How To Improve The Bounce Rate? For Non-Techies In Plain English

Improving the website bounce rate is not on everyone’s to-do list but believe me, everyone is affected by it. The business’ bottom line is affected by it. The quarterly and annual goals may not be meeting. The company growth is stalled by it. Yet, there is so little talk about it.

Improving the bounce rate on the site requires identifying what your visitor wants, and working hard to make sure that within 8 seconds or less, they realize that your content has what they need.

Your page may have the answers, and maybe even great answers, but if the visitor doesn’t know it, with their short attention span of 8 seconds or less, they will move on to the next result in the search engine and you have lost them and got another tick to add to the bounce rate.

What Is Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is a numerical representation of how interesting or relevant the content on your site is to the people that are visiting it. If the bounce rate is high, it means that the content they are finding on your site does not match their search intent very well or at all, or maybe it just doesn’t grab their attention well enough to make them stay and click through the site.

But technically the bounce rate is calculated by dividing the number of one-page visits by total entrance visits.

If someone entered your web page from the outside and then there is no record detected of them going on to any other page on your website from there, it is counted as a bounce. They could have clicked back or clicked on some shortcut in their browser, or entered some other domain directly into the browser. They basically bounced from your site.

It is not considered a bounce if a visitor entered your website form the outside and then clicked through to any other page on your site. This is what we want to encourage.

Why Should I Care About Bounce Rate?

There are 2 important reasons why improving the bounce rate is critical for a website owner. Both are often affecting the website but too commonly go ignored.

  1. Not achieving the desired result from the website, which is for the visitor to read the content and then respond to the call to action on the page.
  2. Search results rankings are affected negatively because the bounce rate is high. The result is less organic traffic coming to the site. Google doesn’t like bounces.

Why You Should Read This Article!

In this article I will go over some things that you as a website owner should spend some time on and stop ignoring this elephant in the room.

After reading it, you will have a clear plan with actionable steps to help you improve your website’s bounce rate.

You don’t need to attack everything at the same time, unless you can. Small steps towards the goal is all it takes. Small improvements over time will get you there with results to show for it.

What Affects The Bounce Rate?

There are several factors that affect the bounce rate on a website. All of them culminate to user experience. If the visitor is not happy, they leave. That’s it. Each factor below affects their happiness, so let’s see how you can improve each and turn your visitors into happy ones.

Slow Website Loading Speed

The first thing that will turn away your visitor before they even get a chance to look at your content is if the website takes too long to load. Industry standard website load speed is 2 to 3 seconds. Anything above that makes the visitor notice the slowness and depending on their patience some will leave right at 3 seconds, others will loiter for a couple more seconds, but will not be happy.

Improving the website load speed is a matter of cleaning up the site of plugins and scripts it doesn’t really need. Very often, with years, the website will start accumulating clutter. It is normal with all websites whose operators are not specifically keeping an eye on this and regularly do routine cleaning.

The other “power-up” is to turn on website caching. This is usually done on the server side and it will take a snapshot of the website and store it on the server in a static state to then serve it to the visitors as stored without any dynamic server calls.

This helps the pages load significantly faster and lets the visitor go to the next stage, to asses your content if its good enough for them to spend their time reading it.

Ease Of Navigation On The Site

Because out goal to improve the bounce rate is to get the visitor to click through to more of your pages, we want to provide clear and easy way of navigation. If its not, they will leave!

Your mission is to make the navigation bar at the top as well as any links in the content and in the sidebar if you have one, have very clear labels, with enough information for the visitor to make an easy decision if this is where they want to go.

Don’t be satisfied with dynamic navigation that gets automatically created as you add new blog posts. Design the navigation experience for your visitor. Lead them through your site as a tour guide.

Allowing Weak Content To Enter The Stage

Keeping them from leaving is mission number one. I know first hand how hard it is to crank out quality content on the regular basis. It is too easy to approve a piece of content by quickly skimming over it. Don’t do that!

Treat each and every piece of content as the most important presentation you are going to give to your potential customers. Treat it like a performance on the stage. Scrutinize every paragraph, every sub-heading. Only the best should enter it.

Spend extra time on the first three to five paragraphs and their titles. Add bullets and formatting to attract attention to important words and sentences. These will be the first thing the visitor sees. It is this content’s job to hook them into staying and move them down the page.

The sub-titles in the rest of the content is what keeps them interested, so spend special time on those too.

50% Of Visitors Hate Your Website

This is one of the most important factors, websites not working on mobile devices. Although it is common practice to make new websites mobile friendly, commonly called “responsive”, which means they respond to any screen size they are being viewed on, there are still many sites out there that do not work well on mobile devices.

