What is the Bounce Rate?
I’ve heard alot of people obsessing over this web metric recently. So just to clarify a few things on what it is and isn’t. The bounce rate is the amount of people who leave your site immediately on first arrival. According to Google – bounce rate is defined as:
“the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. “
A high bounce rate can be indicative of a number of things, but can also be influenced by a number of things.
Here’s a brief break down of a few of those:
1) Your content isn’t what they expected
So you turn up on a search for “bananas” when you are selling “apples”. Nothing much you can do about that, but don’t expect visitors to wait around. You may want to perhaps start growing a potential banana business by providing a page on your site about where they can find them.
2) Your site design isn’t professional
We make judgement calls on people’s appearances within 30 seconds of seeing someone. Unfortunately the same is true online. If we are in “buyer mode” then it is all the more important to make first impressions count. A poorly thought out navigation system, or an ugly site banner, could be enough to put people off.
Personally speaking I’ve been to sites which try to highlight the words that I typed into Google. (a crazy idea from the people behind BlogEngine.NET) – which can sometimes result in the page being a decorative blue underline city. Especially if the query on Google is quite a long string of words.
3) Where you’ve been linked from
If you have been linked to from a highly trusted resource, the chances are your visitors will stay longer than if you get a link from say comments in a blog.
Think of it this way.
If you are stumbling on the web, and are in what I call the “bored browser” mindset, you will be fickle. If you have ever used StumbleUpon – you’ll know what I mean by this. If however you are in the “ready to learn” mindset you examine web pages more carefully, you read around the subject you are researching.
Your browing habits slow down.
4) The speed of your site
If you are running on a slow server, people aren’t going to stick around. Better to invest in a lightning quick hosting package than to have visitors leave because they are waiting for pages to load. You can find a few ways to speed up a slow site here.
5) How your site looks in other browsers
Have you checked your stats to see what section of your visitors are most at ease with your site? Perhaps a rendering bug in Internet Explorer is making people think your site looks unprofessional. It’s always a good idea to check your design across multiple browsers using something like Browsershots.org
6) Audience profile
Lets say for the sake of argument you are a retailer selling shoes. If your traffic is coming from young and hip social networks such as Bebo or Myspace or Facebook – you need to analyse how many of these people are bouncing. Adding additional tracking metrics can help you determine if your online stock is appealing to younger audiences, and can actually help shape your buying decisions. Remember that age can influence how fickle an audience potentially is.