Most bloggers I know want to reduce their bounce rates. Sometimes it can seem as if it doesn’t matter what the bounce rate for a page actually is, we want it to be lower!
While it’s a stretch to expect we’ll hit a zero bounce rate, for most bloggers, it is worth looking at your bounce rates regularly, and trying to find ways to reduce them where appropriate.
While blogging’s about people—not just numbers—bounce rates can give you hints about the ways individuals are using your blog, and where you can help them out. In this post, I’d like to explain that in a bit more detail.
What is a bounce?
You undoubtedly know what a bounce is—a user who lands on our page from an external source, then leaves our blog without looking at any other pages. It’s a “single pageview” usage of our site.
But what does a bounce mean?
- Did the reader get what they came for, and leave?
- Were they disappointed by what they saw on your blog page?
- Did they arrive at the page expecting to see something else?
- Is the content current and compelling—and clearly so?
- Is it clear from a single glance at the page what your blog is, does, and delivers?
- Are there clear paths from that page to other actions or information that are likely to meet the needs of target users?
- Are the bouncers regular readers who check out all your posts, so each time they just come to the latest one, read it, and go again>
Understanding the possible reasons for the bounce is an important step in doing something to reduce the bounce rate itself. Let’s look at a case study from ProBlogger to see exactly how the diagnosis of reasons for a high bounce rate can go.
The bounces, and the page
On a usual trawl through the site’s stats one month, I spotted this:
These stats were for a single month. As you can see, this page attracted some good views, and almost 95% of them were from new visitors! But the bounce rate was really high, the time on site low, and the average visit duration? Terrible!
My first thought was to visit the page itself. It didn’t take me long to find a few issues—let’s step through some of the main ones I found (note that I’ve updated the post since, so these items have been addressed on the live page):
- The opening dated the article. This piece has a publication date of 2008, but even if the new visitors didn’t see that, the opening, which would have been fine at that time, was written when I was a Twitter newbie—not ideal these days!
- This problem was amplified by the outdated Twitter follower number I’d quoted. I mentioned in the post that I had 5500 followers; now that number’s over 160,000.
- I’d included a link to Twitip in the opening. This immediately pulled readers through to one of my other sites, which doesn’t generate any income. While the content had been valuable, that site’s a bit dated now, due to a lack of regular updates. It certainly seemed smarter to try to keep these new visitors on problogger.com a bit longer, rather than syphon them off to Twitip.
- Much of the content in the article itself was dated.
- The post didn’t provide many links to other great articles we have on topics like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks, and social network engagement strategies, here at ProBlogger—simply because that information wasn’t available back in 2008 when I’d written the post.
Yep, this page was pretty outdated! But I bet most sites that have been around for a while will probably have a page or two that are in a similar state.
Sources of bouncing traffic
Okay, so I knew I had a problem with the content of the page—and there were plenty of opportunities to improve it. But in order to make the right improvements—improvements that would give me the best chance of reducing that bounce rate by actually meeting individuals’ expectations—I wanted to know what the users were expecting to see when they came to the page. What needs did they have?
So I took a look at the traffic sources for the page:
This was interesting. For any blog that gets a lot of its new traffic from search engines, you might expect the main traffic source to be Google. And when I first looked at the page in question, I’d imagined that most of the traffic to this page was coming from search and being pulled to Twitip. In fact, the traffic was coming from Twitip.
Understanding how the page is being used
Now I was getting a pretty clear idea of how this page was being used, and why the bounce rate was so high.
Twitip users were following a link from that site to this article. The second paragraph of the post was directing them right back to Twitip. In that case, would they feel that ProBlogger was more of an authority on Twitter than Twitip? Not likely. No wonder the bounce rate was so high!
But, as expected, Google was also among the top three referrers, and that traffic had a bounce rate of more than 90%.
Knowing that this page was being visited mainly by new users, it was worth looking beyond the content itself, to the page’s layout, branding, and design.
This page is laid out in the same way as the others on my blog, many of which—even if they mainly attract new users—don’t have such high bounce rates. This suggests that the layout probably isn’t the problem.
Now, the major call to action—the main point of engagement and interaction—on my blog’s content pages is to comment. Comments had long since closed on this post, so users may have struggled to find their way to other relevant content on the site at the post’s end. I’d included a Further Reading list there, but the articles were no longer current.
Yet, given how outdated the post was, and the tiny average visit duration, I guessed the visitors I was getting probably weren’t making it that far through the post anyway.
Understanding your bounces
As you can see, a little sleuthing can go a long way in helping you to understand the reasons for high bounce rates.
I try not to be thrown into a panic by the numbers alone. When I look a little deeper, I usually hit on more information that can help you take action on the bounces—if indeed that’s what you want.
In the case of this page, we made some tweaks to bring the content up to date an try to draw search traffic more deeply into the site.
But the reality for the high bounce rate from Twitip users is this: Twitip targets a different audience from ProBlogger. While it’s not unlikely that bloggers will read Twitip, that site is at once far more focused (Twitter tips only!) than this one, and more broad (it targets anyone who wants to use Twitter better—which could include casual, social users of the network, right through to online marketers in corporate environments).
So while ProBlogger contains Twitter tips, to try to convert traffic from Twitip into readers of this blog is probably a bit of a challenge. The two audiences want different things. While it was definitely worthwhile updating the ProBlogger post, the Twitip audience, on the whole, probably isn’t going to be interested in what we’re doing over here.
And that’s an important thing to realise: not all bounces are bad, and not all need addressing. Many do and will, and they’re the ones you’re better to spend your time trying to fix. But you won’t be able to work out which ones they are unless you take a few minutes to dig into the facts behind the bounces in the first place—to think about the individual users behind the numbers.
What do you do about your blog’s bounce rates? Have you been able to lower bounce rates through any specific tactics? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.