According to StatCounter, almost half the visitors on the Internet in the US access the Internet on their mobile device. This means that 50% of our efforts should cater to those on mobile devices. Or in other words, SAME effort level should be applied to making sure that everything we create works perfectly on mobile.

Too Much Fluff & Useless Information

Another thing that needs to stop is creation of fluff-content. Lots of content on the Internet unfortunately will have 90% useless content and 10% actual important information that the visitor can use. Worse yet, this important content is buried in paragraphs and paragraphs of useless facts.

This is why again I say, create content with intention. Your visitor can tell a crappy piece of content from a mile away. Every paragraph should make the reader want to slow down, grab a chair, find a piece of paper and a pencil and make mad notes!

Actionable Steps To Improve The Bounce Rate On Your Website

Finally, here are the steps you need to do to improve your website’s bounce rate. You can do them in any order and as often as you want. The important thing is to take action and move towards the goal. Remember, our objective is to get the visitor to click through to more pages on your website before they leave, which will improve the bounce rate!

Fast Website Loading Speed Is A Great Start

As we touched on it a little bit already, website loading speed can be affected by many different things. So here are some that you can knock off the list to improve it.

Some of these will require a developer’s help, and some you may be able to do yourself.

Optimize Images

The photos you take with your phone or a camera are usually very large in file size. They are not suitable for the web because they take too long to load on a page, slowing down the load speed of the entire page.

Before you upload an image or photo, make sure it is optimized for the web. This can either be done in Adobe Photoshop by a graphic designer, or you can use online tools like ImageCompressor.com.

This tool lets you upload your photo to the tool and then use the slider to decrease the image quality as you like to balance the quality to file size ratio until the quality is still acceptable but the file size is as low as possible. Once you are happy with it, you can download the photo and use it in your content.

The ideal file size of an average photo or image in a website is as small as possible but below 100KB in size. Sometimes it is impossible but as an average, all the images on your site should be under 100KB.

Take Advantage Of A Content Delivery Network (CDN) Service

If your website is image heavy, using one of the CDN services may be a solution to improve load speed on a website.

CDN is a content delivery network which will copy your uploaded image file to many different physical server farms across the world and then serve it from the location closest to the website visitor to increase the load speed.

This is not necessary unless you really do have a lot of photos that need to load on your pages, in which case it should be worth getting.

Minimize HTTP Requests

When a webpage loads, it is pulling in all kinds of resources from many different places, These are called HTTP requests. Images get pulled in from their storage locations, fonts get loaded, styles and scripts get loaded in. All this takes more and more precious load time.

The idea is to decrease the HTTP requests to the minimum possible, again, balancing the required with minimum possible. You wont be able to zero it out unless you get rid of everything except text on the page, so don’t make that a goal. You want to clean it up so only the ones you need are getting pulled in.

When using a framework for your website, like WordPress, Shopify or WebFlow, all those will pull in lots and lots of stuff that you may not necessarily need. In these cases you can only do so much to minimize the requests.

Intuitive Navigation Gets Them To Click Through

When they land on your website, they are looking for information. If you manage to capture them with your content your mission is to keep them on your site, clicking through as much as possible. This is achieved with clear navigation controls. Keep them traveling between your pages as long as you can.

Use Clear and Concise Navigation Labels

Obviously the main navigation bar can’t be changing with every different type of content that a person enters your website through. Or can it? If there is a will there is a way. But back to Earth…

Main navigation aside, look at all the other navigational elements on your site. Be it the side bar it the links on the page, in or under the content.

With as much control as you can, examine every link on the page and make it intentional. Add a “Next, read this article: [Article title here]” under the piece of content, so when they are done, you can send them to the next, achieving the objective.

Include links to other related articles on your site in between sections of your content. Create a web of irresistible content for your visitor to consume.

Provide an Easy-to-Use Search Bar

The search box on the website should be easy to find, commonly positioned in the top right corner of the site. It can live in the main navigation bar or at the top of your sidebar if you have one.

Optimize the search results page to return a list of related content that the visitor is searching for, but also, make sure to never return an empty result. Display something. You can create a block of most popular content on your site that can be positioned below the search results. This way if there is no results, the most popular articles are right there for them to click on.

Include a Call-to-Action (CTA) Button

This one is big. There should always be a Call-to-action (CTA) on every page of your site. The reason is, because you always what to lead your visitors to the objective that is expected from the website. Capture them before they leave.

I highly doubt that there are very many websites out there that exist for the mere purpose of existing. Each website owner has a reason why they invested money in having a website.

