This post is a monster. It’s nearly 5000 words long and would probably make an excellent eBook being one of the most comprehensive resources on how to lower your website’s bounce rate on the internet.
Too many websites around the blogosphere, claiming to be experts in website traffic, focus on only one side of the equation which is getting more traffic (more people) to your website.
The harsh reality is that you probably already have enough people visiting. They just don’t stick around to see how wonderful you are. This is where lowering your bounce rates enters the picture.
Lowering Your Bounce Rates
The art of taking a single visitor and converting them into a loyal reader, customer, or fan is an intricate process. Starting with capturing their attention from another source (the act of traffic generation) – which can be via their own action of searching for something or following a recommendation for your site via a link – all the way to engagement on your site.
It’s your job to draw them in and you have the most control over this part of the story.
Definition: To lower your bounce rate means to reduce the number of people that view one page of your website, then leave. Corollary, lowering your bounce rate also means to increase the engagement between your visitors and your website – get them to click around and explore.
Discovering Your Website’s Primary Purpose
As you can imagine, trying to navigate an ocean without a compass or some sense of direction is impossible. You’ll be floating adrift for day or two, until finally you succumb to exhaustion.
And so it is with your website. It’s hard to go somewhere if you don’t know where it is you’re going.
How To Define Your Website’s Primary Purpose
The content of the case study on lowering your website’s bounce rates that I give away with my newsletter subscription was a focus on one of my clients.
His website was a little haphazard design-wise and structure-wise and because of that customers were getting confused. He was losing a vital opportunity to engage and massage the customer’s interest in his services as a painter. Essentially the feeling of being lost on his website was overwhelming and as such the abandonment rate was high.
Important Segue: Put your email in over there on the right and I’ll send you this case study for free…
In response to the question “what is the primary purpose of this website?” we determined that it was to get them to visit the contact page, find the phone number and give him a call for a quote of his painting services.
Without the primary purpose defined his website’s design had no purpose either and you’ll see how we fixed both and achieve a very desirable outcome of dropping his bounce rate by over 30%.
Have A Goal For Your Website
Having some sort of goal – some action, or actions, that you want your customers to take is an important step in the design process. It must be defined.
Here are six (6) examples of a primary purpose. You might consider them similar to your own? This is just to get those creative juices flowing, there are many more than just these six:
- Giving me a phone call or contacting me somehow
- Signing up for a newsletter
- Buying something online
- Downloading something
Creating A Path Through Your Website
If you want lower bounce rates – that is, to achieve lower amounts of people leaving your site before they have a chance to discover what you have to offer – then you need to give them a path through your website.
To do this we need that primary purpose in place before a single bit of digital ink touches the page. This primary purpose determines what you construct as a path.
If your site is all about getting more and more subscribers then you will constantly point them toward subscription options. If you are trying to sell an eBook or some other product as your primary purpose then directing them to the product information pages, sales page, or posts about the product is a wise move.
All roads should eventually lead to them taking some form of action and there’s many ways you can achieve this.
Consider the following ideas:
- An advertisement for your primary purpose in your sidebar
- A small mention after all of your interesting articles
- Contextual links within your blog posts that lead to product information or other posts about your product
- Specialist pages that do not try to sell, but rather inform the visitor about your primary purpose. Such as, a page on all the reasons why subscribing to your site is a great idea, or a testimonials page outlining how your product has helped so many people.
- A specific menu item highlighting your primary purpose
- A landing page for your primary purpose designed specifically for conversion
- A greeting box introducing yourself to new visitors and highlighting your primary purpose
- Information links in subscription footers and other highly visual places
These are just a few to get you started. Can you see how many ways you can direct your visitor’s attention?
Your Keywords Should Relate To Your Primary Purpose
If your goal is to sell an eBook on dog training, you can bet that your website should focus around dog training. If you have a bunch of articles on arts and crafts then you’re selling your dog training manual to the wrong market.
Aligning your keywords with your primary purpose means that you can pull in visitors looking to perform the action you want them to take. A website that helps people through the process of painting with helpful DIY articles exploring some of the complexities of a good paint job will likely attract visitors that are interested in painting their house. They might even be part way through it and realise it’s too big a job.
