21 Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate on Your Website
When it comes to running a successful website you should always be looking at all the data. A very important factor that a lot of website owners, developers, and marketers overlook is their bounce rate. If you have a high bounce rate than most likely there is a cause for that such as your website is slow, it has bad navigation, HTTPS mixed-content warnings, unusable on mobile, etc. which are causing visitors to leave your website. By lowering this number it generally means that your website is better optimized for quality traffic and conversions. Check out these 21 ways to reduce bounce rate on your website.
What is bounce rate?
Google defines bounce rate as the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page). The bounce rate is important because this is a gauge of how people interact with your site, if they are interested in your content, and if your website is properly optimized. It is important to note that bounce rate is not the same as time on site as we discussed in our previous post on 5 ways to improve Google ranking in SERPs. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your site after only viewing one page. The easiest way to monitor your bounce rate is to setup Google Analytics on your website. You can see below in this example the bounce rate is 54.44%.
Let’s say you had 1,000 visitors, and 540 of them bounced. A bounce could be that they left to go to another site, closed the tab in their browser, or they got everything they needed from that single page and didn’t go anywhere else. This is the formula for how the bounce rate is calculated:
Bounce rate = bounces/total visitors (540/1000 = 0.54 x 100 = 54%)
A bounce is not always a bad thing, as we said above it could be that they got everything they wanted from that one page. Depending upon how your conversion funnel is setup, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. And remember that bounce rate can vary per industry. Content sites might have a bounce rate of between 40-60% while retail sites might have a 20-40% bounce rate. Also if your site happens to go viral this can instantly increase your bounce rate, but it is not necessarily a bad thing because from a branding perspective you got a ton of eyeballs on your content or product.
How and why to reduce bounce rate
Below we will discuss different ways you can reduce bounce rate on your website. Any of these optimizations below should help not only decrease your bounce rate but also improve your conversions, CTR, and overall user experience on your website. Another reason to reduce your bounce rate is because it has been shown that there is a direct correlation between bounce rate and rankings in SERPs. It is impossible to confirm this 100% but many SEOs have assumed this has been a ranking factor for years. So you can be sure that websites that have high rankings in SERPs are watching their bounce rate and then optimizing to lower it.
1. Speed up your website
Obviously we will start with the speed of your website first! This is so important when factoring into your bounce rate. If your site is slow a user might start loading a page on your site, and if they get tired of waiting, they hit back and try the next one. Most likely Google Analytics will have registered a visit as well as a bounce since their
analytics.js script fired.
47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. - Kissmetrics
One of the easiest ways to speed up your website is to implement a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN will cache copies of your assets on edge servers around the globe and deliver them at lightning fast speeds to your users. It doesn’t matter how fast your web host is, they will never be able to get past the latency issue when it comes to physical distance. After deploying a CDN, KeyCDN saw latency drop by over 73% around the globe. KeyCDN has a free trial.
Besides implementing a CDN, we also recommend going through your website and optimizing it for the best performance. We have written a lot of in-depth guides on this that should help point you in the right direction:
- 18 Tips for Website Performance Optimization
- 18 Tips to Speed up WordPress Performance
- 11 Tips to Speed up Drupal Performance
- 10 Tips to Speed up Joomla Performance
- 13 Tips to Speed up Magento Performance
- 10 Tips to Speed up XenForo Performance
2. Fix HTTPS mixed-content warnings
Mixed-content warnings appear when you have a site that is supposed to be running over HTTPS that is also serving assets over HTTP. This is a big problem we see happening all the time across the web, especially now that people are migrating to HTTPS to take advantage of SEO ranking factor and HTTP/2 benefits. We reported this happening to a large site, Search Engine Roundtable, a couple months ago. It turns out it was ads that were still serving over HTTP from the WordPress Disqus plugin.
Website owners should always be testing their sites in all browsers and ensure they aren’t receiving HTTPS mixed-content warnings. Chrome finally killed off their mixed-content warning and simply shows a gray padlock instead of green. While this is great, it can also give you a false sense of security if you don’t use other browsers. The new security panel in Google chrome devtools is awesome for quickly diagnosing non-secure origin scripts.
In Mozilla Firefox it shows a little gray warning triangle and if clicked on lets you see that it has blocked certain parts of the page from loading. This can actually break your page from loading altogether.
And Internet Explorer is the worse because you actually get a popup warning you and it also breaks the page. So you can assume if you have mixed-content warnings you are probably losing a lot of those IE people. And yes, that will count as a bounce!
