What is a bounce rate and how do I reduce mine?
When marketers hear about bounce rates the first thing they think (like the rest of us) is about the college paddle-ball championships in which they carried their intramural team to victory when they kept their cool while their opponent sneezed at the crucial moment of a heated bounce-off . Once they come out of their reverie they then think of email but that is not the only kind or worse kind of bounce rate you can run across. Nay, the worst kind of bounce rate is the one that occurs with most site owners blissfully unaware. The bounce rate I am talking about is for your website. Now, I know what you are thinking, “But I am not sending my website anywhere, how can it bounce?”. Well. It is not THAT kind of bounce. When someone talks about website bounces, they are not talking about emails and they are definitely not talking about rubber balls; unfortunately they are referring to site visitors. Specifically ones that that make their way to your site and then leave from the same page they entered without going any deeper into the gooey deliciousness of your well crafted content.
So what can you do to mitigate this paddle-ball like nature? The best way is to try to avoid some of the barriers to entry that site owners sometimes unknowingly include in their site.
- Design & Layout
The first place to look for potential issues is your site design. One of the biggest offenders can be in the use of media. I am not saying that you should not use media, in fact it is just the opposite. As I have stated in other posts, media (like greed apparently) is good. It should just be applied judiciously. You would not make a meal of Twinkies (at least not on a regular basis) and that same rule applies to your site. Avoid using gratuitous animation, automatic pop-ups and under no circumstances should you have media with an audio component play automatically when the site is loaded. A lot of it sounds good in theory but in these situations it is always best to harken back to that first law of web design: First, Do NOT Annoy!. Keep your site focused and that will help your visitors focus on why they are there. Stay away from things that could be at very least a distraction or at most a full on deterrent to nestling in and basking in the Cool that is your site.
- Content & Navigation
The next places to look are your content and navigation. It should not require and advanced degree for people to find what they need. The ability for users to find their way around quickly and easily is one of the most important elements of any website. If a user cannot find what they are looking for, they leave. It is as simple as that. The easier you make it for people to find what they want, the more useful your site will become. But finding it is not enough. If you want to reduce those bounce rates you also need to make it easier to comprehend as well. The content itself needs to be clear, concise and valuable. Marketing speak for the sake of hearing your self talk or technical jargon that does not mean anything to anyone outside your industry does not do anything for anyone. And forcing someone to read a hundred paragraphs on the technical specifications for flushing a toilet when the words “press lever” will do, will likely lead to that unwanted rubbery response you are trying to avoid. The easier you make it to read and understand, the faster they will get the point and the more likely that they will slip unknowingly into the comfy chair of your brilliant content without need of the Spanish Inquisition (whether or not they expect it).
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Probably the biggest contributors to a sites bounce rate are irrelevant search engine rankings. I know what you are thinking, “There is no such thing as a BAD search engine ranking!”, but that is not necessarily true. As you may have remembered while putting on your deodorant this morning, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It does you absolutely no good to rank for keywords that are not relevant to the content on your site. Sure you might grab a good spot in some searches but by trying to rank for unrelated keywords you could be hurting yourself in more ways than one. Not only are you getting a bounce because as soon as someone realizes that your site does not have the content they are looking for they leave but you are also creating a negative first impression with a potential customer. So when you pop-up later in a search that actually does makes sense, you might get skipped because all they remember that your site was not relevant. So the best way to avoid this is to make sure your site is optimized for the most relevant keywords possible.
No matter what you do, some bounces will always occur whether it is a mis-clicked link, an erroneous URL or just someone playing around in their browser. All you can do is optimize your site to mitigate any real and consistent bounces. Using a professional designer from the start can help avoid common pitfalls but even if your site is already up and running and is guilty of some of the outlined offenses, you can always go back and take a lesson from the Beatles and take that sad song and make it better…