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Search engine optimisation training (SEO) – what is a good bounce rate for a website?

Jonny Ross posted this on

pie-chart, percentagesWe have recently been asked this question by a client who has seen a slight increase in their bounce rate since we started to manage their blog. As “bounce rate” refers to the percentage of people who leave the site without looking at any other pages, it is generally considered that an increase in bounce rate is a bad thing. A low bounce rate means high website visitor engagement.

Some analysts believe that a bounce rate of over 50% is bad. But bounce rate should not be looked at in isolation; it should be considered in the context of other metrics, the type of organisation the website belongs to, and what activities have been happening to cause the increase in bounce rate.

When an increase in bounce rate is a good thing

In the case of the client I referred to earlier, their website had seen fairly low traffic before we took over. Having introduced a blog to the site and scheduled regularly updated content to be uploaded on a variety of topics, we have seen a big jump in the amount of site traffic, alongside an initial increase in bounce rate. I believe that the more popular a blog gets, the more diverse traffic it receives, and therefore the more likely that some of that traffic will bounce. In this context, an increase in bounce rate is a side effect of the site generating a much larger volume of traffic, which is a good thing!

There are lots of other reasons why bounce rate may appear high. People often visit a website to find out a particular piece of information – for example a telephone number – and leave straight away when they have found what they are looking for. Another common reason is local services; for example, a local plumber offering services in a particular geographical area may rank really highly for “plumbing services” but traffic from other regions would leave the site when they saw the plumber wasn’t based in their area. If you only operate in a particular area, it is worth spending some time on optimising for local search, and making sure your Google Places listing is up to date. More tips on optimising your website for organic search (SEO training).

 

 

 

Other metrics to look at to help improve your website performance

  • Returning visitors – this metric is a good indicator of how loyal your visitors are and how encouraged they are to come back on a regular basis.
  • Direct traffic – this tells you how many people who have typed your website URL straight in rather than coming through a search engine. It can show you over time how well known your website is becoming, and is a good indicator for the success of offline marketing campaigns.
  • Landing pages – these are the pages that people land on first when they arrive at your website. Look at your most popular landing pages to see what is working well and improve the traffic to other pages on your website.
  • Exit pages – these are the last pages that people look at before they leave your site. Regularly check these to see which areas of your site are haemorrhaging visitors and do something about it (the tips below on reducing bounce rate also apply to improving exit pages).

As we do more SEO on a website and/or search engine optimisation training for a website we are more likely to increase its bounce rate: the more we work on a search engine optimisation strategy, the more keywords we rank for (some that we are not even working on or aware of!), and so also these keywords bring us traffic but may not be targeted. By looking at the full range of metrics available, it is possible to see the complete picture and gain a much better understanding of your website’s performance.

If you follow these tips, you should – over time – see an improvement in your website statistics and bounce rate:

10 tips on decreasing your bounce rate

1)   Ensure any outbound hyperlinks are set to open in a new window. If a visitor likes what you’re talking about and clicks through to an external link you have provided, this will be registered as a bounce unless you tick the “open link in a new window” box. It also saves your reader having to click the “back” button numerous times to get back to the article they were originally reading. More link building tips here.

2)   Offer a clear “call to action” at the bottom of every page. This could be signing up your e-newsletter or RSS feed, or a “Buy now” button.

3)   Encourage comments.

4)   Offer lots of engaging content. If there isn’t much to read on your website, or nothing new for regular readers, they will leave with spending much time on your website. Treat them to great content, as often as possible, and encourage them to stay longer.

5)   Pay attention to your website design. If the website is difficult to read or visually unpleasant, visitors won’t spend very long there. Your website is your shop window, so make it visually appealing with well-placed images and a good, clear design and layout.

6)   Increase the number of internal links in blog posts so keep visitors clicking through to other areas if your website.

7)   Keep revisiting your keyword list to make sure it still works for your site, and – wherever possible – include your keywords in page and blog titles.

8)   Make a feature of the most popular posts by including a “popular posts” box in your sidebar.

9)   Create an “about the blog” page and include it in the menu.

10) Add a list of related articles at the bottom of each page so your reader can find out more. This WordPress plug in would do the trick.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. How does your website bounce rate compare? What tactics have you found successful in reducing your bounce rate?

Any examples of absolute no-nos when it comes to website design? What features of poor website design are guaranteed to annoy you most?

