Having a #1 ranking is great, but it’s not great when visitors are increasing your bounce rate…
… sending signals to Google you’re not the droids
content they’re looking for.
I’m NOT going to patronize you with “make your site better”.
In this post I’m going to show you exactly how to reduce your bounce rate and ultimately increase your search engine rankings in 9 easy steps.
Your bounce rate is the percentage of users who land on a page of your site, and leave without doing anything else (single page session).
A high bounce rate can indicate to Google your content is no good, and ultimately drop you in ranking…
… which is not what we want.
Lucky for us, it’s not too hard to get that percentage nice and low (within reason: see step #5)
And that’s EXACTLY what we’ll go through today:
How to reduce your bounce rate in 9 steps to make your site super sticky.
WARNING: This post is nearly 3,000 words… consider bookmarking for future reference.
Step #1: Find Your Profit Index Pages & Optimize
Trying to optimise every page on your website is utterly useless.
… one of your customers to looking for your contact number, goes to your contact page, then leaves.
You would expect the bounce rate for that page to be higher than average because your customer has gotten exactly what they want.
Focusing on a contact page to lower bounce rate would serve no valuable purpose to your website.
Tailoring each of your profit pages to include a “content upgrade” is good practice for a number of reasons.
Many SEOs and digital marketers are using content upgrades to attain email addresses of visitors. Having an email database has been shown to be 40 times more effective than social media to acquire customers.
Not only can using content upgrades improve your business’ bottom line, but also help engage customers and reduce bounce rate.
1. Find your profit pages: Log into your Analytics account… I’ll use Google Analytics for this example.
If you don’t have any Analytics for your site I suggest you do that now (click here).
At the left hand side, select Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
This will give you a list of the most popular pages on your site, which we’ll use as your profit pages.
2. Create exclusive content tailored to the topic of each page. The easiest way to achieve this is converting the content to a PDF and offering the PDF as a downloadable file… in exchange for an email address.
To do this head over to Print Friendly, stick the URL of the page you want to optimize.
Then select PDF from the top menu.
Now you have a sweet offer to exchange!
If you’re feeling really productive… you can create an additional resource to compliment the existing content, such as expanding on the ideas and content of the page. Exclusive content is more effective, but takes longer to achieve.
Other examples could be a video, infographic or free product.
Example of Using a Page Specific Offer / Content Upgrade
Example #1 – Mixergy
Mixergy is an entrepreneurial website that interviews successful entrepreneurs for business tips. Their whole website is full of content upgrades looking to opt in to their email list.
Here is their welcome page…
The big gold button (call to action) opens a popup , and the reward for opting in is their best 9 interviews. This works extremely well…
Moreover, they even go as far as making each top entrepreneur’s face at the top of their homepage all content upgrades…
Very powerful stuff.
Example #2 – Matthew Woodward
I’ve been following Matthew Woodward for quite a while now, and he’s managed to establish himself as one of the UK’s top internet marketing bloggers in just a few years.
Matthew tends to use content upgrades in most of his posts…
… including one of his more popular posts on Google’s ranking factors.
Towards the top of the post, Matthew includes an upgrade that if you tweet his post… you will receive an image which compliments the content of the post.
He also uses a custom popup tailored to the content of the post…
… hence increasing his opt in rate but also his user engagement.
I highly suggest checking out all of Matthew’s stuff… it’s jam packed with actionable techniques for internet marketing.
Step #2: It’s All about the User: Improve User Experience (UX)
Good user experience means happy visitors. Happy visitors are more like to buy your product, subscribe to your service and increase the engagement of your site.
With recent search engine updates focusing more and more on user experience…
… making sure your visitors are happy browsing is now critical to your online success.
Good UX will ultimately satisfy both user and search engine quality benchmarks.
1. Study Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and follow them. These guidelines are best practices for design, technical and quality elements.
2. Use an attractive and clean theme. For Glasgow Advertising I decided to use a theme with no sidebar, choosing to focus on quality content with zero unnecessary distractions.
3. Avoid using excessive or ‘in-your-face’ advertisements. Too many ads will devalue your content, and take focus and clicks. Google’s recent “Top Heavy Algorithm” update focused on penalizing websites that have too many ads above the fold or if ads are deemed to distract users from content. After all… content is King, context is Queen (see step 7).
