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Reduce Bounce Rate: 20 Things to Consider

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Bounce rate is one of those quality metrics that gets tossed around a lot in the search engine space. People are almost always talking about absolutes in terms of “this is how XYZ will reduce your bounce rate,” and so on.

I don’t subscribe to this school of thought; bounce rates need to be looked at subjectively.

While there are some general best practices, for the most part certain activities prescribed as absolute can both hurt and help websites.

Hence the title of this post. I don’t want to stand on my bounce rate soapbox and preach to you that everything in this post is going to help you, so I’m approaching this from a more realistic standpoint; the items on this list are worth thinking about, and probably trying – but this isn’t some magic wand from the land of unicorns and bounce rates under 5 percent.

A high bounce rate can be indicative of a number of things but usually falls into one of two categories:

You’re acquiring the wrong kind of traffic to your page(s), or
You’re acquiring exactly the right kind of traffic to your page(s).

Did number 2 throw you for a loop? Most people forget about the second scenario, since most websites tend to fall victim to the first.

But think about this for a second: if a user comes into your site and finds exactly what they were looking for; an answer to their question or solution to their problem, why should they stay a moment longer or look around on other pages?

Websites that are excellent at solving information problems quickly often have high bounce rates, for example here is a website that is designed to rank for question queries, offering specific and succinct answers:

bounce-rate-71-percent

Users come in, get the answers they need, and leave; but come back often.
On the Flipside

You have websites where it is critical to get your visitors to stick. You want them to spend time clicking around the site, perusing content, and build toward a conversion.

In these instances high bounce rates are a conversion killer, and anything you can do to increase the time on site and number of pageviews will most likely directly correlate to your site’s success and your bottom line.

Before we can approach improving something, it is important to make sure you have a firm grasp on what it is.

Bounce rate is often confused with exit rate, and the difference is important; bounce rate is a measure of people who bounced off a single page (i.e., they did not visit any other pages within your website), whereas exit rate is simply a measure of the percentage of visitors who left your site from that page.
Why It’s Important to Reduce Your Bounce Rate

Reducing the bounce rate on pages that have the highest volume of traffic from your highest converting sources means more engaged visitors and a greater chance of conversion.

What follows is a list of 20 considerations for reducing your bounce rate. These are by no means absolutes and are relative to everyone’s unique value propositions and audience, but generally speaking, these are worth thinking about.
1. You Should Probably Avoid Pop-ups

Pop-up ads annoy people. In some rare cases they offer something worth the roadblock, but usually they disrupt the user experience.
2. Use Intuitive Navigation for Important Items

Don’t make your visitors feel dumb (or think you’re dumb) for not providing them with clear and obvious paths to get the content they may be looking for.

The most common reaction to not being able to find something that should be obvious is frustration – and if you’ve ever been on a web page where you can’t figure out how or where to navigate, this is exactly how you feel.

Heatmaps are a great way to gain visibility into where user’s might be trying to click, giving you insight into what should be clickable. A great tool for this is Crazy Egg.
3. Poor Design is Increasingly Less Tolerable

I’m not just talking about gradients and drop shadows; design now transcends the whole user experience. Your content needs to be attractive; both in terms of graphical treatments and readability.

Design for your target audience, which may not necessarily be the audience you already have, or at least not the majority of it. Design has become a legitimacy signal and the lack thereof can directly impact visitors (and prospects) perceptions of the quality of your business and services.
4. Speed

This pretty much goes without saying these days but nothing really effects bounce rate like having a web page that takes 10 seconds to load.

Not only is this a confirmed ranking factor and lends directly to user experience, but it can cause your follower reach to stall, negatively impact your search rankings, and destroy your conversion rate.
5. Is Your Website Mobile Usable

I realize that is far from proper English, but I feel it makes my point. Being mobile friendly is ideal, but being mobile usable is critical.

Websites can still be effective as long as content can be accessed and used from a mobile device or tablet.

Furthermore, mobile usability does not necessarily mean from a design compatibility and accessibility standpoint, in many cases it means is the language on your site simple and clear enough that people on the go (on mobile devices) can still make sense of what they need to do to find information and at the very least contact you if necessary.
6. Design Information Around Priorities

This comes back to the last consideration, are your target conversion or content points clearly presented on your pages? Can users immediately get a sense of what they should expect to find or are expected to do while on the page?