 

 

Comments:

  1. I stopped reading this article the second I read the first tip: set outgoing links to open in a new window. This was when your credibility was instantly lost.

    This is incredibly bad practice for usability and accessibility. User research has consistently shown that this confuses people. While you may think that they will come back to your website as soon as they close down the new window, what typically happens is either the user gets engrossed by a new task and completely forgets your page anyway and so doesn’t come back, or that they don’t like the new page, hit the back key, and then become confused about why they can’t get back to where they were and so gives up.

    People browsing on a mobile site often have a limited number of windows they can open and are even less likely to know that the original site is in another window and therefore won’t return.

    Those using assistive technology often find it frustratingly difficult to return to another window, if they even notice it in the first place.

    Do not give advice if you do not know what you are talking about, it causes even more people to go out there and spread bad practice on the web.

  2. Hi Kimberley,

    Thank you for taking time to comment, and an extremely interesting view on the topic of “new window” for links.

    Do you have any links relating to the research? As a user I prefer this method, however it may well be old fashioned so sit here with open ears to learn.

    A very interesting topic of discussion and I welcome further thoughts on this.

    Is this an issue for a particular audience e.g. visually impaired or in general?

    Look forward to hearing further,

    Jonny

  3. This smashing magazine article has a pretty comprehensive explanation of why links shouldn’t be opened in a new window: http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2008/07/01/should-links-open-in-new-windows/

    Opening links in a new window affects those with accessibility issues most of all, particularly those using assistive technology such as visually impaired people using a screen reader but it is also a general usability problem for many people. See the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) on this http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/consistent-behavior-receive-focus.html

    The main problem is in taking control out of a user’s hands. You should never assume control over how somebody uses the internet just for the sake of improving your own metrics. And why would you want to as the results you will see are false? If your stats in Google Analytics show that a person stayed looking at one page for 5 minutes, then you might be inclined to think that page is a success. However those results may only be because you opened a link in a new window and the person has actually spent those 5 minutes elsewhere. A high bounce rate indicates that you need to improve your content and no artificial ways of altering your stats is going to change the fact that people aren’t reading what is on your page.

    Of course there are exceptions to every rule. You may have heard of Jakob Nielsen, he’s something of a usability guru. His guide explains where you should set a link to open in a new window (opening PDFs and launching software applications for example) http://www.nngroup.com/articles/open-new-windows-for-pdfs/

    I hope this helps to explain the situation better

  4. Hi Kimberley
    Thank you so much for sharing all this information. Our mantra is always to write for the user before SEO so would agree with all the values of what you are saying.

    However, your comment has caused an interesting debate in our office and we have been sharing our preferences – and all of us really strongly prefer opening in a new window. In fact, the links you gave both opened in new windows and I then spent some time looking for my original with this comment!!

    Interestingly, one of the links (no longer there so I can’t find them for reference without reopening and going back etc) mentioned something about users getting frustrated with lots of tabs open. Have to say at any time I usually have between 10 and 20 tabs open (my colleague always gets cross when she sees this!) but for me it is real ease and I can quickly move between for reference etc.

    I think a lot of this is down to personal preferences – and I am now going to ask others with interest as to their preferences. My next task is to put this on Twitter and garner views

    Thanks so much for getting us all thinking and challeging ourselves
    Victoria

  5. I’m really glad that I have at least got you debating the issue 🙂

    You are right, it is down to personal preference. I almost always open a link in a new tab because I like to finish what I’m reading and then look at other resources later. But my argument is exactly that, and by controlling how a link opens you take away that freedom of choice. You can always choose for yourself to open a link in a new tab, but once somebody has set it to open in a new window, you can’t then choose to open in the same window.

    I hope you’ll share the results of your Twitter ask, I’ll be really interested in seeing what people come back with.

    Kimberley

  6. My bounce rate goes from 70 average to sometimes as high as 90%. I get a lot of people re-tweeting posts and about 1 email a week from someone saying they love it. Should I be worried?

    I’m unsure but as long as there is engagement and my readers and followers lists are growing than I am happy. Does this sound like the right mind set?

  7. Hi Amy,

    Absolutely, the right mind set is engagement!

    Sometimes it can simply be the case that a user finds exactly what they are looking for the moment they get to your website. This can account for a high bounce rate.

