When you are looking at the analytics for your website, there are some numbers you want to see on the higher end: high numbers for unique visitors, conversion rates and time on site are always a good thing.
Yet there’s one number you almost never want to see creeping up above 60 percent: the bounce rate. Bounce rate, as defined by Google analytics, is the rate of unique visitors who come to your site and leave from the same page in less than a minute. In some cases a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing; if you make a special offer and 90 percent of the visitors to the site take advantage of the offer and then leave, you could argue that the high bounce rate is not indicative of a problem.
But in the vast majority of cases, a high bounce rate indicates a problem with your site. You want at least half of your site’s visitors to stay on the site for 10 seconds or longer and ideally navigate throughout the site and create a conversion.
The Culprits Behind High Bounce Rates
If your bounce rate is high, there could be a few reasons:
Poor Site Design. Sometimes, an excessive bounce rate is due in large part to the design of the site. Can your visitors easily navigate around the site to find what they are looking for? Are the calls to action clear? Or is the site unattractive and cluttered? Ideally, your site should indicate who you are and what you do clearly and concisely on every page. Stick to standard web design conventions, put navigation and search bars in common places and make it easy for people to find what they are looking for.
Slow Loading Pages. In today’s fast-paced world, no one wants to wait 30 seconds or longer for a website to load. If your site takes too long to load, whether on a PC or a mobile device, there’s a good chance that the visitor will hit the back button and keep looking. Remember that the bounce rate increases as soon as the load time hits four seconds. That’s right: you have four seconds to grab someone’s attention and keep them on your site.
Not Mobile Friendly. There is no reason that you should not have a mobile-friendly version of your website. Research indicates that soon users will be accessing websites from mobile devices more often than computers, so a mobile-friendly site is a must. If visitors can’t easily navigate your site on their phones or tablets, they will go to a site where they can.
Pop-Ups and Multimedia. When someone clicks on a website and a video immediately starts playing, the chances of a bounce increase. Some people are annoyed or startled by multimedia, and feel out of control; those feelings extend to pop-ups as well. Videos and pop-ups can help increase conversions, but only when used properly; otherwise, they could be driving visitors away.
Fixing the Problem
Recognizing that your bounce rate is too high is only part of the battle. Unless you take steps to correct the issue, you’ll continue to lose traffic. This usually involves some analysis of your site’s analytics and a bit of testing.
In fact, there are three things you can do to improve your bounce rate almost immediately.
- Remove plug-ins. Plug-ins often cause sites to load slowly, and they can also cause other problems, like creating security vulnerabilities that allow your site to be hacked. As a general rule, unless you absolutely need the plug-in, get rid of it. A plug-in might seem cool, but if it slows down your site, it’s not doing you any favors.
- Get friendly with mobile. Mobile friendly website design is no longer just a cool trend that would be nice to have. It’s a necessity. If you have not updated your site to be compatible with mobile devices, it’s time to do so. In some cases it’s not that hard; some hosting sites even have a plug-in that does it for you automatically — that counts as a “must-have” plug-in.
- Perform A/B testing. Sometimes the cause of the traffic exodus is not clear. That’s when you need to run some tests to identify the problem. A/B testing is an easy way to try comparing two variables to determine where the problem lies. By giving a percentage of your visitors one version and the rest another, you can pinpoint exactly what’s working and what’s not and make changes accordingly.
By using some of these tricks, you should see your bounce rate decline, and will most likely see your conversions increase as well. Don’t watch your site visitors bounce away — do something and keep them coming back for more.
About the Author: Susan Daigle is a web designer and analyst who has helped dozens of entrepreneurs design and maintain their sites. She blogs about best practices and ideas for taking sites to the next level.