SEO: Website Analytics: Bounce Rate
What does “Bounce Rate” mean and what can it teach us about the user experience on our websites?
When talking to the more web-savy breed of website owners, I often hear comments like these ones: “My bounce rate dropped by 10%” or “I am proud because my bounce rate is under 50%” or “My website sucks because my bounce rate is at 65%”.
What’s the Bounce Rate anyway?
Well, when using website statistic tools such as Google Analytics, you will encounter a parameter called “Bounce Rate”. Its value is measured in percent and means this: Out of a 100 visitors to a website, how many of these visitors did not click through to a second page? A bounce rate of 25% for instance tells you that 25 visitors did not make it past the page they landed on when they entered your website. The logical conclusion: The lower your website’s bounce rate, the higher is the user engagement with your site.
What is the Bounce Rate used for?
The bounce rate is a valuable tool to determine how many of your visitors engage with your site. On SEO blogs I often get to read stuff like this: “Google will not rank your site well when you have a high bounce rate”.
For Google and other search engines it is very important to come up with the most relevant search results. The quality of search defines the search engine’s value to the user. Nobody wants inaccurate, off-topic search results.
One way to determine the quality of your site for a certain keyword is how many people on your site made it past the landing page, hence how many are interested in consuming more of the content that you provide.
What can be the reasons for a high Bounce Rate?
There are a number of contributing factors that make up the total of your website’s specific bounce rate. Each one of the them should be analyzed and looked at for improvement.
Ranking for irrelevant keywords:
Your website may rank for the wrong keywords; those that are not relevant to the content on your site. Example: If you sell “dogs” but you rank high for “cats”, those searching for “cats” might leave your site right where they came in, being disappointed when they realize they came to the wrong place. This means: Don’t try to come up for keywords that are irrelevant to your website topic. If you do accidentally, try to change your content on your site to come up for your relevant keywords. Employ and SEO expert when necessary.
Irrelevant or stale and outdated content:
Your website content is not compelling enough to engage your visitors. Example: You do sell “dogs” and people found you searching for “dogs” but then your content is irrelevant to the topic or written badly so that they make a split second decision to discard you from their shortlist. This means: On your website, stay on topic and give users the information they came for. Employ the services of a quality copy writer if necessary. Add fresh content frequently, for instance by adding a blog to your site. Stay on topic on your blog.
Bad user interface, website navigation
Your website’s navigation tools are not up for the job. Example: Your website is using a menu system that is not supported by all browsers. For instance, it is known that older Internet Explorer browsers don’t display certain types of drop down menus that are easily displayed by other browsers such as Google Chrome or Firefox. This can cause visitors to your website to simply not see or get to your relevant content. They leave frustrated although it is all there. It is important that you or your web guys test your site in all major browsers, even older versions that may still be in use by a larger number of people. Employ a professional website design company to make sure that web standards and cross-browser compatibility are adhered to.
Not mobile friendly
Visitors use mobile devices and land on a site that is not mobile friendly. Lately, when checking web statistics, I noticed that it can be mobile devices that drive the bounce rate up, simply because the site is not mobile friendly. Example: A large percentage of smartphones and tables these days do not support Flash, a technology developed to create animated and interactive websites. What once was a really attractive, appealing website has now turned into a white screen for a large number of website visitors. I recommend you have your website reviewed by web design professionals and have it changed over to be mobile friendly by implementing best responsive website design practices.
People immediately find what they came for (Good thing!)
Here is one reason for a high bounce rate that should not be held against you: Your content is so compelling that users find what they came for right on the page they landed on: Example: If you operate a well-known brick and mortar store, a lot of people will use search engines all the time just to get the same information they would have used the telephone book or Yellow Pages for a few years ago. One of the credos of good website design is: With as few clicks as possible to relevant information: You should have your phone numbers right on the home page, your physical address, email contact info, your opening hours, etc. You won’t believe how many people use a search engine just to find a simple phone number. (I do it all the time) Once they have it, they leave your site, satisfied. While this actually may drive your bounce rate up, it is something I would encourage you to do: Put all contact information in the header and footer of your website for everyone easy to spot and to grab. Keep up the good work!
Bounce Rate: Take it with a grain of salt!
While a high bounce rate generally is an indicator that something is not alright with your site, you should not obsess about it or get in panic. In my opinion Google does not see the Bounce Rate as a factor that influences the ranking of your site directly. However, it is an indicator of the userfriendliness of a website and should be taken into consideration when improvements to a site are being made. Improving the user experience is what Google preaches to SEOers so looking at the Bounce Rate to improve your site’s overall userfriendliness is the right way to go about it.