Referring back to my case study once again, my client’s painting business website features articles on how to do some complex painting tasks in a Do It Yourself style article. Seems counter intuitive right? He’s in the painting business, he wants people to pay for this stuff, not get it for free.
What is great though is most people see how full on the task is going to be and the anticipation of such a monster task leads them to think maybe a professional would do a better job.
Guess where they are when that revelation happens? On his website reading about painting.
Without a primary purpose, this would be a dead end. It’s hard to canvass only customers who think they know what they need. Often times, it’s the customers that are browsing around your topic that can be the most valuable.
Loading up your website with keyword rich articles relating to your primary purpose will ultimately bring visitors that have more interest in what you’re wanting them to do than those that come in already set on what they want.
Measurement And Analysis: How To Get A Birds Eye View Of Your Bounce Rates
In my case study that comes free with my newsletter, I give a visual indicator of how my client’s statistics looked without his primary purpose and now with his primary purpose.
By using measurement to see what effect your changes are having you can categorically say whether the changes you’re making at having a positive effect on the website or not.
How To Analyse Your Bounce Rate In Google Analytics
You are using Google Analytics, right?
Google Analytics is a very powerful tool when used correctly. But in order to do that we need to dig a little deeper into what is driving your bounce rate problems.
The default view on your Google Analytics Dashboard, if you haven’t customised it too much, will include a little panel showing some of your overall vitals. A little something like this:
This particular statistic is your averaged site wide bounce rate. Although it’s important as an overview and something you should monitor as a glance into a much bigger picture, it actually means less than you think. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Weekly Bounce Rate Ebb And Flow
Over time you’ll notice that your traffic and your bounce rates increase and decrease in a natural rhythm.
Mine fluctuates daily and over a few weeks it becomes easy to spot patterns your traffic flow that will allow you to predict when the optimal time for launching new content is.
Depending on what niche you’re writing in, when your visitors get the most time, and their general attitudes and tendencies you will find your bounce rates do have some form of fluctuation as well which will allow you to time your content releases for maximum traffic volume and lowest abandonment.
To view which days offer the best chance of getting visitors with time on their hands check out the Bounce Rate page found under Visitors -> Visitor Trending.
This will give you a breakdown of visitors and their bounce rates over time. You can adjust the period as normal to get snapshots of weeks or days at a time for more accuracy in your readings.
Finding Out Which Sites Send Visitors That Click Around
The most important page you’ll want to check is your traffic sources page (All Traffic Sources), which will provide you with a table of all your traffic sources – the websites that send you people.
By default this page shows you the total number of visitors per site sorted by visitor. What we want to do is sort by bounce rate which will give us a much more meaningful statistic to work with.
Clicking on the heading for bounce rate will allow you to change between ascending or descending order.
What you then want to do is find the best traffic sources – the ones that offer you the least bounces for the most traffic. These are the site you want to build a relationship with.
Determining Your Best Sources Of Traffic
So, do you still think of traffic as just coming in one flavour? Any traffic to your website is good traffic right? Not always.
Sometimes the traffic coming to your website isn’t doing you any favours in terms of giving you additional readers, subscribers, customers, so matter what your website’s primary purpose is.
In order to get visitors to your site that naturally want to do what you want them to do we need to do some fine tuning of where your traffic is coming from. Here we touch on the other side of the equation that is so often talked about: Getting traffic.
Using Google Analytics we can set up an advanced filter which will tell us where to focus our efforts in relationship building with other sites.
This gives context to the “getting more traffic” argument. With some smart use of Google Analytics we can now say we want to “get more traffic for sources X,Y and Z.” A much more achievable task.
Using An Advanced Filter On Your Bounce Rate Statistics In Google Analytics
Not many people look much further than their dashboard page in Google Analytics which is a shame. It can be a really powerful and insightful tool when you know how to use it.
Advanced filters allow you to narrow down large amounts of data to provide you with meaningful, accurate statistics.
Navigate to your all traffic sources page in located under the menu Traffic Sources -> All Traffic Sources.
Select your time range for a few month’s worth of data to build up your data set if you can. This will give you more accuracy.
Scroll to the bottom of the list and click on the advanced filter link which will open up a new section where you can add all sorts of constrictive filters to your list.
