A high bounce rate may be an indication that a web page is not functioning optimally. Bounce rates can be discouraging, and they can be deceptive. While there are multiple reasons a visitor could bounce — not all of them bad — it is generally a good idea to work toward lowering bounce rates.
What is bounce rate?
Bounce rate is usually described as the percentage of single-page sessions. Specifically, the number of times, as a percentage of pageviews, that someone clicks though to a page on your site, visits that page only and leaves (“bounces”). This is an accurate, but incomplete, definition.
According to Google, a page’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit that page and leave it without taking any action, or, in Google’s words, without interacting with the page. A page’s bounce rate is, therefore, the percentage of one-hit visits — visits during which a person visits a page and does nothing measurable.
Defining interaction is where bounce rate can get tricky and a little deceptive. An interaction is any activity that sends data (a “hit”) to Google Analytics. Trackable interactions include clicking a link, sharing a page or post to social media and performing a transaction, like downloading an item. If you use analytics to set goals and track events, the event also counts as a hit.
Without interaction data, Google has no way to track a visitor’s time on a page. And Google does not recognize scrolling as an interaction. (In order to track scrolling, additional code must be added to the pages you wish to track.) If a visitor clicks on a page, immediately decides it is not what he or she needs, and leaves the page in 3 seconds, that is a bounce. If a visitor clicks on a page, reads a 1500 word article, copies the url to a document on his or her computer and leaves the page in 10 minutes, that is also a bounce. Therefore, there are situations in which a bounce actually means that visitors have found exactly what they wanted.
Bounce rates in context
Bounce rates can be put in context by looking at additional factors, such as:
The impact of website bounce rates on your firm’s bottom line: Are you suffering from high bounce rates, or does your website provide a steady stream of leads? Digging deeper, which pages are providing the most leads, and how may others be modified to enhance performance?
How your bounce rates compare to your industry as a whole: According to analytics company KissMetrics, the average bounce rate across industries is 40.5 percent. However, websites serve different purposes for different industries, and bounce rates can vary by as much as 70 percent from one industry to another. The graphic below highlights the average bounce rate for several types of websites. How does your site perform relative to other sites in its category?
Places you may be fooled: Are there pages for which a bounce rate might be artificially high or low? For example, if you have made loading the page an event, the bounce rate will be zero. This measurement does little to show how successful the page actually is. Conversely, a page may need to have a measurable event added to determine how visitors are really interacting with it.
How to reduce bounce rates
1. Pay attention to mobile (& mobile statistics). A page’s bounce rate on a mobile device will generally be higher than it is on a desktop. Keep an eye on this number. If a page’s bounce rate is considerably higher on a smartphone — more than 10 to 20 percent higher — this could mean the page has technical or usability issues that need to be addressed.
Mobile-friendliness is a necessity of modern website design. However, a page can be responsive, and therefore qualify as mobile-friendly, while still providing a terrible user experience. Pay close attention to what you choose to display on mobile pages and in what order you choose to display it. Make text readable and links easily clickable. Don’t force people to scroll through long pages to find what they need. Know your mobile users and design the experience around their requirements.
2. Create content for the right people. For years, Google has been saying that the best way to rank well is to produce quality content. Here is where Google and your visitors agree. The best way to keep people engaged with your pages is to provide them with unique content they can actually use. If the content on your site could fit in on any attorney website, it is time for a refresh.
Additionally, your search marketing should focus on optimizing for the right users. Some keywords, while relevant to your practice, do not convey a clear sense of user intent. People searching for the general term “estate planning” may be looking for an attorney. They may also be researching the process or looking for documents to download and complete by themselves. Someone searching for an “estate planning attorney” or “Medicaid planning lawyer” is much more likely to be looking for professional assistance. Your marketing should contain a strategic mix of general keywords, long-tail keywords and question-based keywords to help ensure you are attracting the right visitors to your pages.
3. Use a relevant content tool to recommend other pages or articles. A visitor may be interested in your page content and spend several minutes reading it. That time is not recorded in Analytics data without a subsequent interaction. Once the visitor has reached the end of an article, proactively suggest another article or other media. Many recommended content plugins will produce a slide-out box containing recommendations that appears as the reader scrolls. Relevant links could also be placed within page content or in a sidebar, although these options are less interactive and may not be as easily noticeable.
4. Make content clickable. Interactive content holds peoples’ attention. And content like videos, slideshows, presentation-based infographics and live data provide opportunities for visitors to perform a measurable action. The more people are engaged with your website, the longer they will to spend on your pages. As people spend more time on your site, they are more likely to begin to trust you as an authoritative source, and they are more likely to convert.
5. Build intuitive navigation and use obvious calls to action. Navigation should be broad, not deep. Users should not have to search through several levels of navigation to find the right page.
Additionally, every page should contain a conversion pathway. The call to action can be a read more button or a social share link, or a more lead-centric item like a click-to-call, live chat or “Talk to an Attorney” button. Visitors should never reach a page that prompts them to do nothing.
6. Do not interfere with visitors’ experience. Interactive content can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how it is implemented. Media that plays automatically and intrusive pop ups interfere with a visitor’s ability to find what he or she is looking for and interrupt the page flow. Give visitors the chance to consume your content without being pestered.
7. Set goals. You can establish goals for user activity and track those goals as events in Analytics. An event can be a range of actions, from watching a video or listening to a podcast to filling out a form or downloading an e-book. With plugins like Scroll Depth, you can also measure how far visitors are scrolling down your pages.
Setting goals can help reduce bounce rate and, more importantly, give you a deeper picture of how people are interacting with your site. This produces valuable data about where visitors drop off in the conversion process and about what conversion paths are working well.
Tactics that reduce bounce rates also tend to be practices that enhance user experience. While it is unhealthy to think about bounce rates obsessively, attempting to reduce them should help your site’s usability and performance.