Feb 16, 2012

Boing! Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate

Search for the term “bounce rate” on the Internet, and you can find any number of very technical explanations. Some of them even include a nifty mathematical formula or two. But as a business owner, here’s all you should really care about: Bounce rate is basically a measure of the percentage of visitors to your website who take one quick look and run away screaming.

Bounce rate is just one of the zillions of behaviors connected to your website that can be quantified. It functions as a sort of “quality score” that goes beyond the raw number of visitors or unique visitors to your site. If your site gets a lot of traffic, but it’s not producing the leads or other business that you expect, then the bounce rate is the first thing you need to examine.

Some website statistics packages will indicate bounce rate for your pages, but the tool most commonly used is Google Analytics. Unless your site is a blog — which sort of specializes in visitors who read one page or post before leaving — you should aim to keep your bounce rate at or below 60 percent.

A bounce rate over 60 percent indicates that there may be an issue or two on the site that needs some work. Here are a few things to look at that can cause your website’s bounce rate to climb:

Content relevence

Make sure your website is about what you claim it is. If your website promotes rental fishing bungalows in Chassahowitzka, trying to capture visitors from Google Ads with an advertisement titled “Gulf Coast Luxury Condos” will just waste your ad budget. People will land on your site, take one look and flee.

The same theory applies to what I call “backdoor optimization.” Have your ever performed a search for, say, the weather in some far-away travel destination and discovered that the first link you click on is the website for a travel agent? There’s probably all kinds of useless weather-related text at the bottom of their home page, but it’s pretty obvious they’re trying to sell you something — not tell you what the weather is going to be when you arrive there on Saturday. That’s a travel agent who wasted a lot of money on irrelevant content and is chasing away visitors in droves.

AV aggravation

You may think it’s a great idea to honor your Celtic heritage by treating your website visitors to the winning piobaireachd from the Glenfiddich Piping Championships, but please resist the temptation. Even if your visitors are all big fans of the bagpipes (what are the chances?), most of them don’t want to be surprised by music — any kind of music — blasting out of their PC speakers without warning.

Audio-visual aggravation includes music, noisy Flash animations, automatic streaming video, anything that blinks and pop-up ads. All of them are sure-fire ways to chase site visitors away very quickly and increase your site’s bounce rate. If people really liked loud, flashing things right in their faces, lights and sirens would be more popular decorations at Ikea and Rooms to Go. Your website visitors are looking to do business with you; don’t distract them with a song-and-dance. Put down the bagpipes and slowly step away.

Form Over Function

Is your website really designed to help visitors quickly find what they want? Your site navigation needs to be crystal clear and descriptive, and the site should prominently display search tools. The people who land on your website spend 99 percent of their web surfing time on somebody else’s website, so you don’t have much time to make an impression.

The typical visitor to a business website wants information fast. While that “mystery meat” navigation might use trendy MooTools and the latest HTML 5 code, potential customers aren’t going to waste their time playing with cutesy dancing icons just to find your price list and contact form. Instead, they’ll take their commerce to a website that looks like it wants to do business with them and makes information easier to find.

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