    I would try to do some analysis on which pages have higher bounce rates than others and see if you can see any patterns, that should help identify if there is an issue present.

    Jonny

  8. Hi Sanuk,

    As I say above bounce rate can not be looked at at in isolation. It needs context, maybe it’s worth going through the list of ways to decrease it and see what happens?

    Jonny

  9. My bounce rate is 40.00%,Daily Pageviews per Visitor 2.50 and Daily Time on Site
    3:46.

    Jonny what can you say about this?

  10. Hi guys, really interesting article. Just checked my bounce rate and it’s 1% (one percent), and has been since the beginning of the year. I didn’t realise this was that good until I read this article! I write all my own content and create my own video/audio and marketing letters, so that’s very satisfying

    And yes, I do use “open in a new window”. It’s not to get higher ratings, it’s to help my visitors remember where they started. People’s attention span is so short now (and I’m guilty of this too) that keeping my original window open behind everything reminds them that it was me that gave them the interesting content to visit.
    Thanks for the article and the discussion!

  11. Jeremy,

    Thanks for dropping by and taking time to comment, I had a quick look at your site, however i guess the reason for the 1% bounce rate is due to the pop up box, and I guess google analyitics is counting the close button as a page view.

    So not sure how accurate that is.

    Good to hear your views on “open in a new window” too!

    Jonny

  12. By all means include good keywords in the title tag. But also remember this is used by humans as well as search engines (e.g. it’s displayed in Google’s search results for the user to click on), and should not just be a list of keywords but should also describe what the page is.

    So instead of

    “ACME Inc” (company name)
    or
    “Widgets, cheap, value, New Jersey” (keywords)

    use a combination

    “ACME Inc – Supplying cheap widgets to New Jersey”

  13. Hi Mukesh,

    As I say above every website is different, every page is also different, it very much depends on content, audience and sector! Therefore there is no “ideal” also bounce rate can not be looked at at in isolation. It needs context, maybe it’s worth going through the list of ways to decrease it and see what happens?

    Jonny

  14. Great article. Bounce rate is one of the most difficult statistics to understand. My own bounce rate is actually 83%. Naturally,I would like to see it lower but one thing which springs to mind is:

    I blog 3 times per week and email the blogs to my subscribers. I assume that the subscribers are happy to read the new post and then close the page, which does not do my bounce rate any favours. They seem to make up about 25% of monthly visits.

    Am I right in thinking that this would distort my figures?

  15. @Carthage

    Yes you would be correct, there are a number of factors that can distort bounce rate, and the way you email blog posts out is a perfect example, the read clicks the blog, finds it a great read, and potentially clicks one of your external links in the blog, this would be classed as a bounce, however if the user continued to surf and found your external link interesting this would be a positive metric.

    Jonny

  16. Hi guys, really interesting article. Just checked my bounce rate and it’s 1% (one percent), and has been since the beginning of the year. I didn’t realise this was that good until I read this article! I write all my own content and create my own video/audio and marketing letters, so that’s very satisfying
    And yes, I do use “open in a new window”. It’s not to get higher ratings, it’s to help my visitors remember where they started. People’s attention span is so short now (and I’m guilty of this too) that keeping my original window open behind everything reminds them that it was me that gave them the interesting content to visit.
    Thanks for the article and the discussion!

  17. Pingback: Tony Hodge | Website Developer and Beer Enthusiast » Top 10 tips for future proofing your website against updates in search engine optimization (SEO)
  18. I was really interested to see the debate about opening links in new windows. when i browse the web I want links to open in new windows and am annoyed if they don’t.
    I do understand the other POV though I had never considered it before.
    It may well be most applicable to what type of device is being used and I would be interested to know what is the view of the majority.

  19. Hi Gabriel,

    Thanks for your thoughts; it is my suggestion that as you perform good search engine optimisation, and therefore better in search, you will inevitably receive traffic that isn’t quite as relevant as previously. Therefore you would expect any site where you vastly increase traffic to see a difference in bounce rate.

    Jonny

  20. I think a 40-50 % bounce rate is acceptably a good bounce rate for a site. Have below 40 % and that’s excellent!
    I think even the 60-70 % interval is, although not good, it’s not “the end of the World”, but above 75 %, above 80 % is terrible.
    I think anything above 80-85 % leaves a terribly negative footprint and is a bad signal in the SERPs.

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