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How To Improve Your Bounce Rate

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Imagine being the singer in a hotly tipped new band, playing your first big venue and selling every ticket, only to watch in despair as 9 out of 10 people leave before you’ve even finished your first song. You wouldn’t call that a success, would you? Yet that’s exactly what some marketers do when they celebrate the huge traffic their website is getting thanks to smart SEO or advertising, but overlook the fact that their 90% bounce rate means that almost nobody is sticking around long enough to interact, let alone buy.

Of all the numbers found on the overview page of Google Analytics, bounce rate is the one which a lot of the sharpest digital marketers look to first, once they’ve learnt to skip the vanity metrics. Top Shelf Media placed it second on their list of the most important of all Analytics metrics, as it can “tell you if your site is providing visitors with what they are looking for or not”. A low bounce rate is often the crucial proof that not only have you managed to lure potential customers to your website, but you’ve managed to honey your trap enough to keep them there.

What exactly counts as a low bounce rate? Well, that depends very much on what the purpose of your marketing is and the sector you work in. In fact, if your main goal is to provide information, perhaps by raising awareness of an issue through an informative blog or simply to provide your address and telephone if you are a restaurant, a high bounce rate may be a good thing because you have given the user exactly what they want and they are leaving satisfied. If that’s always the case for you, you might not need to read this article any further.

If, however, you are like the majority of marketers and you are trying to drive potential customers down the marketing funnel towards a purchase which is not on your landing page, a high bounce rate is a sign of failure. How to measure whether its high depends on your sector: while you might reasonably be happy with a bounce rate of 60% if you are in the food and drink industry, given that the average bounce rate there is almost 66%, you would be seriously underperforming if you were selling real estate, since the average bounce rate for that industry is less than 45%. It’s important to set yourself a clear bounce rate target, based on your industry and your objectives, and then work to improve it. That’s where the following three principles will help you.

1. Feed the need for speed

The simplest and most effective way to cut down on your bounce rate is to cut down on the loading speed throughout your website but especially on landing pages. We are an impatient species and as mobile network speeds improve we are only getting more impatient, so if a potential customer finds themselves waiting for much longer than three seconds for your page to load, Google has found that more than half will simply abandon the effort without going any further. If you can imagine a supermarket which turned away half its customers at its doors, you might get an idea of the potential impact of this on your bottom line.

Speed should be at the forefront of your mind when designing your website and landing pages: as Hakan Nizam of L’Oreal observes, “It is much more efficient to deliver something fast if it is part of the design criteria”. That means keeping images to a minimum in both quantity and size, avoiding Java script and reducing the number of features cluttering a page. Tools like Pingdom and Google Page Speed may be your new best friends here.

2. Make it easy

After speed, user-friendliness is the most important way to keep a potential customer on your website long enough to have an impact. User-friendliness involves many factors but the most important upon arrival are readability and easy navigation. A good user experience begins when a new user immediately sees content that is readable (in all senses of the word, including the quality of the writing, the formatting and the right choice of text colour for the background) and legible. Large chunks of text in small fonts will send your bounce rate soaring.

Just as important is navigation which, especially on a landing page directly linked to through an advertisement, is usually a case of less means more. When a user comes to a site they have never visited before, they need to quickly understand where to go for the information they are looking for. Returning to the supermarket analogy above, failing to provide clear navigation is a bit like scattering all your products throughout the store randomly and hoping customers find them eventually, rather than organizing them into groups and adding signs. As Brian Dean of Backlinko says, it is as simple as this: “the easier it is for people to read and navigate around your website, the lower your Bounce Rate will generally be.”

3. Content conquers

Reducing bounce rates might sound like a chiefly technical matter, but they are just one more part of the marketing mix where good content can make the difference between mediocrity and magic. Good content will ideally include beautiful visuals and snappy writing, but these should always be in the service of your business objectives. Your CFO is unlikely to be impressed by shimmering prose if it doesn’t help the bottom line.

As already mentioned, there may be times when all you want of your user is to read your blog and move on, in which case please do focus all your energies on making it as beautifully written as possible. If you want the user to actually do something, however (and if not, perhaps you should ask yourself why) then you need to create a call to action that propels them to a new page and slashes your bounce rate. As blogger Neil Patel observes, “the right content will wow them, but it’ll also give them actionable tips to implement.”

Follow these three principles assiduously and you will see your bounce rate improve. You shouldn’t expect instantaneous or dramatic changes, as all websites will attract some users that bounce onwards no matter how well you have prepared for them. But the most rewarding thing is that the changes don’t need to be dramatic to have a big impact on your bottom line. As Tanner Larsson, CEO of Build Grow Scale, explained to Forbes magazine last year, “just a 10% improvement of the right metric can radically change how many sales you make every month.”

Larsson also goes on to explain that you shouldn’t be too disheartened if you think your bounce rate is currently too high – the same is true of many of the biggest companies in the world. He says, “A lot of big-name brands just depend on massive ad spend to drive revenue. Their websites aren’t all that optimized, they have high bounce rates, high abandonment rates, and below-average conversion rates.” This means there is a real opportunity for smart marketers to outwit larger competitors and achieve a much better return on investment, the kind of results that can leave you feeling bouncy in the right way.

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