What You Really Need to Know About Reducing Your Bounce Rate

What You Really Need to Know About Reducing Your Bounce Rate

Last updated on by Ted Vrountas in Conversion Optimization


Pageviews, unique visitors, click-throughs — many digital marketing metrics can be understood with relative ease. Bounce rate, on the other hand, is a little more mysterious.

While its definition is straightforward, the real reason for a bounce often isn’t. In some cases, a high bounce rate can be a sign of poor user experience. In other cases, it can be a sign of great user experience.

In all cases, though, understanding it requires a close look at your web pages and their purpose.

What is bounce rate?

Google defines a “bounce” as a “single-page session on your site.” Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions compared to all sessions on your website.

For example, if a user clicks through to read a blog post but doesn’t visit any other page on your website before leaving, that’s a bounce. If nine out of ten people who visit your website do the same thing, your bounce rate is 90%.

Keep in mind, if you’re using Google Analytics to determine your bounce rate, the definition of a bounce is expanded:

“In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”

If you have event tracking set up, a triggering of any event will prevent a one-page session from being counted as a bounce. Either way, should you care?

Dan Shewan at WordStream says “bounce rate, as a metric, kind of sucks.” So why?

What does bounce rate really measure?

The answer’s a little tricky. Graham Charlton of Search Engine Watch calls bounce rate a measure of a site’s “stickiness.”

“On SEW, I’d like people to click on a link from search, Twitter or some other referral source, find a useful article, then decide to browse further and view all of our other lovely content.

For example, this Google Analytics custom segment looking at the percentage of visitors viewing multiple pages provides a measure of a site’s ability to retain users’ interest beyond the page they land on.”

bounce rate pageview measurements

Along the same lines, this HubSpot infographic claims that if you have a high bounce rate, it’s a sign that the user doesn’t want to stick around:

bounce rate importance

But that’s not necessarily true.

For example, let’s imagine we’re searching for instructions on how to tie a tie. We punch the query “how to tie a tie” into Google, and we click on the first organic result. It takes us to this page on Ties.com:

bounce rate good user experience

We watch the video, maybe scroll down to check it against the diagrams below the fold, and we learn how to tie our tie. Then, we leave the page.

Now, that’s technically a bounce, but is it a sign of a poor user experience?

No. It’s the opposite actually. We visited, we learned quickly, and we tied our tie. The user experience was great in this case.

But bounce rate doesn’t take into account successful visits like these. So, how do you know when bounce rate is good and when it’s bad?

What is a good bounce rate?

That depends. Because visitors’ reason for leaving a web page after a single session varies, Aurora Haley from the Nielsen Norman Group says “site-wide bounce rate is a vanity metric not worth tracking or reporting.”

If you’re going to track bounce rate, you should do it based on the content of your pages.

Blog posts, for example, usually generate a high number of bounces for the reason we covered above. We wanted to learn how to tie a tie, and a blog post on Ties.com taught us. Then, we bounced.

On the other hand, retail sites, on which visitors are more likely to browse multiple pages, generate far fewer.

According to HubSpot, the average bounce rate based on page type is as follows:

bounce rate benchmark averages

Famed usability researcher Jakob Nielsen takes the analysis a step further, emphasizing the importance of understanding how visitors arrive at these pages. Traffic sources contribute to a page’s bounce rate as much as page type does. He separates them into four categories:

If, based on traffic and page type, your website’s bounce rates are higher than you’d like them to be, there are several things you can do to reduce them.

How to reduce bounce rate

There’s a right way and a wrong way to reduce bounce rate. A focus on optimizing for the metric can lead to adjustments that actually worsen the user experience.

Think, for example, of listicles like “Animals science wants to bring back from extinction,” which use pagination to split one article into multiple pages.

bounce rate poor user experience

The technique will likely reduce bounce rate and boost pageviews, but it will almost certainly detract from user experience.

So your goal shouldn’t necessarily be to optimize for bounce rate, but to improve the user experience, which will lead to a lower bounce rate. Here’s how:

1. Speed up your page’s load time

Recent research from Google found that DOM ready time — a measure of how long it takes a web browser to receive and process a page’s HTML code — is a leading predictor of bounce rate. So is full-page load time.