Websites tends to have two paths to conversion:

Landing pages (short direct sales path)
A conversion funnel (longer process of qualifying visitors through a collection of pages that drive toward conversion)

Are you effectively managing the expectations of your visitors? A good litmus test for this is if you are able to trigger your primary page conversions more than 20 percent of the time.
7. Segment Information

This is another perspective on creating content that is designed to be digested and consumed. Readability is important here but so is the idea of grouping content into segments or categories – this is most often seen in blog posts where header tags are used to break apart large walls of text.
8. Optimize For Intent

This is a more detailed take on information design, and ensuring that based on the keywords your visitors are using to get to your pages, you are serving them an experience that address their expectations.

This is often talked about in paid search and display advertising, where the highest bounce rates are created from advertisers not closing the loop between the ad copy and the landing page copy and design. The experience needs to be consistent from start to finish or you risk breaking the user’s intent loop.
9. Be Mindful of Ad Placement

This is still a bit of a new idea (especially to advertisers) but if possible avoid the standard ad units. Not only have web users developed ad blindness but Google has also started penalizing pages that have too many ad units above the fold, and hint: they are looking for standard ad unit sizes.

Furthermore, from a publisher perspective, I can understand it’s great to squeeze an extra handful of impressions in per pageview, but if you look at some of the high performing niche ad networks, you will notice there publisher websites have a general lack of intrusive ads.
10. Lazy Load Third Party Content

Lazy loading, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a design pattern process for deferring the loading of objects until they are needed. Mashable is a fantastic example of this in action, notice how their pages load almost instantly and then new content is loaded as it is needed (as your scroll position advances toward those pixels).

This is done both for speed and user experience, and can be specified programmatically on a component by component basis.
11. Color Contrast

Readers need contrast. Contrast between colors can make a dull story into an exciting one and conversely can turn the most exciting content in the world into a palette of indiscernible whites and grays if not given proper consideration.

Contrast is important to consider as the web moves faster towards different mediums of content, with more and more happening on the pages, it is important to use colors and patterns to draw your reader’s eyes toward the important parts of the page.
12. Messaging is Blatantly Obvious

This is another consideration when it comes to focus and attention. Remember you only have a few seconds to translate value to a new visitor, so don’t make them guess.

Taglines are a great way to quickly translate purpose, but if you don’t have one another simple way is to place your site’s purpose in plain text in an obvious place (like the header or the top of the sidebar). If you sell something, say that.
13. Cut Out Distractions

I wish I could say this goes without saying, but I still run into website on a weekly basis that autoplay audio and video. These are distractions and intrusions that aren’t expected and break the experience.

Cutting out distractions not only leads to better bounce rates, but usually dramatically increases your conversion rates.
14. Offer Related Content Based on Personas

If you don’t offer related content on your pages, or intuitive navigation (hopefully with some sort of hook or teaser) then you’re missing out on a substantial number of pageviews and the opportunity to be more of a sticky resource.

Related content gets really powerful when you’re able to target it within the same categories or tags, as these segments of content tend to be attractive to visitors who make it through related posts in the same content stack.
15. Leverage Internal Search

If you don’t currently offer search functionality on your website or if you don’t regularly review internal search analytics, then you’re missing the boat. Web users have become so used to search that it is an easy behavioral pattern to accommodate and leverage for improved experience.

To take this a step further, you can use newer tools for crowdsourced FAQs to literally create a content roadmap for what matters most to your audience.
16. Open External Links in New Windows

This is an incredibly simple concept that is still often overlooked, but if you’re going to link out to a resource on your website, make sure you have it open a new window instead of redirecting the user off your site.

The best (and easiest way) to do this is to simply add target=”_blank” into the link’s tag. So for example; anchor text.
17. Prominently Display Your Search Box

This is a separate consideration from leverage internal search that has more to do with number 2 on this list; if you are going to offer helpful functionality like site search on your website, don’t make users have to search for your search box.
18. Offer a Helpful 404 Page

Nobody likes to think of instances where their website or pages may greet users with a 404 page, but these things happen.

