One interesting topic in web analytics is bounce rate. Bounce rate, is defined as the percentage of web site visitors who arrive at an entry page on your web site, then leave without visiting any other pages.
We can use this metric to measure engagement of visitors. The higher the bounce rate, the less engaging our site becomes. Sometimes I come to think that bounce rates are open to different interpretations. For example, a high bounce rate means users were not impressed on what they saw on the landing page and didn’t bother to explore. But it could also mean they immediately found what they were looking for on that landing page and is therefore unnecessary to go further. Or the site simply doesn’t provide avenues for the visitor to explore further (broken navigation links, no search function available, etc).
A website with low bounce rate has better chances of achieving its objectives than one that keeps repelling its visitors upon their first visit. That is why it is important to find ways to keep visitors and provide for what they are looking for.
Ideal Bounce Rate
In my opinion, ideal bounce rate is zero per cent, which obviously is close to impossible to achieve. However, bounce rates that fall between 40 to 50 per cent is not bad at all. This is often achieved by good content organization, user-centric page layout and intuitive navigation. Let’s examine different ways to reduce bounce rate in more details.
1. Maintain Top Rankings for Branded Terms
People who find our website using our brand name are quite certain of what they are looking for. And that’s us and not our competitors. These type of visitors are more likely to stay on our site and don’t tend to bounce off. While it is likely that our rankings will be there on top for these brand queries, it’s not always a given, and the case of Broadway Hong Kong can be used as an example. Therefore it is important to ensure that visitors go to our sites for queries related to our brand identity, rather than to somewhere else website.
2. Provide Relevant Content
It is no-brainer for us to provide relevant page content to our audience. But sometimes we don’t know how to do so. Knowing our visitors is one thing, optimizing our pages for them is another. Relevant content can be described as writing good content that is easy to understand (minimize introduction of unnecessary technical term or connect using the language they speak).
3. Build a Clear Navigation Path/Menu
Having a clear navigation definitely helps reduce bounce rates. Guiding a visitor through a logical flow of information enables him to continuously peruse information from our website. Look at Facebook, once you login, there are lots and lots of opportunities to do: view photos, search for friends, play third-party applications. Such clever content organization made Facebook lord over the others in terms of page views. Related pages, hyperlinked body content and prominent menu items help visitors explore pages within our site even better.
Amazon’s products page offers multiple options on top of a good amount of content.
4. Provide Enough Content
Let’s make sure we provide enough information to our visitors. That can be in a form of photos, videos, related links and of course enough copy. I guess we would love to read a news story that’s also packed with news photos or videos longer than just two paragraph article, right? And when I say enough copy, I am not setting a certain number to accomplish that condition; text content must be enough to address all aspect about the article. For example, if my page talks about my favorite NBA team, the Phoenix Suns, I would like to include information such as team history, stats, playoff appearances, players, coaching staff, business transactions, charity events and other related information. Of course I can’t squeeze them all in one page, that’s why if there’s a link to current team roster, that could be enough for a visitor to stay in the site rather than bounce off.
5. Update Content Regularly
One of the reasons visitors leave a landing page is that the information presented there is inaccurate, irrelevant or outdated. If my Phoenix Suns page contains information about its team last season — missing the current team info — visitors who are looking for information about this year’s team will surely be disappointed and leave the site.
6. Make Our Content Readable
Having good amount of content is sometimes not enough. There needs to be a proper placement of bold text, bullet points or italics or maybe division of content into shorter, digestible portions. It is important to note that visitors don’t immediately read content, they quickly scan it, hoping to find clues whether the article is interesting or not. If the article is interesting, then good (although that doesn’t guarantee people leaving the page after accessing this page). Using white space can also be crucial, as it provides a breather to a viewer who is possibly drowning in a pool of information.
7. Define Industry Terms and Acronyms
Some people I talk to don’t even know what does SEO stand for. But they’re fortunate I am there to answer their query. On a web page, if we constantly bombard people with acronyms (PPC, CPA, CPM) or terms that we can’t seem to avoid using (conversion, bounce rate), we have to define these terms before we proceed (note I did it with bounce rate above). I like the way other websites do it — like Search Engine Watch — that the first time a term is used, a link to that term’s definition is provided. SEO HK has a glossary page, but I am sure there are other terms not covered yet.
8. Place Search Function Prominently
For a site with a considerable amount of content (100+ pages), search function becomes a must. But having one may not be enough; its placement should be considered so that it appears at a prominent location on the page. Considering how eye patterns follow a page layout, a search form should be within that path. Remember Facebook emphasized the use of it so that the search form was moved from top right corner into the middle and made the form even longer. Having a search page in the page should help visitors who have the propensity to use search function once the information they are looking for is not on that page. Otherwise they’ll leave and use search engines.
9. Investigate Pages With High Bounce Rates
Somehow we need to look at our web analytics and identify which pages (or keyword referrers and corresponding landing pages) have high bounce rates and ask why so. Too little information? Very bad navigation? Ask colleagues or friends and have another fresh pair of eyes to identify what you might be overlooking.
Using web analytics tools like Google Analytics provides answers to some bounce rate questions.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11164709@N06/