The Advanced Filter should constrict your Bounce Rate to what you deem to be the maximum acceptable (it may not be where your average is at right now, but think of it as a goal to work towards), and just to filter out all the 1’s and 2’s that trickle through from site we’ll filter sites that sent more than 5 visitors. If your blog receives a lot of traffic (lucky you), just bump this up to some meaningful value.
The idea is to get about 10 traffic sources that bring you high quality traffic (as in, they send visitors that have a bounce rate in an acceptable range to you). This gives you a list of traffic partners that you should work on building a relationship with.
Link to them, leave comments, write guest posts, and do all the regular traffic building strategies you read about on every blog around the net.
4 Ways You Can Build A Better Relationship With Other Website Owners
Once you’ve figured out your best traffic sources you might be wondering what you need to do to build a stronger connection with them and how you can milk more traffic from those sources.
These are important people! You’ll be working with them to make both of your websites better.
Here are a few tactics you can use to increase the amount of traffic you get from them:
By leaving relevant and thoughtful comments on their website you’ll provoke their attention, especially if they don’t normally get lots of comments.
Make sure the comments you leave a relevant. “Good post” just isn’t going to cut the mustard. When connecting with these people by regularly commenting on their content you’ll begin to see increased response rates, more traffic, and increased discussion both on their blog around your comments and on your own blog from visitors looking to keep the discussion with you going.
Have a specific question about something they recently wrote? Instead of leaving a comment try emailing instead. Most bloggers appreciate their audience reaching out to them. If you want to be remembered then you can connect with people by talking to them directly.
I’m recommending emailing here and there just to keep your face fresh in their mind – don’t spam them and avoid direct messaging on Twitter, it’s not a good substitute for an email, though a thoughtful @reply might trigger their attention if they are more notable.
Being in direct contact with someone has the added benefit of the “I Know You” factor and they are therefore more likely to link to you in the future in their writings.
3. Linking To Them Frequently
Reciprocation is a huge player here. If you give, give, give you’ll eventually receive. This strategy works best with people who aren’t quite A-Listers, but apply it however you will.
I like linking to my friends online, I read them because I enjoy their content and if my visitors are coming here for me then it’s not a far stretch that they might like what I like. It’s good both ways and Oh So Good when you finally get that reciprocal link back.
4. Guest Posting
Guest posting is a great strategy that more than a few A-Listers have used to leverage other people’s audiences.
Leo Babauta from the popular blog Zen Habits described it as “having the temporary attention of thousands of people you don’t normally talk to”. It’s your opportunity to be fresh and exciting.
Writing guest posts can be a lot of work, but it can also be easy if you know the person and what they like. I’d recommending doing the above strategies for a while first as it’s all about building rapport.
It’s All About Building Rapport
Building a relationship with someone takes time. In sales this is referred to as building a rapport with your customer. Once you’re in, you’re trusted and working with them becomes a lot easier.
Remember though, at the end of the day you’re dealing with people. It helps to not come across like a robot trying to gain something. Be genuine, pay attention to what their needs are and be there for them.
Turning up and being present is half the battle won.
Lowering Your Website By Fixing Harsh Design
The look and feel of your website says a lot about the company or service using the website as a forefront.
In my case study (free with a subscription to my newsletter over there in the sidebar), I talk about my client, Nick The Painter.
Nick was after something very specific with his website. Something he could only attribute to a “homely” feeling. Which is why my original design ideas based around a crisp and clean look and feel didn’t wash well with him.
Browns aren’t usually the kind of colour I’d think of when thinking of a painting company which is why it wasn’t immediately obvious to me what a good choice it was. As soon as Nick’s showed me his design idea it clicked.
An inviting colour scheme can make you feel like you’ve stumbled on something very warm, comforting, engaging – just like you’re standing in his living room and he’s showing you around.
Colour says more, in less time, than words ever can.
Coming from a programming background, design can sometimes feel a bit foreign to me. Web design has a multitude of concepts all rooted deep in artistic drawing, painting, sculpture and even achitecture and other classic areas of the arts. Finding what appeals to people of a certain audience really has more to do with art than IT.