4. Stay away from harsh color combinations. Sore eyes is the last thing visitors want when browsing the web. Use this website to play about with color combos and make them remember you.
5. Work on your writing. Most people think they’re pretty good at writing. But the reality is most people suck.
Not for any fault of their own… they just have no idea how to portray their ideas in a way visitors can understand.
Have you every visited a blog where the writing is just magical, you read every post, comment and interact with the writer?
Websites that have fantastic writers and writing styles naturally have an increased user experience.
My favorite blog, bar none, for writing style is Jon Morrow’s Smart Blogger. After reading a few posts I promise your writing will be better.
6. Don’t hide information within tabs, Google wants content displayed and do not want visitors searching for the information they require.
7. Checks that all links on your site are valid. You can do this by using PointBlankSEO’s LinkMiner tool.
8. In case visitors do land on a page that cant be found, Google recommends these tips to offer a useful 404 page.
9. Properly SEO your page, this helps with rankings and user experience.
Step #3: Smartphones… Smartphones Everywhere: The Mobile Equation
80% of internet users now use a smartphone, and actively browse the web on their portable devices.
If your website is glitchy, slow or not mobile friendly… your visitors won’t be around for long.
Google will be rolling out their mobile-friendly update on the 21st April 2015, and will boost websites that are mobile friendly, and penalize those that are not…
… So now is the time to act and get on the mobile express.
1. Go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, and stick in your URL.
After processing, Google will determine whether your website can be crawled by Googlebot.
2. Head over to Google’s Mobile Webmaster Guidelines to mobile-fy and read up on guidelines before the dreaded algorithm change.
3. Before installing any theme, make sure it’s mobile friendly. If you are not using WordPress (which I suggest you do) contact your developer to make sure it is.
Step #4: Tell Your Visitors Exactly What to Do (Call to Action)
Each page on your site should serve a purpose. For example,
About – tell visitors more about yourself, and tell your story.
Contact – information on how visitors can contact you.
Blog – relevant content to increase the value of your business, attract interested visitors… and connect with industry influencers.
Checkout page – buy your product or service.
We’ve already discussed that contact pages (and checkout) are inevitably going to have a higher bounce rate in general. If visitors get what they came for… they’ve had a positive experience.
So… from Step #1 let’s have a look at how you can increase engagement on your most popular pages by thinking what you want to achieve.
1. Grab a pen and paper and start noting what you want to achieve from each profit page you established from Step #1.
2. On each page… tell visitors what to do. Each page on your site could have a different purpose than another.
3. For example, if you want visitors to leave a comment, ask at the end of the page to comment… don’t just assume they will.
Also, reply to every comment your website receives. This entices more comments and shows visitors you are reachable.
4. If you want visitors to subscribe to your blog, then tell them what to do (you see the pattern here?).
Backlinko has a fantastic resource around building your email list.
5. A nice, clickable call to action button can convert visitors like hot cakes. Copyblogger has a phenomenal tutorial on call to action buttons.
Step #5: Set Realistic Expectations
Along with optimising your Profit Pages, setting realistic expectations of what your bounce rate should be is necessary.
According to KissMetrics, here are expected bounce rates for particular websites…
Content websites (like this one): 40 – 60%
Retail sites with well targeted traffic: 20 – 40%
Landing page with one call to action: 70 – 90%
Lead generation site: 30 – 50%
Portals (Facebook, MSN, Wikipedia): 10 – 30%
If you’ve had a look at some posts claiming a 5% bounce rate… be skeptical.
There is no realistic way that can be achieved unless something’s went wrong, such as…
- Google Analytics has been installed incorrectly (two codes can easily be use if you embed it manually then enter it on an plugin)
- Event tracking has been set up incorrectly
- Or the use of third party software
Moreover, avoid using certain plugins which claim to reduce bounce rate by sending additional signals to Google. I’d say that’s teetering on the edge of the guidelines.
Step #6: Site Speed Is Losing You Visitors, Customers & Rankings
A tortoise paced website will kill you. Not literally… but just everything you’re working for.
I’m sure you’ve stumbled across a website before and clicked the back button if the site doesn’t load within a second or so.
Browsers want speed… greasy fast speed, as Mick would say. And you should too.
