Bounce rate 101: How to keep people on your website

Your average person might guess that “bounce rate” has something to do with basketball. For business owners, bounce rate has nothing to do with courts and everything to do with clicks.

It might sound like a bit of marketing jargon, and you might think that you can just push it aside, or let your marketing guy (or girl) worry about it, but your website’s bounce rate can make your break your relationship with your target customers.

If you aren’t sure what bounce rate is or how to measure it, we’ve got you covered.

What is a ‘bounce rate’?

Your bounce rate represents the number of people who click into a page on your website, then leave without clicking on any more links or pages.

For example, let’s say you write a blog post that generates a lot of interest. A potential customer comes to your blog post from Facebook or finds it in a Google search, reads it, and then closes out the page before going to any other page on your site. That person has, officially, bounced.

The more people you have clicking away, rather than visiting other parts of your website, the higher your bounce rate.

Bounce rate = Total number of visitors that saw just one page / total visitors to that page

So if a page had 150 total visitors, and 100 of them left your website after only viewing that page, your bounce rate would be 66.66% (or 100/150).

There are no hard and fast rules about what counts as good or bad bounce rate, but generally speaking:

  • < 40% = Exceptional, keep up the good work
  • 40 – 55% = About average, can’t complain
  • 55 – 75% = A bit higher than average, but don’t lose sleep over it
  • 75%+ = Time to do something about it

Keep in mind that some types of content, such as blog posts, will naturally have higher bounce rates. That’s because some pages are simply meant to draw people into your site, not push them toward other pages, or to push them towards other actions, like contacting you or requesting a quote. If you click on an article about a news development within your industry, for example, you are likely just looking for information on that news development and not anything else, so naturally you’d bounce away.

However, if it’s a page that is meant to draw people deeper into your site, such as a product overview page, then it may be cause for concern.

Why bounce rate matters

Bounce rate is one of the best indicators of whether people are engaging with your website. If people are constantly bouncing away from your site, it’s a sign that something about your website may be turning them off.

What could it be? There are a range of culprits:

  • Your website is taking too long to load.
  • Your website doesn’t look professionally designed.
  • Your content isn’t answering your visitors’ questions.
  • You don’t have a clear call to action, or a logical next step for your visitors to take. (For example, are you linking to related blog articles within each blog you write? Do you have “suggested products” on your ecommerce store prominently displayed?)

In some cases, a high bounce rate is natural – so don’t panic if you’re seeing high bounce rates. Just imagine a contact page with links to your social media, phone numbers to give you a ring, a physical address, opening hours, and an email address. If the page is doing its job, your visitors are probably bouncing away because they’ve picked up the phone, visited your Facebook page, or decided to head to your store.

If, however, you are seeing high bounce rates on pages that are meant to increase engagement and conversions, it may be time to do a deeper assessment of what’s going on.

How to improve your bounce rate

So you want to be the Michael Jordan of bounce rate? Here’s some troubleshooting you can do to figure out what’s happening.

1. Traffic sources

Start by looking at where your traffic is coming from, and see if you can identify any particular channel or source that is contributing to the higher bounce rate. If you notice referral traffic (website traffic coming from a third-party site) has a higher-than-average bounce rate, a good place to look first is at the links themselves and the text used. If someone has linked the words “basketball shoes” to a page that features basketball shorts instead, a visitor is going to bounce away, because the page isn’t giving them what they were looking for. The text of the link and the page need to match up to keep eyes on site.

You might also notice that your bounce rate is fine from one channel, but high on another.  If you’re investing in channels that aren’t cutting it, cut them out of your marketing campaigns until you’ve discovered and fixed the issue.

2. User experience

How easy are you making it for readers to navigate around your site? Are you providing plenty of internal links to encourage them to keep browsing? Are you making those links enticing with imagery and bold text? Ask a friend or family member who is unfamiliar with your site to sit down with you and see what they think.

Additionally, look at the layout and design of your site. Small text or pages and pages of text with no breaks or images will drive people away. Pages that load slowly won’t help your cause, so try plugging your website into a free site speed tester to see if that’s contributing to the issue.

3. The content itself

The heart of any website is its content, and it plays a huge part in the bounce rate of your site. Poorly written content just won’t cut it—your site copy should be clear, concise and aligned with the tone or your site overall. 

Examine which pieces of content have poor bounce rates, and see if you can find a pattern. Perhaps blog articles that don’t feature imagery have a higher bounce rate, or particular styles of headlines make people bounce away immediately. Once you identify the problem, you can go through current content to adjust it appropriately, while making new rules for any upcoming content pieces you put out. 

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