In the field of website optimisation a term which often crops up more than any other is that of ‘bounce rate’. When discussions about your website take place, you may have heard in passing that ‘your bounce rate is too high’, or that ‘we need to reduce the bounce rate to increase rankings’. But what do you do if your bounce rate is too high, and how would you go about reducing a high bounce rate?

In our latest article, we will cover all these questions and more, helping you to understand what bounce rate is and how it is measured, what a good bounce rate looks like, and the actionable steps you can take to improve the bounce rate on your website.

What is Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is defined by Google Analytics as “The percentage of single-page visits (i.e., visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page).”

While this provides a working definition of ‘bounce’ rate’, it tells us nothing of why it occurs, or how to combat it.

Bounce rate is generally considered by search engines as a gauge of the quality of a webpage, and its relevance to the search query that led to it. Indeed, along with on-page relevance and page authority, bounce rate is one of the major SEO signals used by Google to rank pages in the search engine results page.

Why does your website get a high bounce rate?

Often, the main reasons for high bounce rate are poor user experience or irrelevant content. For example, imagine you were searching for a mushroom risotto recipe. You enter the search phrase in Google and click the first link, which is promisingly titled ‘Best Mushroom Risotto Recipe’ Now, when the page eventually loads, you find you are unable to locate the recipe, as the design of the page is messy, with numerous pop-ups and widgets rendering the page unusable. Unable to find what you were looking for, you immediately ‘bounce’ back to the search engine results page, and search for a more relevant page. A page such as this will not remain in first position for long. As more and more users bounce from the page, it will eventually register with Google that this page is providing a poor user experience, and this will be reflected in how the page is ranked in future for similar search phrases.

So, when should you start to worry that the bounce rate for one of your key pages is too high? While it is true that bounce rate benchmarks will vary by industry, as a general rule of thumb the following standards apply:

  • 80%+ extremely poor
  • 70 – 80% poor
  • 50 – 70% average but could be improved
  • 30 – 50% very good
  • 20% – potentially excellent, but could also be the result of faulty tracking

How to Reduce Bounce Rate

If the bounce rate on your website, or just on some of your key pages, is rated as either average-poor then you may want to take action to reduce it.

Let’s take a look at how at some of the ways you can improve your bounce rate.

Optimize Page Load Time to Reduce Bounce Rate

User experience is arguably the biggest factor in determining bounce rate, and one of the most important components of user experience is page speed. It’s an experience we can all relate to: you find a result relevant to your search query, patiently wait for the page to load, but the page either loads partially or not at all. We have come to expect that webpages should load almost instantaneously, meaning the modern user is generally extremely impatient of slow loading webpages, resulting in a quick hit of the back button, and a ‘bounce’ recorded for that page. Indeed, research has shown that 47 percent of consumers expect webpages to load in two seconds or less, while 40 percent will wait no longer than three seconds before bouncing from the site.

Page speed not only impacts bounce rate but also your rankings as well, as Google has been clear in naming this as an important signal. This was confirmed in the July 2018 Speed Update, which penalised the slowest loading pages in search.

If you think that page speed may be a factor in the bounce rate of your website, there are a few things you can do to speed up a particular page.

  • Reduce redirects
  • Optimise image size (this one can make a big difference if you have lots of large images)
  • Use a content distribution network (CDN)
  • Remove inactive plugins

To test the page speed on your website, use the StatusCake Page Speed Monitoring tool.

Pay Attention to Formatting

User-friendly formatting is a simple change that you make to your webpages which can potentially have a big impact. It is said that content is king online, but it’s often the case that how content is presented is equally as important as the quality of the text. Your website may contain some really comprehensive and informative content, but if it’s presented as a dense wall of text, with few paragraph breaks and fewer headers, most users won’t even attempt to read it before bouncing back to search.

Formatting your content correctly to make it as easy to consume as possible for the end-user can often result in a significant reduction in a high bounce rate. Here are a couple of pointers to help make your content easier to consume:

  • Use H2 and H3 tags to break down the text
  • Use relevant and high-quality images (though make sure they aren’t too large)
  • Bullet points
  • Call out boxes for quotes and important information

Optimise for Mobile

Website traffic is increasingly mobile-driven, and, unfortunately, mobile users have even less patience for slow loading, clunky pages than desktop users! Optimising your website is a must in 2019, as mobile traffic is only going to continue to outpace desktop in the coming years.

If you have already launched a mobile website, there’s good news and bad. The good news is that you can expect to see a significant reduction in bounce rate and an increase in organic sessions and conversions. The bad news is that launching a mobile website is rarely cheap or straightforward. For a business that relies on website traffic, however, a mobile-friendly website should be considered a priority.

Check out some of the ways you can optimise your website for mobile in our recent article 5 Ways to Optimise Your Site for Mobile.

Make your Website Searchable

This is a quick fix that can help to keep people on your website and reduce your bounce rate. Adding search functionality to your website provides the end-user with quick and easy access to your entire website. This means that even if the page they land on doesn’t immediately answer their query, there’s a good chance they will choose to use the search functionality to see if the answer can be found elsewhere on the site.

Use A/B Testing

Once you’ve implemented some of the aforementioned changes to reduce bounce rate, you begin to A/B test your key pages. A/B testing allows you to analyse specific elements on your pages to see if they are helping to drive or deter user engagement.

Testing different landing pages will allow you to learn what works for your audience and what doesn’t. The more frequently you test, the deeper your insights into the behaviour of your audience. For example, you may learn that certain copy is more resonant to your audience; while in some cases, bounce rate can be impacted by something as simple as the placement or colour of call to action buttons.

A/B testing may sound foreboding, but in fact, it’s never been easier. Google’s Optimize application allows you to test different pages painlessly, and for free.

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