You’ve spent countless hours refining your site to pull in quality online traffic. Slaving away at your labour of love, you’ve become a master SEO hacker and, from the hundreds of visitors streaming in from paid traffic and campaigns, you’ve also become the verifiable Don Draper of online advertising. You’re on top of the world – ready to dominate your niche and send the competition scurrying to the corners of Google. Then the bubble pops.
The hordes of visitors…they aren’t actually taking any actions on your site.
In fact, nearly all of them are leaving your site as soon as they arrived!
In shame and defeat, you remove your metaphorical crown – along with the Don Draper costume you bought last year for Halloween (it was a $89.95 bargain on eBay). Put that cigar out too – you don’t really know how to smoke it anyway.
In your sorry state – dethroned and half-naked - you stumble across this article. Lucky for you, because I’m just about to give you some of the most effective methods in retaining your site traffic, reducing your bounce rate, and increasing your conversions in the process. Vamanos!
Note: Skip past the next two sections if you already know the basics about bounce rates and analytics tools.
Wait…What Is Bounce Rate?
I knew you’d ask. Simply, the bounce rate of your site is the percentage of traffic that leaves on the same page that they entered. E.g. someone clicks a link to your home page – and leaves without exploring more pages. A bounce rate of 100% means everyone leaves on the page they entered. A bounce rate of 0% means everyone visits at least two pages before leaving.
In most cases, you want people to explore your site and take further action (contact, subscribe, purchase).
…But what’s a good bounce rate? Well, that depends on your site. A high bounce rate isn’t always bad. For example, an informative article may have a high bounce rate – simply because readers found the answers they were looking for and moved on.
Here’s a breakdown of average website bounce rates by site category (courtesy of Quicksprout):
10-30% - Service sites
20-40% - Retail sites
30-50% - Lead Generation
40-60% - Content websites
70-98% - Blogs
If your goal is to convince the visitor to explore more of your site, subscribe or contact, or browse products and make purchases, a lower bounce rate is definitely desirable.
Before I give specific advice on retaining your traffic and reducing your bounce rate, you need cold, hard facts about your audience. Because without those, you’ll be as blind as a blind drunk blind man in the dark. In a hole.
First, set up Google Analytics (if you haven’t already) to track your website’s bounce rate. Moz have a rather fantastic guide covering setting up and understanding the tool. Google Analytics will also offer other valuable insights on your site traffic – including their location, age, gender, quantity of visitors, and quantity of conversions.
But Google Analytics only offers you the what. To truly discover the reasons why your visitors are leaving, you need to find out the why.
Introducing…Your WMD of Behaviour Analytics. HotJar.
No, I don’t have some Freudian deal with Dr David Darmanin. You can, in fact, use it for free. This tool genuinely rocked my socks off when I used it for the first time on a client’s website.
It’ll allow you to see…
- Live recordings of visitor sessions as they browse your site
- Heatmaps of where people click and look most
- Exactly where people start leaving your pages
- What pages have the highest drop-off rates in your funnel
- And more!
With Hotjar, I could make razor-sharp suggestions on how my client could improve his photography school’s course landing page. Hotjar allows you to see the ‘why’ – to analyse and gain insights into the behaviour of your online traffic – down to individual user sessions. Setting up is easy. First, you want to create a heatmap using your target page (likely your landing or home page) to gain useful information on your site traffic. Hotjar isn’t the only heat mapping tool out there, though. There’s CrazyEgg, Mouseflow, and more.
When it comes to keeping visitors on your site, it boils down to two things; the quality of your site’s traffic and your actual website. Low-quality, irrelevant traffic is a great way to send your bounce rate soaring, as is a low-quality, unintuitive website. Stay tuned as we explore how to improve both areas.
Make Sure You’re Getting The Right Traffic
One of the most critical elements of keeping quality traffic on your site is relevance. You want to make sure that your site’s content is offering your website visitors the answers they’re looking for. Site traffic comes from various sources, including social media, search engines, referrals, paid campaigns, and more.
