When examining a Google Analytics report of your website’s performance, one metric that may stand out is the bounce rate. This refers to the percentage of visitors who leave your website (bounce) after viewing only one page. So a bounce rate of 50% to 70% would naturally be a source of concern to most website owners. But should you get on the phone with your webmaster and demand that this be fixed?
A high bounce rate is not necessarily cause for alarm
There are a number of reasons for a high bounce rate, some good and some bad. If visitors land on a specific page of your website through a Google search and find exactly what they were looking for – such as your address, phone number, a product description, or an insightful article – your website has fulfilled its purpose, even if these visitors go away without delving any deeper. Yet, this counts as a bounce.
Let’s say you have steered people to a specific page in your website with an ad placed in social media or a link in your newsletter. When visitors land on that page but do not take the time to browse the rest of your website, these landings will be counted in the bounce rate. Again, their curiosity has been satisfied with the landing page you wanted them to go to.
If the purpose of the landing page is to engage visitors, you can lower the bounce rate by including a call to action on these pages. This might include a form for a free subscription, a discount coupon, a contest – anything of value that will entice them to reveal their interests and send you contact details that can be used in future engagement campaigns.
When to call your webmaster
There are times when a high bounce rate is not good, such as when it takes too long to load pages, causing visitors to give up and move on. This is when a call to the webmaster is in order. The webmaster can look for the most obvious things that contribute to long page loads, such as:
- Use of too many oversized image sliders
- Too many URL redirects
- Too many calls to external resources to populate a page
- Use of resource-hogging plug-ins
- Reliance on outdated versions of programming code, such as PHP which underlies WordPress
There are other sources of a high bounce rate that have to do with content that discourages people from taking an interest in your website. These problems may require the involvement of your marketing people:
- Ugly page design
- Outdated, inappropriate or misleading content
- Poor writing and grammar
- Poor navigation
- Annoying features like pop-ups, animated GIFs and auto-play videos
- Excessive use of intrusive third-party advertisements
- Absence of calls to action
- Too many “page not found” errors
- Lack of a valid SSL certificate that triggers warning messages before allowing access to website content
Finally, look at the website’s hosting plan. If the website is hosted on a shared server under an economy plan, it might be time to upgrade to a better plan.
Two seconds or less is an ideal page load time. People are not likely to wait more than 4 seconds. In our hectic way of living, there are just too many places to go and not enough time to get there.
Times are changing, however. As websites add more features, images and media to attract new visitors and keep them coming back, page loads are taking longer. This means more attention must be given to achieving a balance that keeps most visitors happy.
Nathan Muller is the author of 29 technical books and over 3,000 articles that have appeared in 75 publications worldwide. He also writes articles, blogs and social media content for tech companies and their executives.