategies with a credit to your hard work and research. By sharing our experience I believe we can help our online community build a better, more effective web.