Of course, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is what constitutes a “good” bounce rate. Some sites might view a bounce rate of 80% as awesome, whereas other sites might see this as nothing short of catastrophic. It really depends on your site and business goals.
Regardless, many site managers and webmasters pay close attention to bounce rate as an overall indication of a site’s “stickiness” or appeal, and would like to reduce this troublesome number as much as they can. Some people even think that bounce rate can influence your search rankings, via Google’s new machine-learning algorithm RankBrain. So it’s obviously in your interest to optimize this metric.
Alongside Bounce Rate, you’ve probably noticed the Time on Page metric in Google Analytics. This, as its name implies, is an estimate of how long on average users spend on a given page. The reason Time on Page is an approximated metric, rather than a clearly defined measurement, is because Google Analytics (and other analytics platforms) require two clicks to accurately calculate Time on Page; an “entrance” click – typically the link click that brings a user to a page in the first place – and an “exit” click, usually a click on a navigational element that takes them away from a page.
Unfortunately, this crucial exit click is often missing from the equation. Ever spent a few minutes reading a page before closing the tab (or the browser)? If so, Google Analytics couldn’t accurately measure the Time on Page because it missed that vital exit click during that particular session. In this example, it doesn’t matter if a user clicked onto a page, read every single last word of an 8,000-word blog post, and left entirely satisfied – if they closed the tab without exit clicking, that session is logged as a bounce. The same goes for sessions in which a user opens a link in another tab and leaves the original tab open before eventually closing their browser.
As a result of this inherent flaw, many marketers are moving away from their reliance on bounce rate as a metric and are instead focusing on so-called “attention metrics” such as dwell time and scroll depth. It’s simply too difficult to accurately measure bounce rate (and Time on Page), but it’s still worth trying to keep your bounce rates low.
Many marketers assume that if their bounce rate is high, the issue must lie with a page’s content – when, in fact, serious problems can arise before a user even has the chance to read a page at all.
Of all the problems a web page can have, taking forever to load is arguably the worst. After all, it doesn’t matter how good or bad a page’s content is if a user can’t read it (or even see it), and 47% of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, making on-page optimization crucial to reducing your bounce rate.
This is especially true for mobile sites. According to data from Radware, a connection speed delay of just 500 milliseconds can result in an increase in “peak frustration” of more than 26% and a decrease in engagement of 8%.
Further, slow-loading pages are among the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment for ecommerce retailers. Amazingly, only 2% of the world’s leading 100 ecommerce websites have mobile sites that load fully in less than five seconds on mobile devices – and one-fifth take almost eight seconds to load completely, an almost criminally long time for sites that live and die by conversion rate optimization.
Ever clicked through to a blog post or webpage, only to discover an immense, intimidating wall of text? If so, you already know how discouraging this can be to readers. Even if your content is incredibly valuable and completely unique, it won’t matter if your readers are scared off by the prospect of wading into a blog post of equal density as War and Peace or Les Misérables.
Formatting your pages to be as welcoming and accessible as possible is one of the best ways to reduce your bounce rate. The less “work” a visitor has to do to get what they want, the more likely they are to stick around. Don’t overwhelm your visitors with weighty paragraphs that span entire pages, and make use of white space to make your content more approachable.
Use of these formatting options makes your content more accessible and allows the reader to scan or skim your content quickly to identify points that are most relevant to their needs.
That said, don’t insult your readers’ intelligence, either. Trust your audience to know what they need, then give it to them. I’ve seen blogs that, while offering useful information, insist on using a line break or including an image between every single sentence, which can be just as annoying as huge walls of text.
Some web pages are an ideal vehicle for offering relevant content, offers, and other material to your audience. Blog pages are a prime example, and you’d probably struggle to find a decent blog without something in the sidebar. However, cramming the digital margins of your content with ads, offers, award emblems, and other crap is a surefire way to overwhelm your visitor and tempt them to bounce.
Accepting that your site has a high bounce rate is a little like accepting that maybe, just maybe, your child isn’t the best-looking kid in the schoolyard. Sure, you think your precious little angel is just adorable (and just so we’re clear, we’re talking about your website now), yet when you head into Google Analytics to check the numbers, your bounce rate tells a different story.
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