Have traffic but low conversions? Your bounce rate may be too high. In this guide, we'll share 10 factors that keep visitors hooked and browsing your website.
If your website is seeing a fair amount of traffic, or even a recent uptick in views, without a good conversion rate to match, there’s a good chance your bounce rate is too high.
Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave after viewing a single page – in other words, they hit one spot on your website and then “bounce” off.
In some cases, this can mean your website is perfectly responding to whatever query they had, and so the visitors in question had no need to stick around.
This is a rare occurrence and even if you perfectly answer their question, you want to draw visitors to check out more of your content and, ultimately, do business with you.
While you want to push most metrics as high as you can, bounce rate is that you generally want to keep low, if possible.
It can often be hard to diagnose why a given visitor is leaving your website – from functionality issues, to a poorly organized landing page (or no landing page whatsoever), to content that seems irrelevant to their needs.
Many strategies for reducing your bounce rate–and keeping visitors coming back–are good practices in general when it comes to building a quality website and improving SEO.
We’ve put together a list of the best things you can do that will keep visitors from bouncing and make them more likely to convert.
What is a "Good" Bounce Rate?
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to define an optimal bounce rate.
Some would be ecstatic to get their bounce rate down to 80 percent, while others would be appalled by such a figure. Still more people could never reach a number that low.
It’s a matter of how you want to allocate your resources – because there’s no way to make your website perfect, and you’ll never get page interactions or conversions from every single visitor.
Try to get insights into competing websites in your niche, or even the websites you admire as role models, because bounce rates can vary greatly.
In fact, they vary depending on your type of website too! Blogs have the highest bounce rates, content sites have lower bounce rates, and service sites have the lowest bounce rates of all:
On average, though, most websites have bounce rates that fall somewhere between 26% and 70%. So as a rule of thumb:
26%-40% = EXCELLENT
41%-55% = AVERAGE
56%-70% = NOT SO GREAT
70%+ = BAD
Keep in mind, if your bounce rate is under 20%, it's probably too good to be true. Something is likely broken in your Google Analytics.
Regardless of what you find, though, if you’ve never specifically targeted your bounce rate, chances are you’d be better served trying to push that number down– and driving up conversions (and return visits) in the process.
Here are 10 factors that will help you decrease your bounce rate and keep visitors coming back to your site...
1. Your Site's Load Time
The fastest way to turn visitors away from your website is by keeping them waiting.
Even though they clicked on your site, chances are there were plenty of other enticing options in their search results. If your site is laggy and slow, then they’ll pick another that works faster.
Since evaluating your pages yourself would be tedious, this is where SEO tools can help you out.
The most straightforward tool for assessing the speed of your pages is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Simply plug in any URL you’re curious about and set to work on pages with higher load times.
Addressing high page load times is usually simple. Any page with a high volume of pictures, ads, animations, or other visual elements will take longer than text-heavy pages.
This isn’t to say you should eschew visual elements. Rather, you should be picky about what you’re including on any given page and across your entire site.
When it comes to loading times, spend some extra time fine-tuning your landing page and making it load as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Ideally, this page will have only a couple of essential visual elements – ones that draw visitors in and help tell your brand’s story, along with a solid call to action (something we’ll get to later).
With so many people doing their browsing on mobile, failing to optimize for smartphone screens is a critical mistake.
The number of mobile users has increased every year and so should your emphasis on the mobile functionality of your website. If your pages won’t load or are unreadable on smartphones and tablets, anyone using such devices will bounce immediately.
This isn’t to say you should forget about desktop users, though – far from it.
Much SEO content in recent years has touted a mobile-first approach, but this is overly simplistic.
Mobile users have increased every year, but it’s important to keep in mind that the bulk of mobile browsing consists of checking emails and scrolling through social media.
So what does this mean?
Recent data shows that multi-platform users – folks who browse the internet using a combination of desktop, tablet, and smartphone – are by far the majority of users in the United States. This will continue being the case for some time.
This kind of data supports the notion that mobile matters – but also that people aren’t ditching their desktops, now or any time soon.
In other words, when you consider optimizing for mobile users, you should actually think about multi-platform users.
The key is balance. Optimize your website such that it runs smoothly on mobile, but don’t neglect your desktop users’ experience.
This advice might seem like it boils down to simply making sure your website is functional on all platforms – and that’s exactly right.
Because any time something doesn’t work on your site, it both reflects poorly on your business and frustrates the visitor – and they’ll bounce every time.
3. Links & Navigation
No matter how quickly your site loads or how nice it looks on mobile, visitors to your site won’t be happy if they aren’t getting what they expect from the links they click.
Part of that is links going to unexpected places, and part is external links that inconvenience visitors. Let’s address a few problems here.
Fix Broken Links
Broken links are a ticket to a bad user experience that will chase visitors away from your site.
What’s more, they hurt your search ranking – Google’s web crawlers stay away from sites full of non-functioning links.
This is a pretty simple fix. Plenty of tools like this online broken link checker are good for periodically auditing your website.
Link checks will find all of the broken links on your site – meaning you don’t have to comb through every page and blog post to find every last one.
