12 Proven Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate (and Increase Engagement)

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • Bounce rate is the rate at which users land on then leave your web page without any further interaction.
  • Bounce rate is not a direct ranking factor, but can be a good way to measure your site’s efficacy.
  • A high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing.
  • Use behavioral intelligence tools to determine why people are bouncing.
  • Increase engagement by creating relevant, visual and easily readable content. 
  • Add internal links and clear CTAs to guide users to “the next step.”

There’s nothing more frustrating than a sky-high bounce rate on site content that was designed to intrigue your audience and keep them clicking. We’ve got you covered with 12 proven strategies to convert would-be bounces into happy, engaged prospects who stay on your site.

But first, what is a high bounce rate, and is it always a bad thing for users (and SEO)? We’ll explain exactly what bounce rate means and reveal some tips to increase pageviews and user engagement.

WHAT IS BOUNCE RATE?

What is a bounced visit in Google Analytics?

A bounce is simply a single-page session on your website.

What does bounce rate mean in Google Analytics?

Bounce rate is a ratio between single-page sessions and all sessions.

Exit rate vs bounce rate

Exit rate (also known as drop off rate) is often confused with bounce rate because they both measure the percentage of sessions that ended on a page. The key difference, however, is that exit rate applies to both single-page and multi-page sessions. Let’s look at the difference between the bounce rate definition vs exit rate:

  • Exit Rate represents the percentage of all pageviews that were the last in the session.
  • Bounce Rate represents the percentage of sessions in which the entrance page was the only pageview of the session.

Unfortunately, that definition of bounce rate is pretty broad, which is precisely why it’s such a widely misunderstood metric.

What’s more, sometimes users are supposed to bounce. Think about resource sites like Wikipedia or WebMD. The bounce rate for informational sites is as high as 90%. But that doesn’t mean those sites are a usability disaster. As long as the visitor leaves satisfied, the page has served its purpose.

Even on ecommerce sites, a non-interaction session doesn’t always indicate a problem. Consider all of the following reasons for single-page visits:

Common high bounce rate reasons

  • The user spends a few minutes reading your page. Then, they hit the back button and return to the search engine results pages (SERPs) to compare options. This is a natural part of the user’s purchase cycle.
  • The user opens several of your product pages in new tabs. If 30 minutes pass without any interactions, Google Analytics registers that as a session timeout and a bounce. However, they might return to that tab later to do more browsing which will trigger a new session.
  • The user who just needs a piece of information on your homepage, like your address or contact information.
  • The user who wants to make sure an item is available for pick-up at their closest brick-and-mortar location.
  • Or the user who just bought your product and wants to show what they purchased to a friend.
  • The newsletter subscriber who thinks your latest blog post sounds interesting, so they read and love it before moving on. This user isn’t in “shopping mode” right now, and they don’t need your product at this precise moment. But their continued enjoyment of your content strengthens their brand loyalty.

In all of these cases, the bounce has nothing to do with the usability of your website.

However, if your website’s goals hinge on customer engagement, bounce rate is an extremely good barometer. You should at least monitor the bounce rate metric and actively work to lower it whenever possible. As a result, you’ll strengthen your content, conversions and brand appeal. Plus, Google’s algorithm can factor post-click engagement from the SERPs. That means maintaining healthy bounce rates can help your organic rankings overall.

What is a good bounce rate for a website?

Typically, the lower you can bring your website’s bounce rate, the better. Within the world of ecommerce SEO, higher bounce rates don’t align with your website goals (to get people interested in the products!) So marketers generally aim for a healthy, low ecommerce bounce rate that reflects active user engagement.

There’s no standard benchmark for a “good bounce rate” versus a “bad” one. The metric is simply too variable based on the industry, type of content, search intent and landing page. But if you’re looking for a ballpark, here are some average bounce rates by website type according to customedialabs:

Average website bounce rates

  • 20% – 45% for retail and e-commerce websites
  • 25% – 55% for B2B websites
  • 30% – 55% for lead generation websites
  • 35% – 60% for non-ecommerce content websites
  • 60% – 90% for landing pages
  • 65% – 90% for dictionaries, portals, blogs and news sites

CXL also has a handy chart that shows average bounce rate by industry:

benchmark bounce rate by industry

Curious how your own website measures up against the industry benchmark? Take full advantage of the Benchmarking tool in Google Analytics. Set your industry first. Web analytics will offer its own industry benchmarks to see if your website has a normal bounce rate.

