One of the main purposes of content marketing is to attract visitors to your website. When your content hits the right notes, visitors will click through to new pages and you will have a better chance of converting them into a sale.
However, there will also be times when your pages are not doing enough to keep visitors engaged and encourage them to explore more. While this is not a problem in isolation, it can become an issue if a large number of visitors are navigating away from a product page or blog immediately.
This is where bounce rate comes in. This handy metric will enable you to determine the exact percentage of visitors who are venturing to your site and then exiting stage right after viewing only one page.
If you are worried that this is happening to you, Google Analytics can provide some clarity on the situation. Under the Audience Overview tab, you will be able to see the bounce rate for your site. What does this percentage mean?
Bounce rates are always fluctuating and can be affected by a number of different factors. This makes it difficult to define exactly what a ‘high’ or ‘low’ bounce rate is. According to research by RocketFuel, the majority of websites will have a bounce rate figure of between 26% and 70%, which is a large spectrum. Unlike many other metrics, lower numbers are better in this case.
Fortunately, there are a few broad bands that allow you to grade how your site is performing in relation to bounce rates. A percentage of between 26% and 40% is ‘great’, while 70% or higher is ‘bad’. If you are in the latter category or have an ‘average’ result of between 50% and 70%, there is likely to be a root cause.
Slow loading pages
There has been a lot of talk about slow loading pages in recent weeks as Google has recently confirmed that page experience signals will be part of its search algorithm from May next year. Site speed already factors into the algorithm, but it will be weighted more heavily alongside the Core Web Vitals in 2021.
Visitors do not like to wait for pages to load, plain and simple. A load time of around four seconds or more will lead to frustration and prompt many to navigate away, maybe even to a direct competitor, which is a problem.
You can use the PageSpeed reports in Google Search Console and Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how your site is doing in regard to loading times. Quick fixes for issues here include compressing images and using browser caching.
A bounce rate of 70% or higher is indicative of a page that is either blank or not loading at all. You can find out quickly if this is the case by loading your site on desktop and mobile on a popular browser such as Chrome or Safari. A brief glance at the Coverage tab in Search Console should also tell you what Google is seeing here.
Pages returning a 404 error will lead to a spike in bounce rates and can torpedo your search engine optimisation efforts as Google could drop your page from rankings entirely. Make sure to consult with a webmaster or IT specialist to sort this out if it is a problem.
Inaccurate title tag and meta description
Title tags and meta descriptions should provide an accurate and relevant summation of the content on a particular page. Problems occur when visitors navigate to a page expecting something and then are presented with copy that is out of context or misleading.
Google actually rewrites meta descriptions for around 63% of search results and only uses the ‘hardcoded’ description 37% of the time. It does this to make the description more relevant for long-tail keywords.
This does not mean that you can skip on optimising meta descriptions though. A compelling snippet will drive more clicks to your pages and keep people around when they get there. If you are experiencing high bounce rates for important pages, prioritise these first and make adjustments based on the content within.
Lack of internal links
Internal links are very effective at turning visitors into new leads. This can improve your bounce rate as those navigating to your webpages will click through to another section of your site during or after reading a blog using these internal links. The absence of a coherent internal linking strategy or calls to action could be an issue as you are not providing readers with the impetus to continue exploring.
Links need to be used judiciously though. Be very specific with what you are linking to as it needs to add value. It should also fit neatly into the journey that you want prospective clients or customers to take. If you think that this is something that you are struggling with, partnering with an agency to create and optimise your content could be the solution.
Poor page experience
Fast loading times are not the only part of the page experience equation. Visitors want an exemplary user experience. This means a page that presents all assets quickly, while also being intuitive and simple to navigate. Any poor UX decisions or a lack of optimisation can backfire and lead to higher bounce rates.
When optimising for page experience, it is also important to pay close attention to mobile-readiness. Google is switching to a mobile-first index in March 2021 and the search giant has confirmed that the new index will no longer feature desktop-only sites.
There is a range of factors that can lead to high bounce rates. You first need to find out why your pages may be struggling to keep readers engaged and then move on to addressing any issues.
For best practices moving forward, you should make sure that your content is of the highest quality; your site is fast and intuitive; non-essential elements are minimised; and internal linking, menus and on-site search are used to get visitors where they want to be as fast as possible.