8 Steps to Improve Your Bounce Rate!

In my previous post Bounce Rate – How Much Do Visitors Really Like Your Site? I gave an introduction to Bounce Rate. In short, Bounce Rate measures how many people come to a page on your site and never click another link. In this post I’ll discuss what you can do about this to get people to stay on your site.

1. Improve Bounce Rate With Clear Call-to-Actions

If you want a visitor to click on links and dig further into your site, why not ask them? Many websites fail to offer targeted options for visitors. Here is an extreme case.
http://www.samanzerin.com/
Notice that this website, samanzerin.com, includes NO links. Even the email address has no hyperlink. The designers might argue that the site is simply a calling-card for their magician client, but don’t you think it would be helpful to a visitor to view pages about the magician, where they can see him perform, what people have to say about his magic, links to videos of past performances?

The best sites include clear, targeted links to compel the visitor to read more. RELATED ARTICLE or RELATED TAG sections at the bottom of your articles are helpful.  ‘Popular article’ and ‘most commented’ widgets like the one you see in the top-right of this page can also be a plus.

Why not include the call-to-action text right at the bottom of the article? For example, most blog posts (including many of mine) simply ask the read to comment in the box below. Why not include specific links asking them to read something related? Look at the bottom of this post for an example of this.

2. Make Sure the Content of Your Articles and Posts Meet Visitor Expectations

When visitors come to your site do they find what they are looking for? Here is a page from Regards.com, a free greeting card site which I am involved with.

regards.com

Most first-time visitors find this page via a Google search for ‘free greeting cards’ or ‘free birthday ecards.’ Regards ranks on the first page of most of these terms and we don’t disappoint them.Visitors are clearly presented with exactly what they were looking for and our Bounce Rate, which is as low as 20% on many of these pages, reflects our ability to meet their expectations. Do your pages meet visitor expectations?

If you’re promising visitors something for free either in your pay-per-click ads or in the descriptions that come up in organic search results, do your landing pages deliver on this promise?  Pay careful attention to meeting visitor expectation with every incoming link (which isn’t always easy to control) and PPC ad (which is completely under your full control).

3. Improve Your Bounce Rate With Well Designed Navigation with Targeted Options

Take a look at this page from newyorktimes.com.

New York Times

Notice the well-designed navigation throughout the page.  Above the article is a toolbar which offers search, tools and article categories related to the current topic.  To the right of the article are links to content related to the article.  The NY Times pages offer plenty of targeted links, but they do so without overwhelming  you with choices.  The page includes plenty of white space and clever, concise design elements.   Contrast this page to the one in the next section.

4. When it Comes to Bounce Rate, Sometimes Less is More

While you might be tempted to provide your visitors with many link options to choose from, you run the risk of overwhelming them with choices.  Take a look at the following page:

HavenWorks.com

A bit busy, would you agree? Better to provide visitors with fewer, well targeted links including clear call-to-action text that meets their needs and expectations.

5. A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Don’t be shy when it comes to including pictures in addition to text links.  If the pictures happen to be provocative, great.  It’s always best to use images which are targeted towards your likely visitors’ interest.  Pictures that ask a question and leave the visitor wanting more are even better.  Take a look at a typical article page from the Huffington Post.  Huffpost is never shy about its use of provacative images to entice the visitor to dig deeper into the site.   Hey, sex sells!

huffingtonpost

6. Fix Your Crappy Design to Lower Your Bounce Rate

Maybe visitors are leaving your site because your site design sucks. Be honest with yourself. Does your site design stack up with other websites in your market? What do your customers and co-workers think of your website?  Take a look at this website design for the thecreationmuseum.org.   It looks like the site was built in 1997 and hasn’t been updated since.  Would you want to continue on with this site?

Creation Museum

7. The Site Loads Too Slow

If your site load-time is too slow, visitors will never even wait and you will quickly lose potential visitors.   If you have to wait more than 7-8 seconds for your pages to load, you have a problem on your hands.  There are several free website tools to help you analyze your page load time and compare it with competitor sites.  My favorite is Pingdom Tools.  The cause of slow load times can be the design of your site (too many graphics, large HTML files, poorly designed database, etc.), a slow server, too much traffic and not enough server horse-power or poor internet connectivity at your ISP.

Pingdom Tools

8. Test, Test and Test Some More

Don’t assume that you know what visitors want when you can ask them. How? By using A/B split testing or multivariate testing techniques. The concept behind these tests is to show visitors two or more versions of your pages and track their behavior. For the purpose of improving your Bounce Rate you would monitor which version of your pages produce the most clicks to particular links you are trying to promote.

Google Website Optimizer offers free A/B split testing and multivariate analysis tools.  In A/B testing you compare different versions of a page.  In multivariate testing you create various combinations of a page by altering elements such as graphics, titles, and call to action text.  Website Optimizer and similar testing tools will automatically create the combinations, present them to visitors, and track the results of your test to produce statistically meaningful results.

In Google’s own blog they describe a test they did for Picasa download links.  The results proved surprising.  The page with a pretty picture and the link ‘Free Download’ (version A) produced inferior results to a less visual page with a simple ‘Try Picasa Now’ button (version B).  The lesson here… let you visitors tell you what works!

Google Website Optimizer

I hope you now realize that you don’t have to live with crappy Bounce Rates on your site.  Be sure to carefully monitor the rate using the steps outlined in Bounce Rate: How Much do Visitors Really Like Your Site? Once you hit on problem areas, try some of the step outlined above, but be sure to continually monitor the rate to identify trends and to see if the steps you have taken have resulted in measurable improvements.

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