Bounce rate: It’s the Biggy
Talking up your web site’s traffic has become a testosterone charged tradition wherever marketing types gather. While consistent traffic growth over time is certainly impressive, a snapshot in time of a website’s traffic is essentially meaningless. For one it’s relative to market size. A site in a super niche market, e.g. weightlifting equipment for physicists, may do quite well with a 1000 unique visitors per month, while a major consumer site like Coke could be withering on the vine with a million visits.
Traffic says nothing about what visitors do when they come to your site, whether they are likely to return, or how effective the marketing was that got them in the first place.
That’s why we like to zero in on bounce rate. Like P/E ratio, it’s a measure of efficiency. In one tidy number, bounce reveals the ability of your site’s content, marketing, usability and technical performance to suck in visitors and hold them prisoner.
The high cost of bouncing customers out of your site.
Google defines bounce rate as the number of people who leave your site after viewing a single page. High bounce will hit you in the wallet, too. Although the source may be a relatively small technical problem, it’s wiping out the marketing, content, design and programming investment made in that specific page.
In the real world, it’s like investing in an ad campaign to drive customers to a new mall store called “World of Botox.” Hundreds of coupon clutching customers show up, but 89% of them just peer in the shop window and leave.
In web terms this is an excessive and unacceptable bounce rate. Bounce rate measures the efficiency of a web page. Based on advertising, web marketing and search results, visitors approach your site with a defined set of needs and wants. When they aren’t met in a few seconds, most will leave.
High bounce rates drop web site ROI like a stone. If the bounce rate on any of the key pages of your site, especially the home page, is hovering around 50%, it time to move to Devcon 5.
How to determine your site’s bounce rate.
Any respectable web analytics package will report the bounce rate of all the pages in your site. Sort the report from highest to lowest, paying particular attention to critical pages like:
- Your home page.
- Any page with an important form, especially a multi-part form.
- eCommerce pages and checkout funnels
- Any page that you’ve targeted for a transaction, e.g. white paper download.
Keep in mind that some pages will naturally have a very high bounce rate, like “Thank you” pages and privacy pages.
The pathology of bouncing
There are a number of potential reasons for high bounce rates, and sometimes they exist in combination. Though solving a high bounce rate test may take some research and diagnostic work, spotting the issues is mainly a matter of common sense.
For example, speed. If there’s a line around the block to get into the World of Botox, only the most dire cases will wait. The same goes for your website. Except the web is more unforgiving. If your page doesn’t load in a few seconds, 70% of your visitors are already Googling or Binging the competition.
Lack of instantly recognizable relevant content will also keep your customers bouncing. What if, for example, all the wrinkly World of Botox customers show up only to find the store’s window packed with vitamins and cosmetics. When your site doesn’t deliver the goods as promised in advertising or a search description, you’ve broken a pact and possibly turned off a user forever.
At the top of our bounceability list is speed, or lack thereof. Depending on the speed your customers are connecting to the internet, most will only wait one or two seconds for a page to load. The most common problems are large graphics, animations and videos.
Visitors to your site may not understand how your page is organized, or where to find what they want. Key links may use unclear wording, e.g. “Our Happy Place” instead of “About.”; the type size is too small; the placement isn’t logical. A simple usability test will quickly uncover these issues.
One of the underlying causes of high bounce rate is a failure to match your products and services to specific landing pages within your site. Navigating a website isn’t like strolling through Walmart. Most of us expect to click and instantly arrive at the meat counter. The home page can’t do it all, especially if your offerings are diverse or have audiences with little crossover. The solution is to develop landing pages or even mini sites designed around specific customer needs.
High Bounce Rate Causes and Solutions
Slow Load Time
- Shrink image sizes and optimize code.
- Nuke pokey Flash apps.
- Is your server the culprit? Run a speed test.
- Check load time of pages with high bounce rates.
- Make sure that the content of the page is clearly summarized in instantly visible and crystal clear headlines, and subheads.
- Add additional pages or sections to bring more focus to content structure.
- Clean up design clutter, set copy for readability.
- Edit copy for conciseness.
- Make sure the advertising or search ads match the content of the targeted page. If not, turn off the ad, or point it at a more appropriate page.
- Develop landing pages focused on a single topic.
Learn more about web marketing on Ideopia’s eVitalize mini site.