3. Stop using popups
The good old controversy of whether you should use popups or not on your website. In 2013, 70% of people thought irrelevant popups were annoying. But popups have also been proven on some sites to drastically increase conversions and signups to your lists. Neil Patel saw an 46% increase in signups by using a popup on his site. So what should you do? Well keep in mind that if it does annoy people the popups could increase your bounce rate. So use them cautiously.
If you are going to use popups we recommend setting a timer on it so that it doesn’t hit the person immediately after they land on your website, and perhaps disable it from your homepage altogether. Or you can do an exit-intent popup which will only show up if someone hovers over the close tab button. These are both ways that are less obtrusive and hopefully should keep your bounce rate down and still be able to grab some of those extra signups.
4. Improve navigation
If you don’t have good navigation on your website the visitor has no reason to stay after visiting that first page and it will most likely result in a bounce. You need to make sure that a person can easily navigate your site to find what they are looking for. Heatmap tools can be a great way to test how your navigation is working and also figure out ways to improve on your CTR. A lot of people don’t realize that Google Analytics actually provides decent CTR data and heatmap color data. Simply click into “Behavior” and then “In-Page Analytics.” They also make a great free Google chrome extension, Page Analytics, which is what you see running below.
If you are looking for something with a little more data, then Crazyegg and SumoMe are also good options. Based on CTR and heatmap data this can help you clean up your site to reduce the number of distractions which could in turn decrease your bounce rate. Also it is good to know what is popular and has the highest CTR as perhaps that deserves a link in the footer as well. Take what works, build upon that, and make sure people can find it in a clean manner.
5. Mobile site (responsive)
Make sure your website works flawlessly on mobile devices! Even we make mistakes sometimes as you can see from this example a user recently tweeted us to report a problem on his mobile device. Our social sharing plugin was overflowing the content on our blog which was not an ideal reading situation. We immediately fixed this by tweaking our media query so that it would break at slightly different resolution. Obviously a small mistake like that one below makes it almost impossible to read the content. Don’t ignore things like this as they can contribute strongly to your bounce rate.
For most niches mobile is surpassing the traffic of desktops! Look in Google Analytics to see where traffic and conversions are coming from and then prioritize where you should spend your time optimizing. Test your website in a free tool like Screenfly and preview it in different resolutions to mimic different displays. This isn’t as accurate as testing on the device itself, but for display issues it can be a quick and easy way to fix issues. A responsive design provides an optimal viewing experience across different devices and browsers.
You can also run your site through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure SEO wise that Google knows you have optimized for mobile.
6. Improve your website’s design
The design of your website does matter. Your content and design needs to be attractive to hopefully target better the audience you’re aiming for. People don’t spend time on sites that look horrible or are not easy to navigate. If you are running your website on a popular CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla that are thousands of premium themes you can invest in to get you up and going for under $100. Not every business needs a totally custom design to be successful.
Perhaps no study is more valuable to this discussion than the one Google conducted in 2012. Their research found that internet users judge website aesthetics within 1/50th to 1/20th of a second. The study also concluded that visually complex websites are not nearly as appealing as simple ones.
Here is a good example. SkinnyTies.com launched a brand new website with a strong focus on utilizing “white space” and within three months was able to increase revenue by 42.4 percent and lower their bounce rate by a whopping 23.2 percent. So sometimes simple is better.
7. Copy readability
In order to reduce the bounce rate on your website you need to make sure you have good copy readability. There are tests, such as the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, that determines how understandable your writing is for different comprehension levels. There are free online tools like readability-score.com in which you can test out your copy’s readability. Scores can be interpreted as shown in the table below.
If you are using a CMS like WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin, you have probably seen this tested integrated into the check of your on-page SEO. The more readable your content, the better the user experience and the lower your bounce rate will be.
And of course the blind five year old has some great insights on readability and SEO.
8. Up to date content - Keep it fresh
Keeping up to date content can be crucial when it comes to reducing your bounce rate as nobody wants to read an article that is 5 years old. We live in a modern age and people want to see up to date information, so keep it fresh! Also don’t forget about SEO as Google counts content freshness as a ranking factor. Here is an example of your “fresh score” and how it degrades over time. The inception date is often when Google first becomes aware of the document, such as when Googlebot first indexes a document or discovers a link to it.
And if you take the time to update the content with useful and relevant information add your “updated on” date so that people know that you have spent time improving it. You can see that on our blog we have chosen to simply display the “updated” date. We spend a lot of time improving our content and blog posts and so this helps reduce our bounce rate by letting people know when they first hit the page that it was recently updated and is fresh content. Content like this is sometimes referred to as “evergreen content.”