A Logical Thinker’s Guide To Good Web Design: Put Yourself In The Customer’s Shoes
When it comes to problem solving why you might not be getting the desired bounce rates, or visitors sticking around on your website sometimes it helps to imagine you are the user or customer.
Putting yourself in the shoes of your visitor is a fantastic way to creatively visualise the things that are wrong with your website.
Ideally, the real conclusive way to identify things wrong with your website design (and what they’ll tell you to do in any user interface design course) is to actually get someone that is unfamiliar with the site to sit down and use it in front of you. You can then time them performing certain tasks, take notes about their comments on the layout, design and feel of the site and make observations of their actions.
Failing that, putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and pretending to be a user coming across this site for the first time comes a pretty close second.
Open up your site and see if you can answer some of these questions:
- What are the elements that stand out to you?
- If you were looking for contact information where would you go?
- Are the menu names obvious enough for you to know what’s there before you even click on it?
- Can you tell what the website owner wants you to do?
- What is the point of this site?
- Give yourself a few tasks of finding information, how long does it take you to do them?
- Is the layout intuitive and obvious?
- Can I interact with the website? How?
- … etc
I’m sure you get the idea. Come up with 10-20 questions along these lines and answer them giving yourself a true and honest rating. Note down things that need improving to revisit later.
If you have access to a person to act as your crash test dummy site operator ask them to complete several scenarios where they need to locate things on your site and get them to explain how they went about it.
Video tape them in action if possible – this is going to be the most raw way to gain this very valuable feedback.
Things You (The Designer) Should Be Asking Yourself
- Is there anything off-putting about the design?
- Does everything line up nicely? Does it have flow?
- Does the site portray the right feel? Compare it to sites you know portray the image you’re after.
- Is it quite clear how to navigate? Are there any roadblocks to accessing information?
- Is it clear where you would find the information you desire?
Contrary to what some designers thinks when they’re showing off their skills with complex concepts, good quality design is all about the user, not the designer.
It’s something more than a few of us are guilty of – making things more complex than they have to be – because it’s tempting to create interest points and show off our skills.
Sometimes it helps to step back and take a look from another perspective – your visitor’s perspective.
Re-Thinking And Honing The Way You Approach Your Design Work
Do you know what you are wanting your visitors to do once they come across your website? How effective are you at conveying that in your design?
Not knowing why (and hence how) people use your website is a major cause of high bounce rates. For every website you design, a primary purpose should be in mind which will guide your design patterns. That is, what you hoping to achieve by having the website will effect how your design looks in the end.
This is the first question I ask my clients:
“What are you hoping to achieve by having the website?”
Invariably, 90% of the time the answer is “to get the phone to ring more”, “to gain more customers”, “to get people to contact us for information” or some variation of having more clients contact them to conduct business.
The way you architect your website will change slightly depending on the answer to this question.
For most business websites that represent off-line businesses they want the customer to discover information about their products and services, then get them to call and order.
The Negative Effects Of Displaying Information Too Early
One interesting problem I have with smaller business customers is displaying information like phone numbers too early on to the customer which removes our ability to track information about our visitors.
While this isn’t necessarily a devastating thing to do, it makes it very difficult to track the effectiveness of changes to the website. By checking how many people visit the contact page coming from blog posts and services pages we have a way to measure how effective using a blog can be for a website.
Measurement is your friend: “What get’s measured, get’s managed.” – Peter Drucker (Management Guru)
I’m personally a fan of centralising important information such as contact details in one place on your website, this enables better tracking of when visitors are converting and performing actions that you want them to perform and provides a logical point to lead your visitors.
Displaying information too early can also have a dramatic affect on your bounce rates. If you’ve incorporated a blog and a more personal interactive quality to your website design this can be disaster. You want your visitors to click around your site, consuming information and when they are ready to buy (subscribe, enter their details, whatever), lead them to the place you want them to go via the paths throughout your website.
Lower Your Bounce Rate Via Suggestive Linking
One of the easiest ways you can improve your blog right now is by telling your visitors what to do next. What I call a suggestive link.
That doesn’t mean that it’s rude, just that it gives the visitor a little nudge. Call it a “call to action”, a “call to arms”, a “do this right now or I’ll break your legs”, whatever floats.
It’s the power of suggestion at work.
