What are Bounce Rates?
Bounce rate is a commonly misunderstood metric with negative connotations. When you understand what truly constitutes a ‘bounce’, it’s clear that a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing.
A bounce is defined as a single page visit. If a user clicks on a link to a page on your website, spends five minutes reading that page, and then exits your site, they’re a bounce. In other words, a user could find exactly what they’re looking for, have a great experience on your website, and still be counted as a bounce.
To put your mind at ease, most of the best blogs in the world have a bounce rate over 80%. So why are we trying to decrease it?
Less bounces means more page views, which may translate into more revenue, more engagement, or a stronger connection with readers. An unusually high bounce rate is also a signal of poor user experience, so it’s worth decreasing it to a point where you’re sure that your users are ‘good bounces’, not bad ones.
The Relationship Between Bounce Rates And SEO
Of course, Google doesn’t know your bounce rates, though it theoretically can find this information from the millions of sites that use Google Analytics.
In theory it would be a useful ranking factor, as it is an indication of how relevant your landing page is to the user’s search query, though allowances would have to be made for the type of site and query.
If someone wants a guide to landing page design and bounces within seconds we can assume the page hasn’t delivered. However, if they just wanted to quickly check the weather for today, then maybe it has served its purpose.
The concept of dwell time, or the ‘long click’ is important. It’s similar to – but not the same as – bounce rates. It’s essentially a measure of how long a user spends on a page before returning to the search results page.
Whether this is a ranking factor or not is open to debate, but it certainly makes sense in the light of Google’s search for quality signals.
In essence, it works like this:
If a user clicks through from the SERPs onto a website and then spends some time there, it suggests that the result was relevant to the query and served its purpose. In this case, Google has done its job well in ranking said website highly.
If a user clicks through and then returns to the search results page quickly then it suggests the site has not been useful for the searcher. Therefore another site may usurp it in the rankings.
Of course, this is a simplified version, and there are variables. For example, what if the site answered the query immediately?
I would assume that Google would be able to find different metrics for different types of search query so that it could take account of this.
So How Can We Lower Our Bounce Rate?
Update Your Outdated Content
Still have content from 2001 live telling people how to optimize their Myspace page? You’ll want to fix that.
Even in less extreme cases, it’s important to keep old high-traffic posts up to date to keep your bounce rate down.
Don’t Use Popups… Unless You’re Using Bounce Exchange
In general, popups are awful for the user experience and should be avoided at all costs.
The only case where it’s (kind of) okay is when you’re using a tool like Bounce Exchange, which uses mouse tracking technology to identify when a user is about to bounce, and then shows a popup to reduce the likelihood of this. However, I’d argue that this is bad user experience.
Write Shorter Paragraphs
Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, which is why it’s important to write concisely and in short sentences.
Make Your 404 Page More Useful
Google explicitly advises that your 404 error page should be useful in helping people find what they were looking for. They also advise using the enhanced 404 widget to include a search box on your 404 page.
Reduce Your Broken Links
Lots of broken links will cause a poor user experience, driving your bounce rates up. Using the Webmaster Tools crawl error report, or a scraper like Screaming Frog, identify all of the broken links on your site and fix as many of them as possible.
Make All External Links Open In A New Window
For blogs, it’s likely that a large portion of your bounces are coming from people clicking on external links in your posts.
If you’re using WordPress, there’s a plugin that will automatically open all of your external links in a new tab. Otherwise, the easiest thing to do is to simple add target=”_blank” in all of your external links.
Improve Your Page Loading Speed
57% of users will abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. I recently wrote a post on how I improved the loading speed of this site by 70.39% in 45 minutes. There are 22 tips in that post that will help you reduce loading times.
Make Your Website Mobile Responsive
Mobile visitors have even less patience than desktop visitors. Ensure your website has a responsive design to provide mobile users with a great user experience.