For your website to produce a return on investment, there has to be an offer. Something you want the visitor to ultimately do.

If you have a funnel that converts visitors into buyers, then the CTA for that funnels should be on every page of your website. At least capture their name and email so you can put them into a drip campaign and convert them.

Of course if you have multiple offers, then curate which call to action is displayed on which page so they are relevant.

There is a website I know where the owner creates an offer for each and every piece of content he writes. Talk about purposeful content creation. This guy takes the cake.

Compelling Content Keeps Them Reading

Your visitors want to read your content but you need to make sure it is compelling. Give them what they need. As a website owner, you should know exactly what your visitors what from you. How do you know? You choose them instead of the other way around.

Before you write content, do some due diligence and research what people in your niche are searching for. Dig deeper, search through some forums and Quora to find more pain points that you can be addressing. Ask the AI to give you some more questions that people ask about a topic.

Once you have the list of things you need to address, focus on the topic and write amazing content about it. Provide details. Don’t be shy to write really long. Useful information is worth reading. Focusing on the topic and a single keyword will help to match the searcher intent with your content. When this beautiful marriage happens, bounce rate decreases magically.

Use Attractive Headlines

The title of your content is the very first hook that people will see that will make them decide to click on your result in the Search Engine.

If they land on your site that means you already did 50% of the work very well. Now your job is to keep them on the site by providing more headlines that will keep them scrolling down.

Each subtitle should be just as interesting as the main title was. Spend a few minutes on creating a couple different ones and work on improving it until you are convinced it is the best it can be.

Add Multimedia Content

Most people are visually stimulated and graphics, photos, charts and graphs make them happy. This is why your website should display beautiful imagery to complement the written content as illustrations and visual display of data.

Appropriate stock photos are great but your own photography will take it a notch higher and give your content more credibility.

If you have some data you are writing about, presenting it in an infographic, a graph or a chart will add more eye candy.

Videos are always a great way to enhance your content. Many people prefer watching a video instead of reading so even presenting the same information in a video format for them right on the page can be beneficial. Keep an eye on this one though because video embeds will increase page load speed.

Sometimes providing a downloadable version of the information will also give you a way to capture their email in exchange for the download.

Provide Value To The User

Ultimately, put yourself into your visitor’s shoes and create content that the visitor needs to see on your site. Anticipate what their next question is going to be and provide the answer to it.

Don’t let them walk away without taking something valuable with them.

Someone once said, now I wish I remembered who, “Give away your best stuff for free and people will buy it from you”. This applies to content creation. Don’t be afraid to give away your best secrets. It will give you credibility and build trust. Once you have that, people will keep coming back for more.

When you give away your best stuff, you are giving them what they’ve been looking for. This is how you make them stay and read more and more.

A Responsive Website Prevents 50% Loss

Now that you have amazing content on the website, you need to make sure that every visitor can experience it at its full glory.

Like I mentioned before, half the visitors on the Internet are looking at the website on their mobile device. This means your website should perform at 100% on a mobile device. If it doesn’t, you risk losing 50% of your visitors and growing that bounce rate like its your Ficus tree.

When they look at your website on a mobile device, it should look like the website was designed for this device and provide a great experience to them and they will stay!

Responsive Design On Your Website

Framework based websites like WordPress, Joomla or sires hosted on Shopify or WebFlow have templates or themes that can be responsive or not. It is key to find out if yours is.

Websites that are not on a framework and are fully custom built would have to have specific code built in to be responsive.

In either case, to find out if yours is, load it up on your phone and check if everything you access on the website is performing as expected. If you see text going off screen, of images too small, or too big. Other elements not proportional. All these are signs of a non-responsive website.

It is critical that you get with your web designer and get it resolved as soon as possible.

Text Should Be Responsive

The most important element on the website that needs to be responsive is the text. Your font sizes and fitment of the text should fit perfectly within the mobile screen, and should be easy to read.

An @media rule should be used in the stylesheets to detect the screen size and provide text size and style adjustments to fit the specific width of different screens.

Responsive Columns Of Content

Multi-columns sections that display elements like images or blocks of text on a desktop, should fold down into one column when on a smaller screen.

Just like with the responsive text, an @media rule can be used to specify the behavior of the columns when the screen is smaller. There are also libraries available like FlexBox and Grid that can do the same but like with any additional libraries or plugins, they will add to the load times.

Second Version Of Images For Mobile

Not always, but in some cases it is necessary to create a second version of an image for mobile viewers. Some horizontal images with smaller details will become very little when their width is decreased to 468px or even 320px wide on a mobile device.