The best thing you can do to turn a negative experience into a potentially positive one is a few things:

Use Google’s suggestive snippet for creating useful 404 pages. Visit the “Enhance 404 pages” section in Google Webmaster Tools, which allows you to generate a JavaScript snippet.
Add a search box and a link to the homepage
If nothing else, add a bit of design and humor.

19. Keep it Readable

This isn’t a duplicate of number 3. In this consideration I’m talking specifically about your page’s Flesch-Kincaid score, or the level of difficulty for comprehension of your content.

There are two tests used to determine both the ease of reading and the average grade-level required for comprehension. Both of which have been baked into a very helpful index calculator.
20. Split Up Long Posts

People have shorter attention spans than ever before. So when they see long posts they are immediately reminded of times in high school trudging through massive texts of traditional English literature.

Consider instead splitting these up either into separate posts in a series or adding pagination to break up the content into smaller and more digestible chunks. This New York Times piece does a fantastic job (with an absolutely incredible story) of consolidating their story into chapters and breaking up a substantial and engaging experience across several views and interactions.

Shipping and tax laws for eCommerce websites

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Each state has different laws pertaining to how you are responsible for taxing the product you are selling online. The congruent part of the law is that you tax if you are shipping the merchandise to a state you are conducting business in.

For example, if you have a location in Florida and Tennessee, you are shipping a product to Michigan, you do not need to charge tax on that order. However, if you are shipping to an address in Florida, you do need to charge tax on that order.

See more here:

http://keystoneclick.com/blogs/lori-highby/shipping-and-tax-laws-ecommerce-websites

Web Page Analyzers

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/

http://www.webpagetest.org/

Google’s First Page… Guaranteed?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

No SEO company can guarantee you a first page or top 10 ranking. Here’s why: There are far too many variables involved in the ranking of a website – not the least of which are the age of the domain, relevancy and quantity of content, number and quality of inbound links, competition, and of course Google’s ever-changing algorithms. That’s why legitimate SEO companies don’t make those kinds of outlandish promises.

SEO Master Plan

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

No matter how hard some people try to mystify SEO, it is not as complicated as many would lead you to believe. Despite all the techno jargon that many in the field will throw at you: SERPs, SEM, PageRank, Keyword Density, Vertical Search, Algorithms… SEO is really simple to do if you understand some basic concepts and follow some easy steps.

Search Engine Optimization is getting your content listed in all the top positions in Google, Yahoo and MSN for your targeted keywords. When someone does a keyword search in a search engine for your particular subject or niche – you want your site or content to be at the top of the list.

Here are 10 SEO tactics that have worked and are working for me at this moment in time. I make this clarification because you must understand search engines, especially Google, are constantly redefining how they rank pages. Here are my favorite tactics and strategies:

1. Quality Content is and always will be your number one factor for getting high rankings and keeping them. You must understand search engines are simply businesses who supply a product like any other company. That product is information. They must offer quality results to anyone using their service to solve a problem, answer a question or to buy a product. The more relevant, the more targeted the search solution they return, the higher the overall quality of their product and the more popular their search engine will become. Providing quality content is vital for SEO success.

2. Keywords are your number one tools for achieving high rankings. You must understand keywords and how they work on the web. You must know how many searches are made each day for your chosen keywords. Sites like Wordtracker and Seobook will give you a rudimentary number of searches. Design your pages around your targeted keywords and don’t forget to do some deep-linking to these pages on your site. Find and build backlinks to these interior keyword pages and not just to your home page or domain URL. Picking keywords with medium to low competition has worked out well for me. So too has using the more targeted and higher converting “long-tail” keywords been very beneficial for me.

3. Onpage Factors and site design will play a major role in the spidering and indexing of your site/content. Make sure all your pages are SEO friendly, made sure all your pages can be reached from your homepage and no pages should be no more than three levels away from it – keeping a sitemap listing all your major pages makes the search engines happy. Make sure you have all your meta tags such as title, description, keywords… are all optimized. (Title = around 65 characters, Description = around 160 characters) Remember, your title and description should not only be keyword targeted but these are the first contact/impression anyone will see of your site – make sure you use them to draw and entice interested visitors to your site and content. Also make sure your title and URL are keyword matched for maximum effect. Having your major keyword in your Domain Name also helps, using a pike | to separate different elements of your title has helped my rankings, so too does having your keyword in the first and last 25 words on your pages.