Implement a Helpful 404 Page
No matter how often you audit your website for broken links, chances are you’ll either miss a couple or they’ll just crop up in between checks.
Since you can’t be sure every link will work all the time, try to improve visitors’ experience by other means.
You might not think anything of a 404 page, but it can actually give you one last chance to keep visitors on your website and prevent them from bouncing.
Most default 404 pages simply say “page not found,” which can be frustrating.
Instead, you should offer alternative options – somewhere else for the visitor to go – and personalize the 404 page, in keeping with your brand.
Have External Links Open in a New Tab
When external links open in the same tab as your website, it creates “back button fatigue.”
What does this mean? Well, if they navigate away from your website, they might have to hit the back button several times to get back to your pages.
Thus, having external links open in a new tab increases the likelihood of them returning to your site, giving you more page views, and potentially becoming leads.
If you’re on WordPress, try the WP External Links plugin, which automatically sets external links on your site to open in a new tab or window.
No matter how functional your site, if your content isn’t up to par your visitors won’t stick around.
This involves making sure content is valuable to readers – but more basic than that, it needs to be readable.
If someone visiting your site is immediately met with an indecipherable block of text, it wouldn’t matter if you were telling them how to win the lottery. Few people have the patience to engage with long paragraphs on landing pages – they want information that’s conveniently packaged.
So before addressing the information contained within your content, learn some best practices for formatting your content properly and organizing it logically.
A handful of these best practices include:
- Working in conclusions to articles – and even to paragraphs, where possible.
- Putting the most important information front and center.
- Using short paragraphs.
- Breaking up strings of paragraphs with images, bullet points (see?), and quotes.
- Splitting content into sections with helpful subheads.
- Writing conclusions that both wrap up and offer something actionable.
It’s important not to go overboard with anything you do.
Putting words in bold text can help clue readers in to keywords – but when everything’s bold, nothing is. Images help break up the monotony, but too many in an article can make it hard to find the text, disorienting readers.
If you want to improve other metrics like scroll depth, you might consider adding in a bucket brigade or two.
What are bucket brigades? Check out the beginning of this article from Backlinko for an idea.
They’re short, pithy sentences that make up entire paragraphs, and sentences that trail off and continue into other paragraphs.
Too many can get annoying, but when used properly, they can build a sense of momentum for your reader and draw them deeper into the article.
Once you’ve learned to make your content readable and attractive, visitors will see exactly the information you want them to.
5. Choice of Keywords
About that information: If it’s not relevant to the visitor’s needs, they’ll bounce right away.
People like to find the things they expect. If they searched using a particular keyword, then they navigate to your website and find nothing to do with that keyword, they won’t stick around.
Keyword optimization, then, is about a lot more than just ranking.
You might rank for some powerful keywords, but if those keywords aren’t related to your website or your products, you’re bound to frustrate visitors.
Entire articles and strategies have been written about keyword planning, and we don’t have time for all of that here.
But there’s one bit I do want to stress: Taking a balanced approach is the key (heh) to effective keyword optimization. Here’s what that looks like.
Go for High-Value Keywords
“With high-value keywords comes high-value traffic,” is what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker with his dying breath – or something like that.
All that means is you should prioritize keywords that are more likely to convert to sales.
Sometimes when people search for things, they just want information – and while you can rank for the keywords these people use, they’re probably not about to buy from you.
Other keywords indicate a desire to buy, subscribe, or otherwise spend money on a product or service. Those are the ones you want.
Consider the difference between someone looking to, say, hire a web designer or get free training. For the former, they might search “freelance web design,” while for the latter they might search “free web design training."
Both are something the same website could feasible rank for – but only one is likely to bring in revenue.
This is not to say informational keywords are worthless. Just make sure those keywords are directing visitors to pieces of content that can either build trust or convince them they need to buy something.
Cross-Reference for Relevance
Let’s say you could rank for high-value keywords like “freelance web design” or “award-winning web design.” Great!
Now let’s say you don’t offer those services. Oh.
High-value is actually a combination of things. It’s a keyword used by someone likely to buy a product – but it’s also a keyword that directly relates to things you offer.
Make sure the keywords you’re targeting actually seem relevant to your product, or else visitors will see that you have nothing to offer them right away.
Update Content According to Keyword Rankings
If your website is getting a fair amount of views already, chances are you’re already ranking for some keywords.
In which case, visitors might be bouncing because of a problem related to the above point: They see no evidence that you have anything valuable to offer them.
That’s critically different from the above point, though. In this case, rather than making sure the keywords you’re targeting are relevant, you’re making sure the you rank for organically have corresponding content for readers to engage with.
Whatever the highest-value keywords are of this group, optimize them on your website’s major pages and pieces of content, particularly your landing page.
Implementing the keywords visitors are already using to find your website can drastically cut your bounce rate – because suddenly, everything you have to say seems very relevant to their search.
6. Opt-in Forms
It may not be that visitors have deemed your content irrelevant when they bounce – they may just not know what to do next.
Putting in email opt-in forms can take a visitor from a happy reader satisfied with the information you presented to them – to a lead who’s decided they want to see more from you.