This is when it makes sense to create a vertical version of am image that can squeeze into the 320px screen while still be readable because of the vertical height.

Images can be swapped out using JavaScript or CSS depending on the screen size.

Mobile Navigation Menu – A Hamburger

Yes, the 3 lines icon you see in the top right or left corner of the website when visiting one on your phone is called a hamburger icon.

When on a mobile device, it is expected and when tapped, a menu is expected to slide out where all the navigation links are listed.

Having a normal horizontal navigation menu is very uncommon on mobile devices so make sure unless you have a very good reason for it, that your site has the hamburger icon menu type for mobile devices.

Make the navigation experience as seamless and intuitive as possible to prevent any points of interference between your visitor and the content. Bounce rate decreases when your visitor encounters as little negative experiences as possible.

Optimized Relevant Content Gets You The Perfect Visitor

Content relevance is key to keep the visitor interested and stay on the site, decreasing the bounce rate. The more useful content they see that is relevant to what they are looking for, the more they will keep scrolling and reading.

From the title, to sub-titles, from bolded text to bullet points, all these things should be on point. When a content on a page is skimmed, all the things that stand our should be on topic. This will capture the visitor and get them past the bounce point.

Use Relevant Keywords

When writing your content, it should be focused on one keyword, or a group of related keywords with one main theme. When you know your keyword, they you can focus your content on topic and in turn this will insure you provide exactly what the visitor is looking for.

Keep your content on topic and try to avoid going out on unrelated tangents or talking about things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Use the keyword in your title, in your first paragraph, and sprinkle them in a few other places in the content. Also use other versions of the same keyword or other ways of saying it. All this will build focus of the article to narrow down the visitors intent and match the content you are providing.

This accurate match of visitor intent and your content will improve the bounce rate of the website.

Provide Clear Meta Title and Description

It all begins out on the Search Engine results page. Bounce rate can be improved before the visitor even clicks on your link.

As you write your content don’t neglect your meta tags. The meta title and description should contain your main keyword. But also it should be a compelling hook.

Both the meta title and description need to do a good job capturing the interest of the searcher on the Search Engine results page before they even get to your article. This is why its important that they match the information in the article.

The searcher will expect that what the Title and Description said in the Search Engine results is what the content on your page will be talking about.

Additional Tips for Reducing Bounce Rate

As if that wasn’t enough, here are a couple more things I thought of. I hope you’re taking notes.

Keep An Analytics Eye On Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is not a popular metric in the office. Its always the Page Visits and Conversion Rates that get all the attention.

Now that you read all the way to here, you must be more serious about the Bounce Rate, so keep an eye on that from now on and see if the improvements that you read about above are helping to move the needle down on your Bounce Rate scale.

Test, Test, Test Different Page Elements

Pick your most popular blog post or page (not your homepage) and make a small change on it. Add a link in a different place, or change the wording you use on the link. See if this change will make more people click on it and if that makes the bounce rate move.

Don’t do this too often though, but give it some time to record some statistics about it before you decide if it worked or not and make another change. Give it a good month before making new changes.

Keeping detailed notes on what was changed and when will allow you to identify what works and what you can replicate to the the other pages on the website.

Optimize The Website For Conversion

If you have a Call-To-Action on your pages, which you should, optimizing the pages to get more conversions will not only improve your Conversion Rate but in addition, it will improve the bounce rate, because you will be improving the rate at which people click through to the next page.

So focus on improving the conversion and the bounce rate will improve naturally.

Conclusion

Wow this is a long article and if you are still reading it, good for you. Let’s recap everything here in case you didn’t take mad notes.

The Recap of the Importance of Bounce Rate

The Bounce Rate of a website affects it in two ways, the number of people reading your content and have a chance to respond to your CTA and the number of people Google is sending to your website.

As your Bounce Rate increases, both those numbers decrease. This is why you want to decrease the Bounce Rate and allow the visitors and conversion to increase.

Summary of Key Strategies to Reduce Bounce Rate

To improve the Bounce Rate, you need to do the following things:

  1. Decrease the website load speed
  2. Make sure your website is mobile responsive
  3. Provide an easy way of navigation
  4. Focus your content on a single keyword to align the content with the searcher intent
  5. Get them to click on an internal link that takes them to another one of your pages.

Final Thoughts and Encouragement to Take Action

Now that you know what you need to do, don’t get overwhelmed, make a checklist and try to improve one thing at a time over a period of some time.

There are some technical items in there that you may need to get help with, so find someone that can help or contact me, I would love to help.

Remember that Bounce Rate alone doesn’t fix everything, it is just another metric that reveals the problems that a website might have.

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