9. Internal linking
Internal linking is a plain and simple good SEO practice to increase your rankings, but it can also help decrease your bounce rate as this can create interest by the user and make them click through to another page on your site. Plain and simple, it keeps visitors on your site. If you are on a WordPress site you can easily do this by clicking on the “insert/edit” link option. There is an option then to link to existing content.
10. Fix broken links
Fixing broken links is very important for as it pertains to both web performance and reducing your bounce rate. Drupal for example has expensive 404 errors. On an average site with an average module load, you can be looking at 60-100MB of memory being consumed on your server to deliver a 404. The Drupal Fast 404 module fixes this and usually can deliver 404 errors using less than 1MB of memory. As it pertains to bounce rate, broken links can increase the rate at which visitors leave your website. A great free tool to analyze broken links is Google Search Console. As you can see, this website below has some work to do.
Or you can scan your site through an external service such as the “Online Broken Link Checker” or a tool like Screaming Frog. Spend time fixing your broken links so that when a visitor hits your site they can find what they are looking for.
11. Create an awesome 404 page
This directly relates to broken links as we discussed above. There will always be times where there might be broken links you haven’t had time to fix yet, and that is where a 404 page comes in. Think of a 404 page as a way to save that person from immediately bouncing from your site. Google has some documentation on how to create useful 404 pages. It can also be beneficial to add a bit of humor to your 404 page. Here is a great example of GitHub's 404 page. Also, like they did, it is recommended you add a search box on your 404 page so that someone can immediately search for what they were trying to originally find.
12. Open external links in new window (sometimes)
So this can be quite a controversial topic, whether or not to mark your links to open in an external window or tab. Smashing Magazine has in in-depth post on why you shouldn't open your links in new windows. However we recommend thinking about your audience as well. The Smashing Magazine audience is very developer friendly and tech savvy. You will notice that we also don’t ever mark our links to open in new windows either. But that is because the audience we cater to usually doesn’t like it and prefers to open it in a new tab themselves or the ever so popular middle-click. Even it it does create a bounce they know how to find their way back.
If you are catering to a less tech savvy audience it might make sense to open links in new tabs to help reduce bounce rate as some people might not as easily find their way back to your site. To enforce opening a link in a new window/tab in HTML simply add
target="blank" to your links.
<a href="http://domain.com" target="_blank">text</a>
Or if you are in WordPress you can select the box “Open link in a new tab” when you are creating your link.
13. Be careful with ad placements
Some people and sites rely on ads to make a living but be careful that you don’t overdue it or it could drastically increase your bounce rates. Try to avoid popup ads at all cost and make sure to clearly separate your content from your ads. People have developed what is called banner blindness, a phenomenon in web usability where visitors to a website consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information, which can also be called ad blindness or banner noise. So then it means the ads are simply creating clutter on your site. Google has also said that it penalizes sites for having too many ads above the fold. Don’t place ads in places where visitors are looking up information, such as the menu bar or search box, as this can frustrate people.
In this example below Blue Nile had a small dialog that would appear on the left-hand side of the page. Despite the relatively unobtrusive but odd placement, this dialog caused great dismay to the test subjects, who all closed the dialog immediately. Read more about badly placed advertisements.
14. Create useful content (content is king)
As they saying goes, “Content is King.” Even though some might argue that, if you don’t have useful content there is no reason for a person to stay on your website and that will end up in a bounce. We hope that you have enjoyed the content we are writing here at KeyCDN as we try to craft content that is highly applicable and current with things happening on the web today. If you like our content, please let us know below in the comments!
And of course with any content you need to make sure it is organized in a readable fashion. Separate headers with appropriate H2 and H3 headers and split up longer posts. You can see on this post we even added an index towards the top so that people can jump to a certain area in the post since it is very long.
15. Target quality traffic + intent
Another easy way to reduce bounce rate on your website is to stop targeting keywords and or marketing channels that are sending you low value traffic. For example, if you are selling lawn mowers on your website, and you write a blog post about Christmas ornaments, the visitors are most likely going to bounce the instant they see your branding across the top of your site. People are searching for relevant information so make sure to target your content appropriately for higher quality traffic. Also, keep the intent of the user in mind as well. An easy way to do this is to create landing pages which satisfy the visitor’s query or intent. This will help boost your conversion rate, sales, and reduce your bounce rate.
Some companies who have increased their number of landing pages from 10 to 15 have seen a 55% increase in leads. And this is because landing pages are specifically designed with user intent in mind.