When bounce rate matters

Does each page on your site have a goal? What about your content? Do your ideal users have a clear “next step” after they read blog posts, infographics or white papers? Since you’ll almost always want the customer to continue browsing the site, a high bounce rate can be an indicator that some part of your engagement strategy isn’t working.

A thorough bounce rate analysis can help you tweak a number of usability factors, including site navigation, calls to action and content quality. It’s especially useful as you measure similar web pages against one another. For example, do all of your blog posts that target a certain persona have a fairly low bounce rate? Take a look at the one with the highest bounce rate, as it could signify trouble with the post.

Bounce rate is also a powerful tool for comparing segments of traffic against one another. For example, how does each internet marketing channel perform? Is there a discrepancy in your desktop versus mobile device bounce rate? How do paid search metrics compare to organic search? What about referral traffic from social media and channel partners? When you segment by demographic, does one demographic in particular have a high bounce rate?

Comparing different segments lets you use the bounce rate as a diagnostic tool. You can use it to gain insight into the specific platforms and audiences where your bounce rate lags behind.

HOW TO CALCULATE BOUNCE RATE

To calculate your bounce rate, Google Analytics divides the number of single-page sessions by the total number of sessions for each landing page. It’ll look something like this:

how to calculate bounce rate

That average session duration of 0 can trick you into believing the bounces are just bots. But that’s really just a side effect of how Google measures the session duration. The clock starts when a user enters the site. The time on page is recorded as soon as the user follows a link, triggers an event, hits a button or finds another way to get to a new url on the site.

We don’t know how long any of our bouncers actually spent on the page. So bounce rate by itself doesn’t tell us a whole lot about why a visitor leaves. To do that, we’re going to need to make some extrapolations based on industry benchmarks, the average amount of time on page (for the non-bouncers) and the page’s bounce rate compared to similar pages on your site with the same goal.

Pro Tip

Use behavioral intelligence tools like Decibel, Mouseflow and Hotjar. These tools capture screen recordings that can help you determine where exactly on the page people bounce. What’s more, they also tell you precisely how long users spend on each page. So, if a page has a 95% bounce rate, but the average recording time is six minutes, it’s a safe bet that users find the page useful. But you may be able to improve the bounce rate by offering visitors a next step.

Also, watch out for the site-wide bounce rate (the average based on every page on your site). This metric is far too broad to be useful. That’s especially true if you have a robust content strategy, which is a) an absolutely critical component of your brand’s success but b) a good way to increase your site-wide bounce rate.

How will you determine success?

Bounce rate is subjective. That means you’ll need to take context into account when you compare the metric across pages. What is the goal of the page? How are similar pages faring? How do other usability metrics like time on page and conversion rate check out? And most important of all, how does your bounce rate look over time? If your Google Analytics bounce rate is getting higher, then strive for a lower bounce rate.

When you use it in context, bounce rate is a powerful shorthand engagement metric. The precursor to a low bounce rate is a great UX and deep engagement – two things that can send your revenue soaring. So by actively working to reduce your bounce rate, you’ll be targeting these mission-critical components head on.

HOW TO REDUCE BOUNCE RATE AND INCREASE ENGAGEMENT

Ready to keep your visitors intrigued, engaged and eager to learn more? Put the following 12 items on your checklist and tick off every box as you produce each new piece of content. Follow this advice and you’ll fix your high bounce rate in no time.

1. Be relevant

Your ideal bounce rate will likely fluctuate significantly by entrance page as well as traffic source. For example, new visitors that originate from organic search may not be as familiar with your brand as customers from your other digital marketing channels like adwords and email.

Since new visitors may not know what you have to offer, you’re going to have to work a little harder to keep this audience on the site. The best way to do this? Make sure each landing page satisfies the search intent.

In other words, stay relevant. As you research your keywords and map them to each page, consider: is your page the perfect fit for each keyword? Don’t fall into the trap of optimizing pages for high-opportunity terms when the content really targets a long-tail keyword.

For example, let’s say you sell high-end shoes. The search volume for “cheap heels and flats” might be impressive, but does that keyword belong anywhere on your site? You might decide it’s a great keyword for your Sale page, rationalizing that the page will appeal to those searchers who are looking for a deal. But $350 shoes discounted to $320 won’t cut it for the visitor looking for cheap shoes.

When you perform your keyword research, Google the keyword and check out the first SERP results for that keyword. Click into each ranking page and assess its content. Is your content in line with what you’re seeing?

