Does your blog have a pulse?
Most of you know that a low bounce rate is a vital sign of a healthy blog.
The confusion starts when we try to figure out how exactly it affects our blogs, why we should care, and what we can do about it.
First things first.
What Is Bounce Rate?
Bounce rate, Google bounce rate, analytics bounce rate – all different ways to describe the same thing: a way to measure the quality of your web traffic.
Essentially, your bounce rate tracks the number of visitors who came to your site and then left in a hurry.
Not a good thing.
It’s measured in two different ways:
- The number of visitors who came to your site and never clicked over to a different page within your site.
- The amount of time a visitor spends on your site – usually anything under 5 seconds counts towards your bounce rate.
Why Is Bounce Rate Important?
As I mentioned before, your bounce rate is a good indicator of the quality of traffic coming to your site.
It show how ENGAGED your visitors are with your site and how much SUCKING POWER your site has (in both good and bad way).
Lower bounce rate is usually great – you are doing a lot of things right.
Higher bounce rate – you need to start thinking about increasing the “Sticking Power” of your site.
What Is Acceptable Bounce Rate?
No such thing.
“How much money is enough?” – “One more dollar.”
“When is your bounce rate good?” – “After one less visitor bounces.”
You get the point.
I can, however, give you some examples.
My blog bounce rate is at about 70% right now.
It used to be at 40-50% when I first started.
Why did it go up?
I believe that the more popular the blog gets, the more diverse traffic it receives, the more likely some of that traffic to bounce.
For instance: my direct traffic (people who mostly come to my site by typing my URL in the address box) is more likely to be qualified as bouncers.
Because these are most likely my regular readers who come to check out my latest blog post and leave after reading it.
Your direct traffic usually grows hand-in-hand with your blog.
Search engine traffic is more likely to bounce as well.
As your blog grows, it will be ranked for more and more keywords, some of which you’ll have no idea how you ranked for. Those keywords might bring you traffic, but it won’t be targeted.
If I happen to mention a song in my blog post and all of a sudden started ranking for it, the searchers for that song won’t most likely be interested to learn about traffic generation, so they’ll leave as soon as they come, thus increasing my bounce rate.
So you see there are some very legitimate factors that affect your bounce rate that you can’t really do anything about.
I can give you 2 more examples of bounce rates.
I’ve asked two other bloggers who run blogs bigger than mine and they both said that their bounce rate is at about 81% – even higher than mine.
So, more likely than not, your bounce rate is “within the norm” right now, but it can always be better.
Best Way To Measure Bounce Rate
Because of all nuances above, it can really be difficult to judge whether your bounce rate is acceptable or too high.
There’s a little trick I’ll show you that will give you a more clear picture of the bounce rate on your site.
Go to your Google Analytics and from your dashboard click on “Visitors” ==> “New VS Returning”.
Now that you separated all the return visitors – people who are already familiar with you and are thus more likely to check out your latest post and leave – from the new ones, you can see much better how that segment of your traffic is engaging with your site.
If you see that the bounce rate for your new visitors is below your overall blog bounce rate, you are doing pretty well.
Other Ways to Measure Bounce Rate
Some time ago we talked about different traffic sources and how effective those traffic sources are as far as quality of traffic is concerned.
Well, bounce rate is another great way to measure quality and these are some stats I suggest you take a look at.
BOUNCE RATE BY KEYWORDS
For those of you who are driving search engine traffic back to your blog, this is an important metric to be aware of.
Sure, it’s great to be listed for a keyword.
However, is your content on the mark for that keyword? Will the search engine user find what they are looking for in your post?
If you notice that any of your keywords has a particularly high bounce rate, it’s time to get editing.
Ask yourself what searchers would expect to find when searching for this particular keyword and then deliver it in your post.
To check this metric in your Google Analytics, go to Traffic Sources ==> Keywords.
BOUNCE RATE BY CONTENT
Another great way to evaluate which specific pieces of content are skyrocketing your bounce rate.
Take your pick here: you can analyze by Top Content, Top Landing Pages, or Top Exit Pages here.
Can Bounce Rate Be Too Low?
A blogger friend of mine was boasting about his 1.5% bounce rate.
If your bounce rate is anything close to that, I hate to tell you it’s not because of your brilliant traffic conversion strategies.
You most likely have Google Analytics code pasted twice on your page and all your stats are wrong because of it.
That’s exactly what my friend’s problem was as well, to his bummer.
How to find out if that’s your problem
1. Check your home page source.
Each browser has a different way to doing it, so let me show you where to find your page source in Firefox and Chrome for Mac.
