In Web analytics, the term “bounce rate” refers to visitors who arrived at a particular Web page and then left without visiting other pages on the site. In some cases, this can be because the visitor found what they were looking for on the first page they landed on and had no reason to look further. In other cases, it means that the page the visitor landed on was so irrelevant to what they were looking for that they saw no reason to stay.
Search engines typically regard high bounce rates as a negative. Unfortunately for many business owners, tweaking the design, copy and navigation seldom has a positive result on pages with high bounce rates. The reason? All too often, the reason for high bounce rates has nothing to do with the design or content of a particular page, but the fact that the page doesn’t match visitors’ intent: the reason they visited the page in the first place.
Before launching into a complete redesign or rewrite, try to identify the motive that is driving visitors to come to the page.
Identify Visitors’ Intent
You should start by looking at the source of visitor traffic. What keywords are visitors using in their search queries? What referring sites are sending traffic to the page? What anchor text is being used in collateral marketing materials? High bounce rates typically indicate a disconnect between visitors’ expectations and the actual purpose of the page.
While re-optimizing your pages for new keywords may result in fewer visitors, those visitors will likely spend more time and visit other pages on your Web site. They will also be more likely to convert from site visitors to actual customers.
Narrow Your Focus
Another reason for high bounce rates can be that your pages are too broad in scope, or sends mixed messages to visitors which can lead to confusion. Limiting the focus of your Web pages to only a couple of closely related keywords will reduce confusion and lead to lower bounce rates.
You should also tell visitors precisely what the purpose of the page is. Many site owners mistakenly assume that providing visitors with lots of options makes a Web page more effective. In reality, this approach can be overwhelming. Remember that visitors to your site want to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. The average amount of time people spend on a given Web page is measured in seconds, not minutes.
Consider Other Metrics
Finally, look at the whole picture and keep in mind that high bounce rates are not always a bad thing. Be sure to look at a variety of other metrics to help you decide whether the bounce rate for any given page is too high.
If a page has a high bounce rate and a high conversion rate, it’s probably an indication that you’ve done a good job of providing visitors with the information they’re looking for, and persuading them to take the desired action.