11 ways to reduce bounce rate and improve website performance

When you open up Google Analytics for the first time it can be more than a little overwhelming.

There are many data points to measure and in this article I’ll be focussing specifically on bounce rate and how to improve it.

The most common questions we get asked about bounce rate are:

  1. What is an ideal bounce rate?
  2. Why is my bounce rate so high?
  3. What can I do to reduce and improve my bounce rate?

Part of our job here at CMA is to spend a lot of time studying Google Analytics and determining how to improve website performance through content marketing.

The main purpose of this article is to help you to get your visitors to view 2 or more pages when they visit your website, which will in turn will reduce your website bounce rate.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce Rate - Google Analytics

There are a few misconceptions about bounce rate, so let’s clear that up first.

Instead of being shown as a whole number it is delivered as a percentage in Google Analytics. What this percentage shows is how many people (as a percentage) visit your website and bounce straight off the same page. What it’s really measuring is how many visitors view one page of your website and don’t visit a second or third page page before leaving.

The other misconception about bounce rate is that it is has something to do with the amount of time someone spends on your site. However, even if someone spends 4 minutes on one page and then leaves without going to a second page, it still counts in the bounce rate.

If you want to measure true bounce rate then you also need to measure it against time on site, which I discuss further later on.

In general though, and the main reason that you’re here, is that you want to find ways to reduce your website bounce rate.

Why is bounce rate important?

The bounce rate can help you to identify potential performance opportunities for your website, but on it’s own it doesn’t give you the answers.

As far as the high-level numbers are concerned, typically you would use the average session duration (time on site) and bounce rate together to determine a better understanding of website performance.

For example, if you have a high bounce rate (>70-80%) and high time on site (>3-4 mins) this may indicate that although visitors are ‘bouncing’, they are staying for a while and likely getting value from the page they are visiting. This is likely to happen if you are frequently publishing content, although you would still be keen to get the bounce rate down to 40-50%

If you have a high bounce rate and low time on site (<1 min) then there should be cause for concern and the potential issues could be:

  • Irrelevant content and/or attracting the wrong audience
  • Poor website and home page design – next steps are unclear
  • Poor navigation – visitors don’t know where to go next
  • Slow loading website – visitors move on before your site loads fully
  • Not mobile friendly – a poor mobile experience will cause visitors to move on

All that being said, without context bounce rate is a little useless, so let’s take a look at what an ideal bounce rate might look like for you.

What is an ideal bounce rate?

You’re probably looking at your bounce rate right now and wondering if it’s good or bad.

There’s no hard and fast rules here as it depends on your content strategy, but we can discuss some round numbers to help you benchmark your bounce rate.

If you have a content marketing focussed website that has a lot of blog articles and podcasts on it you could be looking at a bounce rate of around 40-60%.

If you frequently publish content what you may find is that your bounce rate is higher than you would like because your visitors read your latest content and then move on.

If your website is mostly landing and sales pages, and you have a high traffic sales funnel process, you will probably find the bounce rate will be higher. This is because a high percentage of your visitors will not complete the sales process.

If you have more of a knowledge base and service based website the bounce rate might be slightly lower at around 20-30%.

In other words, there’s no set rule here and the bounce rate can really depend on your content strategy. That being said, the following is a reasonable rule of thumb:

A low bounce rate is between 20-30%, an average bounce rate is around 40-50%, and a high bounce rate is >70-80%.

11 ways to reduce and improve your website bounce rate

I have discussed what bounce rate is and why it’s important to pay attention to it, now let’s look at 11 ways to improve bounce rate on your website.

In general, the aim here is to get your visitors to visit 2 or more pages on your website when they visit.

1. Publish relevant and helpful content

It probably no surprise to you that content is first on the list here.

It’s far more likely that visitors are going to spend more time and look at more pages on your website if you have lots of relevant content for them to actually look at and consume.

If you’ve only got 5 pages on your website there’s only so much a visitor can look at, and they aren’t going to have a compelling reason to come back any time soon. Also, without content you are very limited to your options for improving bounce rate.

However, if you have embraced the principles of content marketing and you are creating highly valuable and helpful content, the chances of improving your bounce rate are far greater.

Click here to master content marketing in just 10 days

2. Attract a relevant audience

Focus as much as you can on creating content for your ideal customer.

If you attract a relevant audience to your website they will be more likely to hang around for longer and look at more of your content.

I’m sure there are 100s of topics you could create content for, but focus on creating content that’s going to attract the right people.

Another important aspect is making sure that Google understands clearly what your content is all about so you can attract the right people. Check the following aspects are clear:

  • Page/post title
  • Pag/post URL
  • Opening paragraphs
  • Meta descriptions

In short, your content has to be written for your visitors, but Google also needs to clearly understand who the content is for.