If you are using a different browser, just figure out where they hide your “Page source” tab.
2. Search for GA code:
Once you’ve got your home page source up (it will look like a bunch of jibberish if you are not familiar with HTML), you need to do a quick search for keyword “google-analytics.com“.
On my Mac, I’d press “command F” to get the search tab show up (at the bottom of the screenshot), then add my keyword, and press “Highlight All“.
Now you’ll see all the instances of your Google Analytics code installed.
3. Fix it.
The simple instances of doubling up on your GA tracking code are:
- you embedded it into your theme manually, then installed Google Analytics plugin.
- Or you have Google Analytics plugin running, plus All-in-One SEO pack – and added your tracking code to both.
In my friend’s case, he was using two SEO plugins (WordPress SEO by Yoast and All-in-One SEO pack) and both of them contained his GA tracking code.
There’s really no reason to have two SEO plugins – it’s redundant and slows down your blog.
Either way, delete one of the codes and your bounce rate will sky-rocket; welcome to the club.
11 Ways to Decrease Bounce Rate
Now that you know all the basics about what bounce rate is and how to track it on your blog, let’s get down to business: how do you decrease your blog bounce rate?
The following set of tips will help you decrease your bounce rate by making your readers click on more than one page on your blog.
1. ENTICE READERS TO COMMENT
Yes, commenting decreases your bounce rate.
When someone leaves a comment, they are either redirected to another page on your blog (depending on how you have your system set up) or the page simply refreshes.
And that, my friend, means that your reader has just visited more than one page on your blog = decreased blog bounce rate.
Just a few ways to get your readers to comment more:
- Ask for the comment at the end of the post.
- Ask a question.
- Give away a freebie to your commentators.
- Make your blog a dofollow blog.
- Use KeywordLuv and CommentLuv on your blog.
- Answer all your comments.
2. ENTICE READERS TO SUBSCRIBE
Kill two birds with one stone: build an email list and decrease your bounce rate both in one shot.
The idea is the same: when someone subscribes to your list, they are usually redirected to a thank you page or a “Please confirm your subscription” page, thus visiting more than one page on your blog.
Ways to achieve higher opt-in rates:
- Make your optin forms available EVERYWHERE.
- Give away a great freebie, like a free SEO report in my case.
- Use a plugin like WPSubscribers to auto-populate the name and address fields in your opt-in forms, like you most likely see on all forms on my blog. This simple feature alone increases subscription rates.
- Use the same WPsubscribers plugin to add a check box to your comment section that allows your commentators to subscribe when commenting.
- If you don’t know where to start with building your list, start with a good autoresponder service (read my Aweber review) – it will allow you to design whatever optin forms you need and give you a simple string of code to add to your blog to activate them. Piece of cake.
3. USE INTERNAL LINKING
No post is an island.
You should always link to other related posts within any post you are writing – very much like I’ve done in this one.
Not only will it reduce your bounce rate, but it also might greatly help you to rank better for your chosen keywords.
To learn more about this technique, take a look at my post on deep linking.
4. OPEN EXTERNAL LINKS IN NEW WINDOWS
This is a common mistake even among bloggers who should know better by now.
If you have any links leading to external sites, whether in your sidebar or within posts, always make sure those links open in new windows.
If we are talking about the links within your posts, always make sure this box is checked:
If it’s the sidebar links, like affiliate offers or social media icons, make sure you add the target=”_blank” attribute to those links.
This is what it would look like:
<a href=”http://www.facebook.com/TrafficGenerationCafe” target=”_blank”>
Opening all external links in new windows ensures that your readers don’t just wander off your site; the original page they clicked away from will remain open in their browser, and they will have to come back to it at some point.
5. USE YOUR SIDEBARS WISELY
Sidebars are always a great place to add a few links to some of your best content to make sure your readers have something to click on when they are looking for ways to explore your blog.
What I see many bloggers do here though is give their readers too many options, i.e. adding too many widgets to their sidebars.
When it comes down to reducing your bounce rate, it’s best to stick with “Popular Posts” widget – everyone wants to see the best or at least most talked about content.
6. PROMINENTLY DISPLAY SEARCH BOX
Have you ever been on a blog where you are looking for specific information, but there’s no search box?
Make sure you provide that option to your readers; your bounce rate will thank you for it.
7. USE EXCERPTS FOR YOUR HOME PAGE
One way your readers will evaluate your site and decide if they want to stick around and read more is by scrolling down your home page to see what recent posts you’ve published.