Data shows that 53% of visitors will abandon a page if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds.

bounce rate page speed

After surveying 900,000 mobile ads’ landing pages, Google researchers found that 70% of them took 7 seconds or more to load content just above the fold. If your page is one of them, it’s likely more than half of your visitors are bouncing before they even see it. To speed it up:

Learn more about how speed affects bounce rate and conversions in this blog post.

2. Eliminate sources of spam

As Jakob Nielsen shared above, traffic source is a main contributor to bounce rate. When that traffic source is poor, the result can be a spike in bounces.

Take, for example, one advertiser who spent $25 on a PPC network to drive 539 visits to a landing page, but generated no conversions. Was his landing page that bad?

Nope, but the traffic source was. It drove clicks with spammy sites that looked like this:

bounce rate bad traffic sources

Make sure, like Nielsen recommends, that you fully understand your sources of traffic. Your page’s bounce rate might not have anything to do with your page, but instead, with the services you’ve put your trust in to drive traffic to it.

3. Optimize for the right keywords

When prospects enter a search query in Google, they’re presented with pages that are most likely to provide the answer. A preview of each is generated on a search engine results page, with the help of that page’s title tag and meta description.

bounce rate Google search result

Before you publish a page, make sure that its title tag and meta description accurately represent the content of the page. If visitors clicking through the above search engine result don’t ‘find landing page copywriting tips for every type of landing page, they’ll bounce.

4. Keep your web pages simple

Research shows that people form an opinion about a website even faster than they form one about a human being. One study from Google in particular identified the driving factor behind a good first impression: simplicity.

Take a look at the SimilarWeb homepage:

bounce rate simplicity

It’s sharp; it uses white space effectively; and it makes using the tool easy and explains what it does in just a few words. If you want to learn more about pricing, or visit the help center, or read the blog, you can do so with the help of an intuitive and straightforward menu. This is the type of simplicity you should try to emulate.

When visitors arrive on your page they should be able to:

5. Optimize for skimming

If you’re a regular reader of the Instapage blog, you’ll know we hammer this point home fairly regularly. Studies show that internet users don’t read. Instead, they skim in patterns that resemble an “F” on content heavy pages, and a “Z” on pages with images:

bounce rate F-Pattern layout

When internet users come across a page filled with blocks of unformatted text like this one, they bounce almost immediately:

bounce rate block text

The reason ties in with number 4 above: Visitors need to be able to find the information they’re searching for quickly. If you give them the option of leaving your website or drudging through unsightly blocks of text, they’ll do the former.

Make your page skimmable by:

Learn more about optimizing for readability, legibility, and comprehension here.

6. Offer users related content

Yes, blog posts usually have the highest bounce rates of all page types, but that doesn’t mean they have to. When trying to reduce the number of single-session blog post visits, Nielsen recommends offering information in “a linear path.”

Ask yourself, “What’s the next logical step for this visitor?” Then, guide them to it at the bottom of a blog post, like Content Marketing Institute does here:

bounce rate related content

You can also do this in the body of your content with internal linking. You’ll notice throughout the article you’re reading that there are various hyperlinked phrases that give you the option of navigating to more Instapage articles.

7. Drive paid search traffic to highly customized landing pages

This one again ties in with number 3: Visitors need to get what they want quickly or they won’t stick around.

When they’re looking for an answer with the help of a search engine, internet users have “high intent,” meaning they’re on the hunt for something very specific. So if I punch “lead generation software” into Google, and click on this result that says “Lead generation software,” I should land on a page that will offer me lead generation software.

bounce rate AdWords ad

Instead I’m directed to a marketing automation software page that doesn’t mention “lead generation” once. Not finding anything related to my keyword search, I bounce.

bounce rate landing page

If you’re going to bid on a keyword, make sure it’s relevant to the page that your ad will drive visitors to. If the message of the page doesn’t match the ad, your visitor will bounce without hesitation.

Don’t obsess over bounce rate

Your focus shouldn’t be on optimizing for bounce rate, but improving the user experience. Then, bounces will take care of themselves. The easier your content is to access and the more relevant it is to your visitor, the more pages they’re likely to check out.

Start providing a better user experience with, targeted, fully-customizable landing pages built from professional templates by Instapage.

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