These kinds of cheeky suggestions are just the kind of hints your visitors need to stay on your site. Sometimes it’s just a matter of providing more material for them to consume until they’re ready to take action.
A suggestive link can be as simple as placing automated post recommendations at the bottom of your posts. Or it can be as complex as placing contextual links throughout your blog posts.
You can drop hints in many other ways and it should all relate back to your website’s primary purpose. Is your primary purpose to get your content seen? Is it to get more subscribers? Sell more products? This will determine what you do with these suggestive links and where they lead.
Laying Down The Path
Now that you know your primary purpose and you’re getting a handle on inter-site linking, you can start thinking about laying down a path through your website.
End of post linking or suggestive links throughout the blog post with clear calls to action – think along the lines of “Click here to …” – can really increase your readers engagement and that’s what getting your bounce rates down is all about – increasing engagement.
How Inter-Site Linking Lowers Your Bounce Rate
If there is one thing that is spruiked correctly in the blogging community it’s how much linking to different articles from your archives in your blog posts can help you turn visitors into readers.
Once you get your visitors to read more than one article the chance of them staying, subscribing, buying, etc, goes up dramatically.
Linking To Your Own Stuff Helps Keep Reader Attention
Not only does it get and keep their attention, it gets them clicking which is important for lowering your bounce rate metric.
A lower bounce rate means you’re getting more from every visitor and successfully guiding them to your website’s primary purpose.
By linking to articles from your archives in your blog posts you’ll ensure that there is a consistent path through your site that never stops. The only time they’ll run out of more articles to click on is when you stop linking.
Using Sneeze Pages
Not only can you link to your past content inside of articles but you can also do entires posts which simply link out to different content in a deliberate and obvious fashion.
Some people do these in an end of week, or end of month way which send people back to articles over the last period of time they might have missed.
Digests Of Your Archives
I love doing this for my newsletter subscribers. Because not all of us get the chance to follow everything everyone does, why not send an end of the month digest of all your content?
My newsletter subscribers have gone out of their way to thank me when I do this as they often miss some of the greatest content on my site when they don’t visit back often enough, or have too much other work on. When that digest email comes out you can bet on a surge of visitors.
I personally like the combination of the humble list post with the concept of gratuitous internal linking. It gives out great information in a format that folks like, plus it gets your content seen again and again.
Revising And Recycling Content Is Not Blogging Voodoo
The topic of revising and recycling content comes up occasionally in the blogosphere as a way to generate more interest in your work.
I personally think it’s a great practice to update content that you’ve previously posted as it keep the content fresh (something the search engines like) and fixes mistakes that would typically send people away.
Revising Posts Is A Great Habit To Get Into
The more you write the more your old content will fall out of date and out of favour.
The thing is that these older posts are your strongest connection to your readers. They are likely the ones that are receiving most of your traffic from search engines (check Google Analytics if you don’t believe me), and could use some fresh links to pull your visitors towards more recent content.
Revise your posts periodically and find ways to increase the amount of contextual linking to newer posts. This will have the effect of lowering your bounce rate on those posts by refreshing them and adding more internal links with information to consume.
I try to think of my blog as one big living document. It requires constant revision.
Revision of posts.
Revision of ideas.
Revision of theme and content.
You can update old posts placing more relevant and exciting links to new content, or rewrite these posts as new posts and put links in your old posts to notify the search engine visitors.
Whatever your strategy, don’t be afraid to put it into action.
Lowering Your Bounce Rate Is A Continuous Process
I hope this post has been useful to you in your quest for the best bounce rates you can possibly attain for your website. I’ve loved crafting these articles over the last few weeks and finally getting the opportunity to write this mammoth post!
I’ve learned a lot not only about bounce rates, but about my own processes, my design habits, and what I have control over and what I don’t.
The fact remains that employing strategies to lower your bounce rates is the most effective ways to get more control over your existing audience and their actions.
My biggest tip: Make the most of the visitors you have, but never ever take them for granted.
Often times you’re already getting more traffic than is good for your site. With a lower bounce rate, you will receive more interaction, more engagement, more sales, more subscribers, and more enjoyment from your visitors.
Make the most of the visitors you have and thank them for being there just as I’m thanking you now for reading this post.