If you’ve already posted your content and you’re measuring the results, check in Search Console and note the queries that are bringing people to the pages with bad bounce rates. Is the page a good fit for those queries? How can you adjust your content to make it a better fit? Again, check out the SERPs for each query and see how other top-ranking websites are addressing the query.

2. Reduce page load time

According to the page speed experts at Pingdom, pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, but pages that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38%. Just three seconds make that much of a difference! And that bounce rate isn’t the only thing to consider: conversions, too, can decrease by 7% with every second of delay, according to Akamai. In a study by Radware, making the load time of each page in a transaction two seconds faster resulted in more than double the number of completed transactions.

reduce page load time

The good news is, if page speed is causing bounce rate issues for your site, then any improvement in speed can lead to massive gains. Run careful page speed tests to diagnose what’s weighing down your site, and work with your development team to fix the issues.

3. Add visual elements

There’s nothing wrong with long content. But if people are seeing nothing but text when they get to the page, you’re missing a major opportunity to grab your visitors by the seat of their pants. Add eye-catching imagery and visual elements that intrigue users and keep them hooked before they even read a single word.

National Geographic has understood the power of imagery for as long as they’ve existed. Their print magazine has always emphasized and rewarded high-quality, cutting-edge photography. And their website follows the same principle. Every article they post is accompanied by stunning imagery that connects with the audience and makes people excited to read on.

Think of Apple. No matter which page you land on – the main site or the Apple Newsroom – you’re immediately shown beautiful photography and dynamic visual elements that would make even the PC die hard reconsider bouncing.

You don’t have to poach the world’s best photographers from National Geographic to follow suit. Just remember to source the type of imagery that captures attention: exciting, emotive, useful, informative or intriguing.

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4. Avoid ads (or at least keep them out of the way)

Think about the last time you made a search and landed on a site that was full of ads. How long did you stay?

There are plenty of reasons an ad-heavy site can decrease trust. Ads can slow down page load speed and lead to a terrible user experience. They cause a lot of visual clutter, and they make the site look like it was meant for advertisers, not readers. Blogs and publications, which advertise for other websites, have more to be mindful of when it comes to ads. But ecommerce sites aren’t immune. It’s just as possible to overwhelm people with popups and ads about your own sales and promotions.

Does that mean blogs and other sites powered by ads are out of luck? No, as long as the ads stay out of the way and don’t overwhelm the content. If you’re wondering how that works, just visit your favorite publication, navigate to any article and notice where the ads are.

And if you’re an ecommerce site, be careful with splash pages, announcement bars, popups and even live chat. Always give people a way to close the popup as quickly as they want to – and once it’s closed, keep it closed. Don’t follow customers around the site with live chat offers if they’ve already opted to hide the chat window.

When in doubt, use behavioral intelligence software to see what people are looking at, clicking and ignoring. Then, A/B test the page with a popup against the popup-free version of the same page, etc. Is there a difference in bounce rate?

Finally, understand how to appropriately merchandise each page so that you’re not confusing the content and page intent with your own promotions.

5. Add internal links

Internal links within your content are a great way to keep people moving through the site, especially in blog posts and articles. Links give you the power to reference other content in a way that’s much more specific than a call to action. For example, we’re huge fans of topic clusters at Terakeet. So our blog strategy centers on lots of in-depth topics. If we’re writing a new post and we mention a topic that has already been covered in depth, we’ll link to it. This gives the reader an easy way to learn more and a contextually relevant reason to do so.

Your own website will have a plethora of similar opportunities. It’s the nature of any content strategy to start orbiting around a few distinct areas of expertise and to address similar topics in different ways. Spot the natural opportunities to reference other parts of your website within your own content and give the user more of what they came to the site to find.

6. Create clear calls to action

While internal links guide the user to other content they may be interested in, CTAs are direct and goal-oriented. Make sure CTAs are present on each page, inviting the user to sign up for a newsletter, purchase a product, download a template or checklist, sign up for a free trial or perform another action that’s aligned with the page goal.

To tighten up the experience, A/B test different CTAs against each other and pin down the visual styles and messaging that perform the best. Consider factors like color, button size, location on the page, the words you use and the different requests you make.

7. Optimize for mobile

When analyzing bounce rate, try segmenting by device to see if the high bounces are skewed toward desktop or mobile devices. Your customers might prefer to purchase on a desktop, so high mobile bounce rates can be a natural byproduct of the browsing experience. Want to be sure? See if returning visitors tend to use desktops.