Speed is also a direct ranking factor for Google.
1. Check the Pingdom Website Speed Test to see how fast your website is.
2. Use a well coded, clean theme. If you’re on WordPress, I can’t recommend StudioPress enough.
I’ve been using the Genesis platform for years and couldn’t be happier.
3. Not all hosts are created equal. Carefully research your hosting provider as speed and support can, and will, vary.
I would also advice to not trust any hosting review websites that are using affiliate links.
3. Limit the number is plugins used to the necessities. Plugins will slow down servers.
4. You only need one Analytics installation. I suggest Google Analytics.
5. Optimize your images using this plugin. Will will reduce the size of each image you upload for faster loading times.
6. If you have a particularly large site with thousands of visitors… consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
A CDN will mirror aspects of your website all over the world, therefore allowing visitors the same loading times regardless of location.
Here’s the results you can expect alanmonaghan.com is 99% faster than all tested websites…
Step #7: Nail Your Context, Deliver What You Preach
Bringing in lots of search engine traffic is useless if visitors aren’t getting what they want.
If I’m looking for information on “how to wash my cat” (a random example, i know) I search through the results… and land on a page with information on different types of cats, why cats are better than dogs and why cats are assholes…
… I’m going to hit the back button pretty quickly.
It’s not what I’m looking for.
Making sure the content on each page is exactly the same as your title and description.
The title of this post explains steps to reduce bounce rate, and that’s exactly what I’m delivering.
Making sure your context is spot on is critical… the saying “if content is King, then context is Queen” comes to mind.
Two words: Keyword Research.
Research the keyword you are targeting, and make sure the page is directly related to the keyword.
After all… a visitor is interested in the content of the page when they visit, so make sure you give them what they want.
If I’m ever in doubt as to whether my content matches my title I look to Peter Morville’s Honeycomb of User Experience.
Is my content…
- and credible
Moreover, any traffic you are paying for must be high quality… and you are providing value to the clicks.
Step #8: It’s the Little Things, There’s Nothing Bigger
Little improvements along your road of reducing bounce rate can make a big difference.
Make sure any external links within your pages are opened in another tab.
In WordPress, select the “open link in new window” option.
Use a search bar on your site. This gives visitors the opportunity to find relevant content they are interested in.
Depending on the layout of your site… the search bar can be anywhere from the sidebar, header or footer.
For Glasgow Advertising… I decided not to include a search bar.
My bounce rate is very good, and I felt to add a search box would devalue the minimalist feel of the site.
Download the Yoast Comment Redirect plugin.
Use a comment redirect plugin… to not only reduce your bounce rate, but also increase your social following, email list or ask for visitors feedback.
Once a visitor comments on your site for the first time… they will be redirected to a page of your choice. This terminates a simple-page session thus reducing bounce rate.
You can redirect to any published page on your website.
The plugin is also super easy to use…
I use the redirect to thank visitors for commenting and ask them to connect with me on my social media profiles.
Check out my Thank You page. Simple, but super effective.
Strategically linking to other pages within your site not only allows your website to be easily crawled by search engines, but also easily gives visitors the opportunity to visit different areas of your website.
Each internal link must serve a purpose… and help the visitor find related information they may be interested in.
As well as internal linking, consider displaying related posts.
Related posts show relevant content allowing the visitor the click to different areas with ease.
Step # 9: Become a Digital Sauron With Heatmaps
A heatmap shows you where a visitor clicks on your website and allows you to analyze user behavior…
… therefore allowing easy optimization to increase engagement and the reduction of bounce rate.
Using ConversionXL’s extensive heatmap post they discovered 19 things about their users behavior allowing the increase of engagement.
the left side of the page is more important than the right
people will ignore sections of your site if it looks like an advertisement
and summaries are better than full posts on blogs
The two heatmaps that I’ve personally used are…
– and ClickTale
Don’t be afraid to change certain aspects of your website for the benefit of the visitor. After all your website is there for them.
I currently have a heatmap tracking this website… and will post the results when enough information is correlated.
Once I’ve analyzed the info I will…
- look to remove areas where there are little to no clicks
- split test call to actions
- optimize areas that receives the most clicks
- and compare above and below the fold behavior
What are your thoughts on reducing bounce rate? Let me know below!