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 is a way to measure the quality of your web traffic. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter your site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing on to view other pages.
Essentially, your bounce rate tracks the number of visitors who come to your site and then leave in a hurry.
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 shows how ENGAGED your visitors are with your site and how much STICKY POWER your site has.
Lower bounce rate (i.e. fewer people leaving your blog without sticking around) is usually great – you are doing a lot of things right.
Higher bounce rate means you need to start thinking about increasing the “Sticky Power” of your site.
The more you can lower your bounce rate, the more opportunity you have to convert visitors.
What Is YOUR Bounce Rate?
Your Google Analytics will tell you all you need to know about your bounce rate.
The best bird's eye view of your bounce rate is under Acquisition => Overview.
If Google Analytics scares the marketing out of you, I recommend you take a look at this post:
What Is a Good Bounce Rate?
No such thing.
“How much money is enough?” – “One more dollar.”
“When is your bounce rate good?” – “When one fewer visitor bounces.”
You get the point.
Let me tell you a bit about the bounce rate at Traffic Generation Café to benchmark against.
Bounce Rate at Traffic Generation Café
My blog bounce rate is at about 80% 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 its traffic sources become, the more likely some of that traffic to bounce.
More Direct Traffic = Higher Bounce Rate
For instance: my direct traffic (people who come to Traffic Generation Café by typing its URL in the address box – just one example of what direct traffic is) 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.
More Search Engine Traffic = Higher Bounce Rate
Search engine traffic is more likely to bounce as well.
As your blog grows, it might be ranked for more and more keywords, some of which will inevitably be completely accidental. Those keywords might bring you traffic, but it won't be targeted.
Example: once I happened to mention a song in a blog post and, all of a sudden, that post started ranking for the song lyrics.
The resulted search engine traffic had no interest in traffic generation. They left Traffic Generation Café as soon as they realized it wasn't what they had searched for, thus increasing my bounce rate.
Just in case you want to know what happened, I ended up deleted the lyrics from my post, which eventually caused Google to de-rank the post for that specific keyword phrase.
So you see there are some very legitimate factors that affect your bounce rate that you can't really do anything about.
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 an SEO plugin of sorts – 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.
What Does Bounce Rate Have to Do with SEO?
The official word from Google is that analytics bounce rate data is NOT used for search engine rankings.
In case Matt Cutts wasn't clear enough on the issue of bounce rate and search engine rankings back then, Google's Gary Illyes recently confirmed in a tweet that Google doesn't use analytics/bounce rate in search rankings.
Whether or not you believe that Google doesn't use analytics bounce rate in search engine rankings is entirely up to you.
Personally, I agree with Moz' Dr. Pete Meyers that Google doesn't need to tap into our analytics data: SERP CTR and Dwell time are all the metrics they need.
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, convert more visitors into customers, and make more money?
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.
- Answer all comments.
- Create a commenting tribe to show social proof and encourage more comments.
2. Give Readers a Reason to Subscribe to Your List
Kill two birds with one stone: build an email list and decrease your bounce rate 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.
- Use a plugin like WPSubscribers to auto-populate the name and address fields in your opt-in forms. 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.
Here's an interesting read where you might find quite a few great ideas to get your list building off to a great start:
3. Interlink Posts to Other Relevant Content on Your Site
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 Window/Tab
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 Sidebar 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 Post Excerpts on 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 Sticky
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 Your Site Has 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 Genesis theme for better bounce rate – for those exact reasons.
14. Improve Readability
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 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 and 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!
Featured image credit: Molly Elliott on Flickr