On the other hand, if the mobile bounce rate is significantly higher, even on blog posts and articles, there may be a problem with your site’s mobile experience.

Run your page through a mobile optimization tool to catch the areas where your mobile experience could improve. This includes factors like the size of your clickable elements, the way  your images render and the size and presentation of your content. As you design your pages, check how they render on both desktop and mobile. Templatize the layouts that look great and use these moving forward to build scalability into your strategy.

And don’t forget to check your mobile page speed. Think With Google reported that half of all mobile site users will bounce if the page doesn’t load within three seconds. So don’t let design considerations obscure a deeper mobile usability issue. A lightning-fast mobile site is priority #1.

8. Create easy search and navigation

Let’s say the user gets to a page and it’s not quite what they’re looking for, but it’s enough to convince them they’re in the right ballpark. Do they have a quick way to find what they really need? Make sure your site’s navigation system is logical and streamlined and that it will effectively guide the user no matter which page they started on.

If the user landed on the wrong product, a site search for the correct product can easily become their go-to next step. Make sure your site search feature is clearly visible and easy to use. And consider integrating a search system that autocompletes with your products or content.

9. Improve readability

How readable is your content? How clear and accessible is it? This key detail makes all the difference. Readability factors can be split into two broad categories: the copy itself and how the copy looks.

improve readability

Within the copy itself, ban technical and meaningless jargon from your vocabulary. Say everything in plain English, using the clearest and simplest words you can. Keep both sentences and paragraphs on the shorter end, and use correct grammar. Various readability-scoring tools, like Yoast, are available to help you double-check your work. These tools rely on metrics like the Flesch-Kincaid readability score to estimate the maximum grade level that could read and understand your content.

Because it’s common for tools like this to set a 6th grade reading level as their rule of thumb, you might have a knee-jerk reaction to using them. But remember, making your content clear and accessible to as many people as possible is not the same thing as dumbing it down. Nobody is saying your entire audience is at a 6th grade reading level, but everybody has a different vocabulary. Keeping your writing simple will control for this.

Visually, choose an appropriate font size and type. Organize your content with bullet points, numbers, headings and subheadings. Just like with design, the whitespace between your content is essential – so give the reader plenty of it, like Square does. Not only do Square’s blog posts feature a font that is easily readable. They also feature headings and lots of gorgeous white space.

10. Create smooth UX

The content on your page might be perfect, but a poor UX can still lead to page abandonment. Take a look at the pages that have high bounce rates and assess them for basic UX factors. Look at page load speed, functionality, consistency, layout, animation or movement on the page and any expectations from the site visitor based on actions that they take (scrolling, hovering, clicking, pinching, swiping, etc.).

Then dig in further, using heatmaps, clickmaps or user testing to locate trouble spots. Where does the user stop scrolling? What do they click on? Do they “rage click” (clicking the same spot over and over thinking it’s a link when it isn’t) anywhere? How long do they stay on the page? Where do they lose focus?

Address the problem areas and templatize what works, continually striving for peak UX and happy visitors.

11. Tell stories

Storytelling through engaging content is like a miracle drug for your website, transforming the entire experience. Literally, stories change your brain’s chemistry, whether the amount of cortisol or dopamine or oxytocin.

When a site provides information alone, the user can leave any time they feel like they have enough. But storytelling keeps them hooked: how can they abandon the site when they need to know what happens next?

Tell your story with words as well as visual content. Build stories into each page and tie them to your brand’s bigger story. A story doesn’t always have to begin and end on a single page. Think of how Netflix concludes each episode with a cliff-hanger.

12. Always give them a next step

Speaking of that final step: don’t wait for the user to figure out how to get there on their own. In fact, don’t even wait for them to figure out what the next step is! Always provide it for them.

How do you do this? You can accomplish some of it in your CTAs, links and navigational features. But it starts with crystal-clear goals on your end. Before you build out a single page, understand the precise actions you want the content to make the user take. Where do you want the user to move next?

If you build the page with this goal at the forefront, your CTAs will feel logical in context. In fact, if your content is good enough, your CTAs will feel almost like you’re reading the visitor’s mind.

Reducing your bounce rate can lead to improvements in content, speed, design and core site functionality. And improvements in those areas will help your entire brand. So dig into your metrics, set some goals and don’t give your users a single reason to leave your site!

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