Use Google Analytics to break down bounce rates by traffic source:
Acquisition > Overview
You can use each of these traffic sources to reveal possible weaknesses in your online strategy. Have a high bounce rate on a specific medium of traffic? Here are some tips for each:
Paid – Consider improving the quality of your adverts, make sure the landing page each ad links to is relevant to the ad content, be more specific about your service/product, and work on targeting a more specific, relevant demographic. Here’s an article on making your ads more effective.
Direct – Direct traffic is when your visitors enter your site directly in their URL – or from a bookmark. Most direct traffic is already aware of and interested in your brand. If they’re not clicking through to your site, the problem may lie with your website itself.
Organic – Work on your site’s SEO strategy and target more specific keywords (look at what your competitors are competing for and try to find and compete for low-competition, long-tail keywords - Google’s Keyword Planner is useful for this). Here are more tips.
Referral – Great! You have links on other sites. SEO win. But your grandma’s knitting forum isn’t a great place to promote your latest City Tofu Finder application. This also counts social media. Make sure your site is being shared to relevant audiences and groups.
TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) – Target your audience as specifically as possible across all sources of traffic. Often, the problem will be within your site’s content itself. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at next!
Offer Your Visitors A Great User Experience
This is an excellent way to reduce your bounce rate and increase your conversions – and simply a great principle by which to do business. Entire careers are created solely based on improving user interactions and experiences on websites, forms and applications (UX and UI designers). User experience is holistic in that design, content, site performance and usability all contribute to it.
There are numerous way to improve your visitors’ experiences. Here are the top contenders:
1. Add relevant internal links – A high bounce rate might signal users aren’t finding the content they want to click through to. Call-to-action buttons are a great way to encourage click-throughs to desired places (e.g. purchase, sign up). It’s vital to have these at the beginning and end of your page. Consider adding links to key points or topics the reader might want to explore further.
2. Standardise font choices – Font sizes, types, colours and spacing should be fairly standardised – with little to no variation in how you apply these. Try to stick to 2-3 variations of each maximum, and choose fonts based on readability.
3. Break up your content – We read or, more accurately, scan in an F shape in an attempt to find key points or facts. Nothing sends your audience to the hills faster than nasty blocks of text. Instead, opt for lists, bullets and drop-down boxes. Also use bold, italics and underlining to the most critical parts of your content and benefits-oriented headers and subheaders. Use Hotjar to observe where your visitors are skipping content / dropping off your site.
4. Use interesting images and videos – Stock imagery is a no go! But videos and images – relevant to your brand – can be a great way to capture your reader’s attention. Use relevant images to guide your website visitors towards desirable action or demonstrate your product/service. Here’s a great guide on how. Consider adding relevant links to images if your users are clicking on them (Hotjar’s heatmaps will show you this).
5. Improve your content – Users want concise, conversational copy and content that skips the jargon and puts the emphasis on how you can benefit them and make their lives easier. Here’s an article I wrote about the most common mistakes businesses make when it comes to their site’s content.
6. Optimise for different devices – We’ve had the 50% stat drilled into our heads by now. You know that mobile is overtaking desktop. And a site that isn’t optimised for mobile is a great way to scare off the majority of potential prospects. Hotjar’s heatmap show content appears on various devices – allowing you to pick up on potential issues in content formatting and function.
8. Improve your site’s performance – Google Analytics shows site speed. Site isn’t loaded in 3 seconds? 79% of users will leave immediately! That’s an immediate 79% bounce rate before anyone’s even seen your content. KISSMetrics offers some actionables to improve your site’s speed – including reduce image file sizes and minimise the amount of plugins you use.
9. Learn from your customers – The most important step here. Again, Hotjar can help. Observe individual recordings to see potential problem areas of your site – and create customer polls and surveys to ask them exactly how you can improve. Google Analytics also offers a wealth of information, allowing you to see what pages have the highest bounce rates, where your site traffic is arriving from, who your visitors are (age, gender, interests, location) and more.
We’re not trying to reduce bounce rates. Not really. What we’re actually trying to do is to help match the right people (site traffic) with the right solutions (your service, product or information) – and making that process seamless and easy. When you start framing your website in those terms, the path towards improving your bounce rates/conversions/whatever metric you’d like to use becomes almost intuitive. It is only with constant testing and analysis that we can keep improving that process.