High bounce rate

Why is my bounce rate so high?

That's one of the first questions that nervous marketers, bloggers, and business owners ask when they first start diving into analytics. Today, I'll give you 5 reasons.

First, a definition of terms. What's a bounce rate? According to the good people at Google:

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e., sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).

In English? They visit one page and they leave. They may read the page. They may pore over the page. They may take artful photographs of the page to pass down to their grandchildren. But they visit one page and then they leave.

This is a critical issue for marketers because, speaking in generalities, staying is good and leaving is bad. If they leave without doing anything, they have, by definition, not signed up for your mailing list, not clicked on other content, and they almost definitely haven't bought anything.

(The exception here is if you have stuff for sale that exists elsewhere. They came, they read your scintillating book excerpt, and they left for Amazon to buy your book. This is the exception, and we're assuming it doesn't apply to you.)

So… Why is your bounce rate so high?

1. There's nowhere else to go.

Perhaps the most common reason people don't stay for more than one page is that there's nowhere else to go. Either there's nothing else for them to do at all – you're not linking to anything – or your mobile site is set up so that anything in your desktop sidebars is so far below the content that they're not aware it exists.

Solution: Give people things to click on, ideally in more than one place. Link from within your content and link at the bottom of your content. This can take the form of fancy WordPress plugins and graphics and dancing unicorns, or it can take the form of a text link. (Liked this piece? Read 6 Things They Mean When They Say They Have No Money next.)

2. Your site sucks on mobile.

Recent studies show that 439% of internet users, including those not even born yet, only ever use their phone or tablet to visit webpages. If your site is not optimized for mobile (or “mobile friendly”), they will all leave to watch Let's Play Minecraft videos on YouTube.

Keep in mind, “optimize” is the verb form of “optimal”. Synonyms of “friendly” include warm, affectionate, sociable, approachable, and hospitable. Your site may technically work on mobile, but is it friendly? Is it optimal? If this page makes their eyes bleed, the odds are not good that they will click on something to see if that one's any better.

Solution: Find five-or-so people with cell phones and tablets, all of them different. I want little phones, big phones, little tablets, big tablets, and I want more than one brand. Look at your site from their devices. If your site leaves something to be desired, you need a new mobile theme.

(Keep in mind that a new mobile theme does not necessarily mean a website redesign. It might make perfect sense to keep your desktop design looking exactly the way it does now, just getting a new theme for mobile users. It doesn't have to be expensive.)

3. Your load time is too long.

The first time I had internet in my house was 1999. Late at night I would nurse my son and read Nerve and Slate and Salon. Well, when I say “read”, I really mean find anything on earth to stare at while the page loaded. If the internet was slow that night, I could haul him into the kitchen and make myself a tea while I waited.

Attention spans have decreased since then.

If it takes too long for your page to load, people are not going to sit around and wait. If they don't know and like you, they're gone. If they do know and like you, they'll decide to “come back later”. (They won't come back later, but they'll think they will.) Either way, it's a bounce.

Solution: Call a designer. Say, “My site is really slow.” If you don't have very much money, follow that up with, “…but I don't have very much money.” Follow the steps they outline. Don't worry, they get this call a lot.

4. You lie in your headlines.

This one is most likely to affect people who read a lot of marketing, blogging or copywriting blogs. Some marketer gets it in our hero's head that they need to write magnetic headlines or compelling headlines or shocking headlines or attention grabbing headlines and our hero says to themselves, “Well, that sounds like a darn good idea.”

Our hero improves their headline to say something like, “5 Hidden Secrets To Slashing Your Bounce Rate”. The reader sees this admittedly compelling headline and clicks on over. Upon arrival, there are no hidden secrets. Reader rightly surmises writer is a liar and departs.

Solution: Option one: Practice writing headlines that do not contain outright lies. Alternatively, write a compelling headline first and then create content that keeps the promise.

5. You're getting random search traffic.

At the time of this writing, our two most popular posts are What To Do When You're Scared Sh*tless and How To Not Be So Goddamn Scared All The Time. A significant amount of our search traffic goes to those pages, and visitors coming in with those search terms are statistically unlikely to want business advice.

Sometimes you inadvertently hit a zeitgeist with a piece that nets you a lot of search traffic from people who won't like the rest of your site. Either those visitors will realize this upon seeing your header and leave instantly, or they'll read the piece and leave at the end. Either way, they bounce.

Solution: If it's appropriate (and it seldom is, but you never know) you can create crossover content to link to from the random piece to capture the people who are interested. If the traffic is truly random (like the metric ton of beekeeping search terms we got for an old ebook sales page) there's not much you can do to keep those people.

If you're the pattern recognition type, see if you can look at what you've inadvertently done in your random page to optimize for whatever weird terms you're getting. Can you replicate that in your topical content pieces? True, maybe you're just the only one on the internet talking about pink golden retrievers, but it's possible you might have stumbled on an SEO goldmine. It's worth a look at least.

There are a lot of reasons your bounce rate may be high.

These are five of them.

Certainly, many others exist.  But taking a look at these first five should go a long way towards making a difference in the bounce rate that you have now.