Over the bank holiday weekend SEO Creative were performing some analysis on a website with a very high bounce rate. The reasons for the bounce rate were pretty obvious, but that is definitely a good thing because it means the problems are easy to address and rectify. But what about a high bounce rate on a site when it’s not as obvious? Well I thought I would put together a quick list of my top 10 reasons for bouncing off a website:
Slow loading site
People surfing the web are an impatient bunch. Long gone are the days of 56K modems and waiting 30 seconds for a page to load. If a website is slow loading (and by slow I mean anything in excess of a few seconds) then this can be a high contributing factor to your bounce rate. A slow loading page can be a result of a slow server, badly optimised images, a large amount of server requests and many more reasons. Check out the Yahoo! Y Slow plugin to see how your site is performing, as well as getting some feedback on how to improve it.
Search mismatch – The visitor can’t find what they’re looking for
Don’t you just hate it, when you click on a result in the SERPs that you think is going to contain the information you are searching for, but then when the page loads it seems completely irrelevant? If I can’t see the answer shortly after the page loads then I normally exit and continue looking through the SERPs. This is also very true for PPC landing pages. It seems crazy, but a lot of PPC adverts don’t have proper landing pages setup and just send the user to the homepage, forcing them to have to look through the site for what they were looking for; or more likely, to bounce! You should setup individual landing pages for all your PPC keywords (or at least categories of them) in order to keep your conversion rate high.
First impressions count, and this is also true for your website. Quality website design ensures that you or your business are perceived in the best possible light, and this will increase the level of trust that the visitor has which will encourage them to explore further. This is particularly true for any website that is selling a service or a product. For example, if you visited an ecommerce website that sold products at competitive prices but didn’t look professional, many visitors will choose to pay more at a trusted site because there is risk associated with your site that isn’t worth the savings.
Bounce rate can sometimes be as simple as not being able to navigate easily to another page. If the navigation is unclear or badly constructed then many users will exit the only way that they can.
Spammy or very hard selling content
At some point we’ve all ended up on a website that is really pushing the hard sell. Normally these sites have a specific and recognisable style to them, and they are packed full of sales driven content. The kind of sites that spring to mind include i.e. “New super berry used by A-List Hollywood stars to lose 5 stone in a week”, which then have lots of before and after pictures, testimonials and even scare tactics about health consequences of being overweight. There will normally be about 20 “buy it now” PayPal buttons on the screen and a limited offer such as “reduced from $200 to $47 for this week only”. These sites may have worked well a few years ago, but people have grown wise to this tactic now. If you try and sell too hard, you will lose trust and increase your bounce rate.
Site not rendering properly in browser
There are now lots of browsers available including Internet Explorer (probably still the most popular), Firefox, Safari and Opera. There are also different versions of each browser, which will render websites differently if the coding isn’t up to scratch. A lot of websites will now choose not to cater for older versions of Internet Explorer (such as IE6) as part of progressive enhancement, but you should make sure that even if your site looks different in IE6 it is still usable or your visitors will bounce. Other considerations include mobile browsers. I search the web a lot using my iphone, so checking to see how your website looks on a mobile browser or creating a mobile version of your site will make sure that you’re keeping your visitors from bouncing.
Splash page or intro animation
Splash pages were really popular a few years ago, and a lot of sites would have a splash page with a big enter button! Originally I was a Flash developer and created a lot of Flash games and Flash websites, so I have to hold my hand up to this one (somewhat embarrassingly)! Splash pages can be off putting to a visitor, especially if you’re going to make them sit through a pre-loader and an animation before they can even see the content. If you’re insistent on keeping your splash page, get some extra content, some clear navigation and some call-to-actions in there. As well as the added SEO benefits of doing this, you will be giving the visitor some more information and some clear options.
Not enough or too many call-to-actions
If a page doesn’t have a clear call to action or a reason to continue looking through the site, then a visitor will exit. On the flip side of this, if you have too many call-to-actions then you are giving your visitor too many options and all of those links will blur into background. Having too many call-to-actions is a common problem in a lot of large websites that use content management systems. Ideally you need a different call-to-action template for specific categories of pages so that only a few relevant action points are shown.
No search option
This is related to the search mismatch (number 2) where a visitor arrives at a page and the content isn’t what they expected. If they cannot find the information they are looking for, but they suspect that this website may contain it, they will prefer to search rather than go trawling through loads of content. This is particularly true for large blogs or forums. Forums can have thousands of threads, but if the visitor is only looking for one particular subject, a search field can help them easily find what they’re looking for. Otherwise, chances are they will give up and go somewhere else.
The visitor found what they are looking for
Sometimes a visitor will bounce because they found exactly what they were looking for. In order to keep them on the site, suggest i.e. related articles, setup relevant call-to-actions etc or they might not have a reason to stay and explore.