3. Signpost your visitors to related content

For example, if I have written an article about bounce rate and I have another article relating to Google Analytics or improving website performance, I would then provide a link to the relevant content in the article, just like this:

Related content

Other tactics include having related articles and recent posts displayed at the bottom of the page, in the footer or in the side bar area of your website.

LinkedWithin is an application you can use for free to show related content under each post and encourage your visitors to view more than one post.

My friend Jason Resnick discusses a slightly more advanced tactic in this article.

Don’t forget that a sidebar is useless on mobile devices, so try to include relevant links throughout your content.

4. Mobile friendly website

In many countries the number of smartphones has surpassed the number of personal computers and therefore having a mobile friendly website is crucial for a ensuring a great online customer experience.

Click here to use Google’s very own mobile-friendly test to check your website.

It’s also important to make sure you test this mobile experience out for yourself. Check how easy it is to find your content on your smartphone. Make sure it loads quickly and it’s clear and easy to navigate.

It’s not just about having a mobile responsive or mobile-friendly website, creating a great mobile experience is important too.

5. Fast loading website

People aren’t very patient these days, I think we can all relate to that.  We expect websites to load in a matter of seconds, and if they don’t load quickly we’re off somewhere else to find what we’re looking for.

There could be many reasons for a slow loading website, and the best thing to do is test the speed and see where you can make improvements.

Click here to visit Pingdom.com – a free website speed testing application.

6. Clearly presented and easy to read content

As mentioned previously, a great online experience will not only keep your visitors on your website for longer, but encourage them to want to look at more of your content.

Here are some tips for well displayed content for a great visitor experience:

  1. Dark font on a light background
  2. Large font
  3. Subheadings and titles
  4. Bullet points and lists
  5. Increased line spacing
  6. Reduce clutter and any unnecessary features
  7. Clearly hyperlinked text

It’s also worth the time exploring your website on several mobile devices to get a feel for reading and consuming content on smaller screen sizes.

Related content:

7. Clear top level navigation

How easy is it to find the main pages on your website?

Ensure the top level navigation on your website is easy to understand and navigate, and make sure the main pages you want your visitors to go to are featured there.

Try to avoid large drop down menus where possible and use simple wording.

Use a good clean colour contrast, a clear font and keep it simple.

Check the menu navigation on mobile too – this is where navigation can really let you down.

8. Great home page design

As discussed in our previous Google Analytics article, the purpose of your home page is to get your new visitors to page 2 as quickly and easily as possible .

In other words, your home page should be designed to signpost visitors to exactly where they need to go next.

  • Do you know what you want visitors to do when they visit your home page for the first time?
  • Are you clear on exactly what your visitors are looking for when they visit your home page?

Make sure to be critical of the ‘above the fold section’, this is what most people will see when they first visit your website.

Keep the home page simple, clear and make it easy for your visitors to identify exactly where they should go next.

9. Increase social proof and credibility

When someone visits your website for the first time they have to feel like they are in the right place. People judge you online before they judge you offline, and if the website design is poor and generally feels unprofessional they are likely to go elsewhere.

Trust is not only important when it comes to making a purchase online, but your visitors have to believe that the content they are reading is from a trusted source.

There will be a follow up article linked right here on how to build trust quickly online, and in the interim think about the following aspects:

  • Correct spelling
  • Contact details are easy to find
  • Professional website design
  • Social proof and testimonials

Related content

10. Open up hyperlinked text in new tab

You will notice multiple hyperlinks to additional content and other suggested websites throughout this article.

All of these links are set to open up in a new tab so that the visitor is more likely to remain here on our website and visit more of our content.

When you are creating hyperlinks set them to open up in new tabs.

11. Clear call-to-actions

As mentioned previously, it has to be super clear what you want your visitors to do when they are on your website.

Many website do not have any additional call to actions on their pages, leaving the visitor at a loss and having no clue what to do next, resulting in an exit.

You will find multiple call-to-actions throughout this article – some of them are to download and subscribe to our content marketing crash course.

Make it obvious what you want your visitors to do by creating clear call-to-actions (pssst…see the call-to-action below).

Click here to master content marketing in just 10 days

It’s time to bounce…

Now that you’ve been through these 11 ways to reduce bounce rate on your website it’s hopefully clear that there’s not a single solution to improving bounce rate, and that it needs to be worked on continually.

However, these 11 tactics will help you to work towards reducing your bounce rate to a level that you are satisfied with.

The main point I’d like you to take away from this is that if you are not frequently creating and publishing valuable and helpful content for your audience, you are drastically reducing your chances of building a great website, never mind improving your bounce rate.

Please jump into the comments section below if you have any thoughts, ideas or questions.



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About Chris Marr

Chris is the leading voice of the growing Content Marketing movement in the UK. His pioneering work has helped countless organisations grow through content marketing. His drive comes from a desire to help people break free from the world of interruption marketing.