There are many plugins and tools for adding such forms.
Hello Bar is what we use here at Persuasion Nation. You can sign up for a free account, install Hello Bar, and have your first opt-in form live in minutes. It's super easy, and it works for any kind of website or blog.
Or if you’re a WordPress user, you could also try something like Thrive Leads. They’re pricier, though, so it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it – and of course, there are plenty of other options for WordPress users if you don’t like either of these.
7. Clear Calls to Action
Every page on your website should give visitors a clear something to do – whether that’s subscribing, downloading your e-book, or navigating to your contact page for a consultation.
Unfortunately, some try to implement calls to action in a more scattershot manner, with half a dozen or more enticing places for visitors to click.
While this can technically reduce your bounce rate, it does little to increase your conversions.
Why? Because when you include several calls to action that all look equally enticing, your readers will never go where you want them to – and yes, you should have a plan for their path through your website.
Without a clear directive, readers tend to wander around your website. No matter how good your content is, you can’t keep them on your pages forever, and eventually they’ll leave without ever moving forward in the process.
Not only that, but including too many calls to action creates a Paradox of Choice for your readers.
The Paradox of Choice is a psychological principle suggesting that people become dissatisfied when they have too many choices. The more choices they’re presented with, the more they’ll worry about choosing the wrong one.
In other words, offering too many calls to action could overwhelm readers and lead them to not choose anything at all.
Then they bounce.
How do you solve this?
Make the call to action on every page crystal clear.
You can include a couple calls to action in some places, such as inviting readers to follow your social media and subscribe to your email list following articles.
But for the most part, you want everything on each page to point readers to one place – ensuring that they go where you expect them to and start moving down your funnel.
8. Social Proof
Speaking of psychological principles, there’s another you can use to your advantage to get people to stick around: social proof.
Social proof is a phenomenon where people mimic the actions of others before them in a given situation.
Its relevance to marketing your products, though, is in the fact that people tend to trust things that other people have trusted – it’s all about reputation.
People often trust that a larger group has more knowledge than them as an individual, so if they’ve wound up on your page and are wondering whether to stick around, they’ll look for evidence that others have found your website worthwhile.
This is a relatively simple principle to appeal to across your website: Simply incorporate signals of trustworthiness in the form of reviews, quotes and testimonials, and likes on social media.
Add a view counter to the top of your blog posts (assuming you have a decent following) so that when people stumble onto your content for the first time, they know others have taken the time to engage with it as well.
If you can present yourself as an authoritative source of information and a business that others are already engaging with, that decreases the likelihood of visitors leaving your website.
9. Including a Search Function
Usually if the page a visitor winds up on seems irrelevant, they’ll bounce right away – but if they don’t, you should give them some help in finding what they’re actually looking for.
Many businesses and web developers overlook the utility of a search feature on their websites.
This is a mistake.
While it won’t often help you retain visitors to your site, it will never chase them away – and given the ease of implementing a simple search bar, this is pretty much a zero-risk move.
It’s similar to upgrading your 404 page. If a user gets a 404 error, that’s bad – but a helpful 404 page just barely boosts the likelihood of visitors giving your website another chance and possibly converting.
The same goes for a search function. You hope visitors can find what they need on your site right away, but if not, putting in a search bar gives them one more option before they bounce.
10. Publishing Consistently
Have you ever visited a site and realized the most recent post was from years ago?
This would raise a red flag in anyone’s mind – so be sure to post not just consistently, but frequently.
While it might seem spammy to put up multiple new blog posts every week, it’s actually one of the most legitimate and honest things you can do.
See, visitors to a website that has a relatively inactive blog are bound to see that blog for what it is: a means of bringing in traffic and nothing else.
Posting frequent, high-value, and authoritative content, on the other hand, helps you to build trust with visitors.
The truth is, very few new visitors to your site will convert on their first pass. Consumers are more discerning than ever before, and with so many online businesses selling them things, they care about buying from worthy sources.
Posting frequent and consistently good allows you to show your worth.
Yes, you can use these posts to optimize for keywords more efficiently, of course – and you should.
But posting frequently also proves you’re paying attention to your industry. If you can set yourself up as a trustworthy source for visitors, rather than simply as a business trying to make money, they’re that much more likely to buy from you.
With so many different reasons that visitors might have for bouncing, addressing everything can seem overwhelming.
And it’s true – there are simply too many factors for you to optimize absolutely everything about your site.
Every visitor is different. While an opt-in form might help you speak to some visitors, others might be put off by the pop-up window in their face.
Optimizing for certain keywords will make some visitors less likely to bounce, but you’ll inevitably neglect other keywords, causing others to think your website is irrelevant to them.
The key to not pulling your hair out while doing all this is to look at the big picture and to know your audience.
With every decision you make about your website, keep your audience in mind. You might alienate some readers and potential customers, but as you speak more effectively to your core audience, your bounce rate will dip – and your conversions will skyrocket.
Benjamin H is a marketing strategist and writer. He enjoys growing companies online using advanced marketing strategies. His hobbies include reading, writing, and watching documentaries.