Posted on February 5th, 2009 at 11:50 pm by Cristian Graziano
The bounce rate is a critical, but often unknown, website statistic that every business owner should be carefully monitoring so that they can continually improve the effectiveness of their website. The bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors that leave your website without ever interacting with it. This means they go to your homepage (for example) - and then leave your website without going to any other pages on your site.
Oftentimes, bounces occur in less than 3-5 seconds. Here's what the bounce rate statistic looks like in Compass' stats (although most stats programs should have something similar):
In this site, 20% of visitors are bouncing. Is this good or bad, and how do you go about reducing your bounce rate?
Bounce Rates Vary by Industry
There is no set number that you can use as a benchmark to determine if the bounce rate for your website is too high or too low. What I've found to work best in analyzing the bounce rate is to watch how it changes over time, and see how changes you make to the site affect your bounce rate. Be careful with making website decisions over the bounce rate seen over a one or two day period. Bounce rates fluctuate day-to-day, so its usually best to use the long-term bounce rate as your figure.
Why your bounce rate is high and how to lower it
Your bounce rate could be high for a number of reasons.
You rank highly for a generic search term
Let's say your website ranks highly for a generic search term like 'coffee' and you are a coffee roaster. The high volume of untargetted traffic means that a large majority of visitors who are coming to your site have no interest in coffee roasting. As soon as your site loads and they see that it's not what they were looking for, they leave.
The Fix: Try optimizing your site for more specific, multi-word search terms.
Pages or articles no longer exist or have moved
If other websites are linking to old articles on your site that no longer exist (or have moved), or for some other reason visitors are getting a "Page Not Found" error, they are much more likely to leave your site because what they were going after is not there.
The Fix: Contact other websites linking to you and ask them to update their links. You can check sites that are linking to a page on your site by typing 'link:http://www.yoursite.com/some-page' in Google or Yahoo. Don't include the single quotes. Yahoo will usually show you more links than Google, and this is also a great way to see who is linking to your competitors.
Your site does not immediately communicate to visitors what you do/offer
Website visitors have a very low attention span. You have a fraction of a second to grab their interest. If they have to work hard just to determine what your company actually does - they are going to hit the back button and move onto the next website.
The Fix: Clearly spell out for visitors exactly what products/services you offer. Try adding a short phrase or sentence at the top of your page that is easy-to-find and easy-to-read.
You have too many options
Sometimes website owners want to have every base covered, so they will create multiple options for a site visitor thinking that more options means higher probability they will click on something (I learned this the hard way).
The Fix: With a website, it's often better to offer limited options so you don't overwhelm visitors. Too many options on a website can lead to undecidedness and cause the visitor to bounce.
Your site is ugly and/or not what the user expected
If a visitor is looking for a professional service provider or even a place to eat - and the website is ugly - they'll leave before the page has even loaded. Many mouses now have back buttons built into them, and I've noticed people who have them search Google with their finger on the back button. This can also happen if you have a generic-looking (or template) design, or if your site looks nice but doesn't fit the user's expectations.
The Fix: Give your website a visual facelift that is in line with what your website visitors expect - and especially in line with your brand.
Your site takes too long to load
If your site makes visitors wait too long, they'll leave. These visitors may leave before your stats have even had a chance to record the bounce - in which case your bounce rate may actually be higher than what you see reported in your site stats.
The Fix: Speed up your site by reducing and compressing images, using css, reducing http requests, and gzipping your content. If your site loads slowly and your not sure what this stuff means, talk to a web developer who can help you make these improvements.
I'll end this topic with a quote from Organic SEO that really sums up this topic well: "Obviously a high bounce rate means your site has low relevance to visitors, and so to capture more of those visitors you can work on making your site more relevant."
What do your bounce rates look like? Do you have any additional reasons why visitors may be bouncing?