Ask any content manager for a list of the metrics they track daily and you’ll be sure to hear the words ‘bounce rate’.
And unlike page views, unique visitors, and qualified visitors, when it comes to the bounce rate the number should almost always be heading down. Indeed, for most businesses, whenever a lower bounce rate is recorded, the better the website is performing.
But for people starting out in website analytics getting a handle on all the terminology can be difficult, and actually making changes to a site to improve performance and optimize across various key metrics is another thing altogether.
Luckily, we are here to take you through all that you need to know. In this post we’ll start out with the basics and explain exactly what a bounce rate is. We’ll then move on and offer some guidance as to what industry average bounce rates are so that you can compare your own site to your competitors. Finally, if you find you are a little behind where you need to be, we’ll identify four areas you can work on today to improve your bounce rate and set your site up for better performance today.
What is Bounce Rate?
Let’s start with the most fundamental question: what is bounce rate?
A website’s bounce rate – or even a specific page’s bounce rate on that website – is a measure of how many visitors arrive on a page and then leave without further engagement with the website. These visitors don’t click through to another page, they don’t move on to your About page or Contact Us page, and they don’t enter their email and proceed to a signup page.
Google describes bounce rate as:
…the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
More simply, these visitors arrive, read, and leave without giving any more of your site a second glance, and the bounce rate is the proportion of all of your visitors who act in this manner. Hence, if 6 out of 10 visitors leave your site without clicking on a link or progressing from the landing page they encountered, your bounce rate will be 60%.
Google does want that there are some reasons why a site’s bounce rate might be high, in particular:
…users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in going to other pages.
However, for most site owners, there is a desire to keep visitors on the site, learning more about a business or a product than can be included on a single page. For this reason, working and optimizing a site to lower the bounce rate is generally one of the key tasks of a digital marketing team.
What are Average Bounce Rates?
With the number of different businesses and business models precluding any attempt to talk about one single and useful average bounce rate, we turn instead to average bounce rates for different types of websites. By comparing their own website to like-sites a website owner can get an idea of how their own bounce rate compares, and also how much work is required to shift that bounce rate in the right direction.
Kissmetrics conducted some original research into the bounce rates for various industries and offered the following details in an extended infographic:
- Website Portals average a 10-30% bounce rate
- Service Sites average a 10-30% bounce rate
- Retail Sites average a 20-40% bounce rate
- Lead Generation Sites average a 30-50% bounce rate
- Content Websites average a 40-60% bounce rate
- Simple Landing Pages average a 70-90% bounce rate
The infographic offers a few clues as to why this might be the case. For example, the relatively higher bounce rate on content websites could be explained by the sometimes irrelevant search terms that see visitors arrive before realizing that the site does not hold the information they are looking for. As well, website portals like Yahoo! or MSN have incredibly low bounce rates as they offer a range of different pages for the user to engage with on the portal, usually encompassing everything from search to weather to games and news, too.
Overall, if a bounce rate can move towards the 40% rate it is probably going to be acceptable for most websites. Indeed, as Kissmetrics explains in their infographic, the global average for bounce rates including those low-bounce portals and high-bounce landing pages is 4.5%, so moving your own bounce rate in that direction is probably wise.
The only question is: how?
Four Steps to a Lower Bounce Rate
There are lots of ways you can work on moving your bounce rate lower, keeping people engaged on your site, and converting those one-time arrivals into confirmed customers and repeat visitors. We’ll highlight four of the most effective ways to to achieve a lower bounce rate below, namely: meeting visitor expectations, developing a brand story, working on the web design and components of your landing pages, and making the most of social networks to drive qualified, interested traffic to your site.
Meeting Visitor Expectations
You’ve had the experience yourself: you’ve arrived at a webpage and assumed that your highly specific keyword search will allow you to find what you want on the page – only to be disappointed when the page is nothing like what you were looking for. Maybe you’ve clicked on an advertisement and then arrived to find…something different to what was advertised. Your next step in both cases is the same: click off, head elsewhere. If your content doesn’t match what you’ve promised in your advertising or, when it does, it is not engaging enough to hold the visitors attention, then your bounce rate is going to soar. Fixing it is easy: work on aligning your advertising and optimizing for keywords that are related to the content on your site. Further, when it comes to content on your site, make sure that it is engaging, useful, and entertaining for your visitors. Don’t just give them a reason to arrive, give them a reason to stay, too.
Develop a Brand Story
Extending from meeting visitor expectations is getting that visitor hooked on your story. Like a novelist crafting the perfect tale, you need to give the visitor to your site a reason to keep reading – and this means you have to craft a brand story. What is it about your company or your product that is unique? Why are you different? But also where did you come from? Who is on your team? What language do you use that no one else does? The goal of telling a brand story is to get the visitor interested enough to click through and read some more, just like the thrilling first page of a thriller is supposed to convince you to pay for that paperback in the bookshop. Tell your story, tell it well, and you’ll keep you visitors on site and your bounce rate low.
When a visitor lands on your site is it easy for them to find their way around? Web design and the layout of your pages makes a big difference in whether your visitor can stick around and read more. If you’ve hooked them with your content and they want to know more, do you have a call to action they can click to do so? If you’ve convinced them your product is for them, can they find your contact details to visit you in person or get someone on the phone? If they really liked your blog post, have you made it easy for them to find another blog post on the same or a related topic? Your web design plays a part here in lowering your bounce rate, because no matter how much information your site includes, all of it is useless if the visitor cannot find their way to it once they arrive.
Components of Your Landing Page
Sometimes you’ll go out of your way to build a specific landing page and optimize that page for arrivals. You’ll make sure that the keywords you’ve advertised for are present, that all the tags work in your favor, that there are clear call to action buttons for clicking, and that the copy on the page is tight, direct, compelling, and makes your visitors want to know more. This is exactly what you should be doing – but what about those pages that visitors arrive on that aren’t optimized in this way? In you want a lower bounce rate overall you’ll need to make sure some of those components are present on every page on your site. it need not be exactly the same call to action nor does it need to be optimized towards a sale, a conversion, or garnering another email address for you list. But you do need to think about having a call to action on every page, you do need to think about making your copy crisp and clear, and you do need to put some thought in to the raison d’être for every page on your site.
Have you managed to reduce your bounce rate? Tell us about it in comments below or on Twitter!