Your commercial website isn’t doing your business much good if visitors simply leave after taking a brief glance. The percentage of people who “bounce” right back off your site shortly after they’ve arrived is your “bounce rate.”
If you have a high bounce rate then something’s wrong. Visitors either:
1) weren’t looking for what you have to offer (so you need to work on more targeted traffic),
2) aren’t finding what they’re looking for easily enough, or
3) were repelled by something before they even took the time to investigate.
Ultimately, this means two things:
You can find out what your bounce rate is by using Google Analytics or any number of other analytical services (like Piwik). If you use Google Analytics, then your bounce rate turns up right in the middle of the dashboard the minute you log in:
Design & Content
If your site has a simple, thoughtful design that’s easy on the eyes and simple to navigate, the next thing to consider is the quality of your content. Is it interesting? Does it solve people’s problems or give them what they’re looking for?
Don’t write technical jargon unless you’re a B2B company with customers that live and breathe that kind of stuff. To stand out from the crowd, give your content personality.
You only have a few seconds to get visitors’ attention ’cause if you don’t … they’ll hit the back button and move on to the next site (one that belongs to a competitor!).
Guide Readers to Other Content
In every piece of content you publish on your site, you should include links to pages or posts elsewhere on your site. Don’t put in dozens of links, but include a few, at least — depending on the length of the text you’re publishing.
If people are taking time to read, then they’ll likely be interested in following those links to other relevant content on your site — which keeps them on your site longer and reduces your bounce rate.
At the end of each page, include a few links to related posts. This is easy to do with WordPress. I’m not familiar with other platforms, but I’m sure they have something to accomplish this, too.
You can use plugins that will automatically link other posts based on tags or other criteria that you choose. Some of them will also include thumbnail images, which is great if you have a lot of images as well (for example, a photography site, or lots of products to showcase).
Here are a few you can consider using:
WP-Thumbie — Displays related posts with thumbnails. You can choose to exclude certain pages or categories.
nrelate — This one’s easy to set up. You can activate and run it as is, or, if you prefer, you can use different options to display posts exactly how you need them. There are several different looks to this one, too. A few are shown here, but go to the page to view all the different looks you can choose from.
Bounce Rate and Rankings
I mentioned at the beginning that your bounce rate can affect your rankings. Notice that I said “can” and not “definitely will.” While SEO professionals have suspected for some time that Google uses bounce rate as a factor in how high your site ranks, more recently it’s become open to debate rather than an accepted fact.
Matt Cutts (from Google) says they don’t incorporate bounce rate. But they have a record of keeping things secret in the past. Even if they don’t count it, bounce rate is still a major factor in determining user experience on your site. Are people finding what they’re looking for, or are they turning to your competitors instead?
If you’re having trouble keeping your bounce rate under control, or worse, not measuring it at all, contact us. We can help you understand your site analytics and turn your site into a monster ROI machine.