bounce rate analysis

7 things to check when troubleshooting a high bounce rate

Bounce rates provide an indication of the number of website visitors that reach a page on your site, then leave your website. Having a high bounce rate is not helpful if you’re trying to capture visitors on your site in order to generate leads or sell products or services, and so keeping your bounce rate low can be important for most websites.

There’s a few very important things to keep in mind while analyzing your bounce rate which most website owners don’t realize, often because they’re shocked that their overall site’s bounce rate is so high. However, when you start to consider specifics like the goals and content of each page, that’s when you can really begin to understand the metrics and work to improve them.

You need sufficient traffic to be significant

Although bounce rates are an important metric and integral part of your online marketing mix, the numbers may not yet be relevant. You must have sufficient traffic to provide a large enough sample size for the bounce rate to be accurate. For example, if you’ve only got 100 visitors to your page in a month, and a 90% bounce rate, there’s absolutely no guarantee that by the time you reach 1000 visitors a month, that bounce rate will remain at 90%.

We recommend ensuring you have at least 1000 visitors per month before you begin to delve into bounce rate analysis. If you don’t yet have that level of traffic, then you should be focusing your time on inbound marketing efforts like SEO or PPC before looking into your bounce rate.

Focus on each page, ignore overall numbers

Many websites have their straight-up sales pages, and then blog posts with related information that drive visitors to the sales pages. Typically with this kind of configuration you want to set things up so that your blog posts rank well for ‘long-tail’ keywords like “How to set up a Plesk email account with Outlook” and at intervals throughout the blog post you provide call-to-actions and/or links to your sales pages, typically capturing a certain percentage of visitors at each ‘next’ page in the process: this is how sales funnels work.

But when you’re analyzing those blog posts, you’re going to find that some posts have content that is simply always going to be more likely to entice people to click through to a sales page than others. The ones that don’t likely provide all the info that the majority of visitors needed and so those types of pages are always going to have a higher bounce rate. This isn’t a problem, it’s just the way it works and so it’s imperative that you ensure that your bounce rate analysis is done on a per-page basis and not analyzing the numbers across your whole site at once.

Predict how your visitors use the page

Take a moment and think about how people use your website’s pages and posts to get a better understanding of why someone might visit any given page on your website, then put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would use the page.

Using the example above, if the majority of your traffic for the page is coming from Google organic searches and the page has information on setting up an email account with Outlook, once the visitor has set up their email account, they will likely leave the page, thus contributing to a high bounce rate. This is normal.

With articles like that, we’re only likely to get a small number of visitors clicking links within the article to check out our email hosting options. For example, I’d guess that only people that reached the page because they were frustrated with their existing hosting provider’s lack of support for Outlook would click through to check out our hosting options.

This is why you need to attempt to anticipate how your visitors use each page of your site.

Look for obvious broken elements

Once you’ve found which specific pages are the biggest problems and you’ve eliminated pages from the metrics which are expected to have a higher bounce rate, look for obvious issues that contribute to them leaving. Here’s some common ones:

  • Broken functionality: look for menus and links that don’t work, content that is cut off, etc.
  • Mobile vs. Desktop: don’t forget to check on your phone too! Often different resources are loaded on mobile than on desktop, or parts of the site (like a menu button) could get overlapped by other content and prevent the visitor from being able to use it

Relevance of content

If someone found your page by searching for an email configuration guide for Outlook, yet your guide only provides information that is helpful for Plesk hosting, and they’re not using Plesk hosting, then your guide isn’t going to help the visitor, and so they’re going to leave. Check your page title, meta titles and descriptions to ensure that they match the content within. For example, if we care about the bounce rate for our previously described Outlook guide, then we’d need to ensure that our titles and descriptions all make it clear that it is only expected to work for Plesk hosting.

If you’ve found that you’ve got a page or post ranking well for a topic that does not match the content on the page, it might be beneficial to move the existing content to another page with a more fitting title, then rewrite the current page content to better match what your visitors were expecting. This way you will likely keep the traffic and get a better bounce rate at the same time. But be sure to only do this if the expected content still matches your industry or if you think you can convince the visitor to transition to your sales pages from that new / expected content.

Average time on page

If you’ve got a page with a high bounce rate but also a high average amount of time spent on the page, that means the visitor is engaging with your content, but they’re either satisfied with the results of the content and no longer interested in your site, or there aren’t sufficient call to actions on the page. If you suspect the latter, then you’re headed into the territory of Conversion Optimization where your goal is to better optimize the content on the page to drive visitors to contact or sales goals.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is an important marketing tactic that can dramatically improve your bounce rate, but do keep in mind everything described above. In particular the fact that some types of content will always generate a higher bounce rate and so you should prioritize your CRO efforts on lower bounce-rate pages that are most likely to convert visitors into customers.

Page Speed

Sometimes it seems like everything comes back to page speed, but ultimately it truly is an important factor! If your page takes too long to load, people will simply leave without having read a thing. You should be able to get an idea of whether this is a factor simply by checking your ‘average time on page’ metrics. If visitors are only spending roughly 5 seconds or less on your page, then you should definitely be looking into improving your website speed.

These are our 7 top priority items to check when investigating high bounce rates. Got some more tactics you’d like to share? Have some questions for our online marketing experts? Hit us up in the comments below or send us an email today.

About Jordan Schelew

Jordan has been working with computers, security, and network systems since the 90s and is a managing partner at Websavers Inc. As a founder of the company, he's been in the web tech space for over 15 years.

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