Another little piece of advice. Perhaps you have some awesome blog posts that are ranking for high-volume keywords but aren’t converting or have a bad CTR. Try creating a landing page for that keyword and 301 the post to your new landing page. This should retain your traffic and link juice and hopefully you will instantly see a better CTR, conversion rate, and lower bounce rate. Then take that blog post content and create it on a new slug/post and possibly reword to try and rank for long-tail variation of that original keyword.
16. Color contrast + distractions
Color contrast comes back to the design aspect we mentioned earlier. You want to use a good ratio of color contrast to help draw your visitor’s attention to important parts of your page. It could be a CTA, announcement, or even your signup list. Come up with color combinations and don’t be afraid to A/B test them.
Also make sure to cut out distractions. And this could be color contrast as well as ads or bombarding people with too much information on your homepage. Remember, as we showed you earlier sometimes simple is better. So try and reduce the distractions. VWO did a case study with one of their customers and used A/B testing to create a homepage with reduced and more simplified options. The simplified version increased site engagement by 17.8%.
17. Internal search
A lot of times a homepage of a website can account for 15% or more of the traffic coming to your site. Most SEOs would probably agree your homepage is one of the most important pages on your site. What that means is that is that it is more important than ever that someone can find exactly what they are looking for. Adding internal search can help users quickly find the relevant information. As you can see on the homepage of the KeyCDN blog we have added a search box at the top so someone can quickly search our archive of blog posts.
Also, if you are running WordPress you can run a search under “All Pages” for
/?s= and it should return the searches performed on your site. People might just be using it more than you think. A heatmap tool can also be useful to see how many people are actually clicking into the search box.
18. Browser cross compatibility
Make sure to always test your website in all browsers. As shown in this example below, the bounce rate in Internet Explorer is almost 20% higher than that of Google Chrome. So there is most likely an underlying issue going on here causing this. It could be a broken script, or perhaps a mixed-content warning issue like we mentioned earlier which is more obtrusive in IE. Test, test, and test again to ensure you’re reducing your bounce rate in all browsers.
19. Related posts
Showing related posts at the bottom of your blog posts can be a great way to reduce bounce rate on your website’s blog. A visitor might have found your blog post useful but if they leave after they are finished on that first post it is still considered a bounce. By adding related posts you can help engage the user further and hopefully keep them on your site longer. You have probably noticed us doing this on our blog. We add a related articles section to the bottom of each blog post.
If you are running on WordPress there are also some good free plugins you can utilize. We use the WordPress Popular Posts plugin on this blog to display the popular posts widget you see in our sidebar. Yuzo - Related Posts is also another popular plugin to show related posts at the bottom of your blog post. Be careful with some of the related post plugins out there though as some are known to cause performance issues because of how their queries are performed.
20. Credibility and trust
And last but not least is building credibility and trust on your website. One way to do this is to establish SSL/TLS trust as we wrote about in a previous post. According to a GlobalSign survey, 84% of shoppers abandon a purchase if data was sent over an unsecured connection. By knowing they are safe you can ensure a visitor won’t bounce from your website.
Another aspect comes back to design. If you have a good website design you should be taken more seriously while a bad design might lead to distrust. ConversionXL also put together an amazing 39 factor checklist of for website credibility, some of which include:
- Web design matters
- Make your address and phone number visible at all times
- Make it very easy to contact you
- Message relevance and tailoring
- Simple language
- Provide staff bios and photos
- Show prices
- Maintain a blog
- Website speed
- Signs of community
21. Using adjusted bounce rate
Another interesting option that some people use is what they call an adjusted bounce rate. Google actually came up with this where the normal bounce rate metric is not enough. You implement a small tweak to your Google Analytics code, which executes an event when a user has spent over a certain amount of time on the web page. Depending on the website, the time can range from 10 seconds to few minutes - you should decide for yourself the amount of time you consider the user to be sufficiently engaged with your website or product.
Add the following code to your Analytic’s code (this example uses 30 seconds).
setTimeout("_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '30_seconds', 'read'])",30000); // --additional line
Here is a full example:
Another alternative would be to fire events on page scrolling. Scroll depth is a cool little solution for this.
As you can there are a lot of ways you can work on to reduce bounce rate to your website and hopefully that will also result in higher quality traffic and more conversions, as they both go hand in hand. From speeding up your website with a CDN, to ensuring everything works on mobile, crafting useful relevant content, design, and being easily navigable are all things you should be focusing on. Do you have any other good ways to reduce bounce rate that we might have missed? If so we would love to hear about them below.