One of the more popular metrics tracked with most any analytics program is a site’s bounce rate. “The lower, the better” is the general mantra you hear, though what’s “good” for your website has more to do with the nature of your content and your visitor type.

What is Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is typically defined as the percentage of visitors who leave your site without visiting more than 1 page or those who exit from the same page they entered.

To use a real life business example, a site like Gap.com or ToysRUs.com should have a very low bounce rate. Commerce sites are often set up with a landing page, and for a visitor to qualify as a “bounce“, it means they have not clicked beyond that landing page to view any of the products. Gap isn’t selling any jeans and Toys R Us isn’t selling any toys if a customer doesn’t click beyond those respective home pages to view the available selection.

With blogging, a “higher than average” bounce rate is to be expected. The goal of many in the blogging community is to build a strong readership, with visitors who return time and time again. Chances are that those dedicated readers who do continue to return, stop by to read only your most recent post. Since anyone who stops by your site and only visits one page qualifies as a “bounce”, it is very possible that many of your dedicated readers are actually “bounces” in your stats.

If you are a blogger reading this, think about how often you click beyond the most recent blog post on someone else’s site. Chances are, it’s not very often.

How to Improve Your Bounce Rate

Regardless of the nature of your site, it is still beneficial to get as many on-page clicks as possible. The more clicks to various parts of your site means more potential sales if you are a business and more pageviews if you are a blog. Plus, it means higher Time on Site and Pages per Visit numbers. Below is a list of some possible ways to improve (i.e. lower) your bounce rate.

  1. Be Sure your Message is Clear – First impressions are very powerful. Having strong imagery and a clean layout are key, as is clearly defining what your site is all about. Visitors arriving to a sloppy site or having an expectation for your content that is very different from reality, will quickly click away.
  2. Be Sure your SEO Tagging is Spot On – Visitors coming to your site organically (i.e. through search engine searches) have chosen to click on your link because the title tag and meta description of your page seems to match their query. Incorrect or misleading tags means more bounces.
  3. Add “Related Content” Functionality – Installing features like LinkWithin (for blogs) or a “You Might Also Like” (if a business) at the bottom of your posts and pages encourages visitors to click through more of your site.
  4. Interlink your Posts & Product Pages – Be sure to add relevant links to older posts or product/service pages, to new content you are adding. This encourages visitors to navigate to other pages of your site. Interlinking is also great for SEO reasons.
  5. Provide Additional Information about You – Static pages like an About, Best Of, Our Services and Contact provide additional information about you and your offerings, and are website elements many visitors look for.
  6. Encourage Commenting – Ending a blog post with a question is a great way to encourage comments. Most blogs are set up in a way that your site reloads to a second “page” when the comment link is clicked.
  7. Speaking of Additional Information, Utilize your Sidebars – Prominently displaying features in your sidebar like Popular Posts, a tag cloud or category list, if you are a blogger, or sale and promotion, new product announcements and other events, if you are a business, increase the chance of a visitor sticking around to read more.

Why a High Bounce Rate can be a Good Thing

Before you stress over a bounce rate that may be seen as “too high”, consider these few questions. They may help put your bounce rate into perspective.

  1. Are you active on social bookmarking sites like Stumble Upon and Pinterest?
  2. Have you been making an effort to gain greater exposure to your site through commenting, guest posting and social media sharing?
  3. Do you often utilize SEO tagging?
  4. Is the nature of your website one that you have a very dedicated following who come back repeatedly to read your most recent post?

Quite often you’ll see your “New Visitors” statistic increase as your “Bounce Rate” increases. Why? Because working to grow your visitor base means exposing it to more people, with only some of those finding value in what you offer and deciding to hang around and explore your site further.

Bloggers who write about a wide variety of topics and who consistently optimize their posts for search engines also increase their likelihood of a higher bounce rate. To use an example from my personal blog: the query that brings the most people to my blog, which is a parenting and lifestyle site, is “unethical business practices”. I wrote a post about a deceptive piece of mail I received from a local mortgage broker. Clearly, visitors who are searching for a topic like unethical business practices are not going to find much value in my parenting posts.

As with any individual statistic, it’s important to view it as part of the overall picture and keep in mind what other factors may be in play. Consider what type of site you manage and your particular visitor type when analyzing how “good” or “bad” your bounce rate is.

Do you keep a close eye on your bounce rate?

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