That’s why it’s a whole lot better for your bounce rate if you give them a variety of posts (up to 10, I’d say) to choose from as opposed to displaying 2-3 long posts.
By an excerpt I mean 2-3 sentences, maybe 1-2 paragraphs, IF they are short, at most.
If your posts on the home page are too long, your visitors might get tired of scrolling and simply leave.
8. AVOID DISTRACTIONS
Pop-ups, external toolbars, like your Twitter stream, peel-off ads – they all create distractions that in the end will affect your traffic conversion and bounce rate.
Text link ads fall in the same category, by the way – they decrease pageviews.
9. MAKE YOUR 404 PAGE ATTRACTIVE
Yes, mistakes happen – pages go missing.
When that happens, it’s important to capture the visitors that encountered your 404 page and redirect them to where they can find the information they are looking for.
Place a few links on your 404 not found page that they might find helpful.
Add a search box to it so that they can look up the topic that brought them to your blog to begin with.
Don’t let them just bounce off your blog and go look for the info elsewhere.
10. DISPLAY RELATED POSTS
This is another good way to increase your click-throughs and decrease your bounce rate.
There are plenty of plugins that will do the job; I recommend to choose one that gives you an option to display posts by category.
If you are wondering what I use on my blog for my cool-looking after-post box that includes my related posts, it’s custom designed for my blog.
If you have to have it, I’ll put you in touch with the designer who did mine.
11. CREATE “ABOUT” PAGE
Next to your home page, this is one of the most visited pages on any blog.
It just might be what your visitors will want to click on next, thus decreasing your bounce rate; so make sure you display the link to your “about” page in the top navigation bar.
5 More Ways to Decrease Bounce Rate
The following tips focus more on keeping your visitors reading – anyone who stays on your blog for just a few seconds increases your bounce rate.
12. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A TAGLINE
Yet another big mistake many bloggers make is not having a tagline right next to their blog title or in the header itself, explaining in a few short words what the blog is about and how it would benefit the visitors.
If you look at my tagline in the header, it says “Easy Strategies to Increase Your Website Traffic Today.”
Any new visitor will immediately know what the blog is about.
If your tagline says “Welcome to John Smith’s blog!”, don’t expect too many visitors to actually scroll down.
Remember: a good tagline is all about the BENEFIT TO YOUR VISITORS, not you.
13. FOCUS ON CLEAN LAYOUT AND DESIGN
The look of your blog alone can make your visitors stay or leave.
Busy header, sidebars, tons of ads, social media widgets are out.
Clean, uncluttered, professional design is in.
Many blogger, including me, recommend Thesis theme for better bounce rate – for those exact reasons.
Your site should be easy on the eye – literally.
Here are some simple steps you can take to make sure your site is visually stimulating and bounce rate friendly:
- Choose an easy simple font.
- Go for dark font on light background (black on white is always the best way to go). White on black is one of the worst choices for conversion.
- Write as if your audience is a bunch of second-graders.
- Use short sentences.
- Use short paragraphs – 2-3 sentences at most.
- Use numbers, bullets, headings to organize your content better.
- Use images to break up the text.
All these things have a great effect on how long your visitor will stay.
15. IMPROVE YOUR LOADING SPEED
This one will hugely affect your bounce rate – no one likes to wait for a page to load.
Here are some quick tips you can take back to your blog and implement them today:
- Update to the latest version of WP, as well as update all your plugins.
- Delete plugins without mercy. If you don’t have to have it, it has to go.
- Use videos sparingly.
- Optimize all your images – use WP Smush.It plugin for that.
- Dump external ads – unless you are making decent money with them, dump them. Increase your load speed, avoid distractions, decrease your bounce rate.
- Install W3 Total Cache – it’ll cache all aspects of your site and speed up your overall performance.
16. BLOG BOUNCE RATE & YOUTUBE VIDEOS
If you use a lot of videos on your blog, there are a couple of things to make sure to do:
- Always turn off the related videos feature when embedding the code.
- There’s also a way to make your video non-clickable and stop loosing your traffic to YouTube altogether. All you need to do is to use the old style embed code and change some things in the code string as explained in this post: YouTube embed code options.
Bounce Rate Marketing Takeaway
Bounce rate is bad for SEO, traffic conversion, and your bottom line.
However the tips above will most definitely help you to keep your blog bounce rate as low as possible – just where we want to keep it.
Love it or hate it? Comment to show me that you’re alive!
Image credit: Elena Kalis Photo