4. Google will send you the most qualified traffic so concentrate the majority of your SEO efforts on Google. Don’t ignore Yahoo! or MSN but Google is king of search so give it the respect it deserves. With its new browser, Google’s influence will only grow stronger so you must optimize your pages for Google. Use Google’s Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to fine-tune your pages/content for Google. I also use Google Alerts to keep up on my niche keywords and for comment link-building on the newly created pages Google is indexing.

5. Link Building is still the most effective way to boost your search rankings. Make sure you get backlinks from relevant sites related to your niche market and make sure the ‘anchor text’ is related to your keywords but don’t ignore the text and overall quality of the content linking to you. The anchor text is the underlined/clickable portion of a link. Don’t forget linking is a two-way street, make sure you link out to high quality, high ranked relevant sites in your niche.

6. Article Marketing
is a well established method of getting quality backlinks and it still works. Writing short 500 – 700 word informative helpful articles with your backlinks in the resource box is still very effective for getting targeted traffic and backlinks. Longer articles have also worked for me and I use an extensive network of distribution including SubmitYourArticle, Isnare, Thephantomwriters… plus other major online sites. Don’t forget the whole element of blogging and RSS feeds in your article distribution. And always remember you’re also using these articles to pre-sale your content or products. Don’t forget to leverage sites like Squidoo, Hubpages… to increase your rankings and traffic.

7. Onsite Traffic Hubs have worked extremely well for me. These traffic hubs are whole sections of your site devoted to one sub-division of your major theme. For example, if you have a site on Gifts, then wedding gifts could be a separate section. This would be fully fleshed out with extensive pages covering everything dealing with wedding gifts – a self-contained keyword rich portion of your site on wedding gifts. Works similar as a sub-domain but I prefer using a directory to divide it up, such as yourdomain/wedding_gifts. (Most experts suggest always using a hyphen in your urls but underscores have worked fine for me.) Search engines love these keyword/content rich hubs but keep in mind you’re creating content to first satisfy your visitors.

8. WordPress blog software is extremely effective for SEO purposes. WordPress software is easy to install on your site even if you have no experience with installing server-side scripts. Besides search engines love these highly SEO friendly blogs with their well structured content and keyword tagging. I have at least one of these on all my sites to draw in the search engines and get my content indexed and ranked. I also use Blogger (owned by Google), Bloglines and other free blogs to help distribute my content.

9. Social Bookmark/Media Sites are becoming very important on the web. These include a whole range of social sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter… media news sites like Digg, SlashDot, Technorati… you must get your content into this whole mix if you want to take full SEO advantage of Web 2.0 sites. You should be joining these sites and using them. It’s time consuming but it will keep you in the swing of things. One simple thing you must do is to put social bookmark buttons on all your pages so that your visitors can easily bookmark your content for you. You can use a WordPress plug-in or I like using a simple free site/service from Addthis.com which gives me a simple button to put on all my content.

10. Masterplan! Many webmasters and site owners forget to develop or have an overall masterplan/strategy when it comes to SEO. You must have an understanding of what SEO is and what it can do for you and your site. More importantly, you just don’t want SEO – you want effective SEO. In order to achieve effective SEO you must have three things: Relevance, Authority and Conversions.

First, your content/site must be relevant to the topic or niche area you’re pursuing – your content must fit in and be related to all the other sites in your niche. That’s why closely themed sites do so well in the search engines, they give only relevant content to what’s been searched for or discussed.

Second, your content/site must be perceived as an authority site on your subject or niche. Establish this authority position and the search engines will love you and your content. One way is to develop this authority, besides offering superior content, is to form links/partnerships with other perceived authority sites in your field. Always strive to make your site an authority site – tops in your niche – the one site everyone has to check before drawing or forming a conclusion.

Third, conversions should be your main goal of any SEO efforts because you want to convert your targeted traffic into site members, subscribers, buyers or just repeat visitors. If you’re into online marketing, conversions will be the most important element of the whole SEO process because you want buyers, not just visitors coming to your site.

Most of all, you must convince yourself Search Engine Optimization is not difficult, nor is it the equivalent of the online bogeyman as many would like you to believe. Used effectively, SEO can give you the targeted traffic you’re seeking, just follow some of the outlined steps/tactics listed above and you will have SEO working for you and your site in no time at all.