Imagine you are working at a deli and you put a tray of “free samples” out. Every customer that comes up tries a sample and then decides if they want to buy your meats and cheeses or not. If they try the sample and buy something, great; but if not, at least you tried. At the end of the day, you look at the percent of customers who ate a sample but didn’t buy anything. Your goal should be for this percent to be 0. How could you make that happen?
In SEO, there is a very similar situation. Think of the “free samples” as the page a user clicks to from an organic search. If the user then clicks on other links on the page or performs an action, then the user “bought” into the website. If they only viewed the one page and left, then they didn’t “buy” into it. This concept is called bounce rate and it measures the percent of those who only viewed one page.
Why is bounce rate important?
Many businesses consider it to be a success if they can increase the traffic to their website through organic search. But that is just half the battle. The next step is to get a user to explore the site further, which you can determine by looking at the bounce rate.
A low bounce rate means that users care enough about your content that they are clicking for more. The same is not necessarily true for a high bounce rate. If you have a high bounce rate and a high average time on page, then the user was interested in your content but only wanted to look at the one page. However, if bounce rate is high and average time on page is low, then there is a problem because Google factors in time on page for rankings.
In addition to bounce rate being used in Google’s algorithm, it gives SEO something thing to consider when trying to improve engagement on a site. Engagement could include linking to another article on the site, sighing up for a subscription, buying a product, etc. Any thing that would get a user to click.
How can you lower your bounce rate?
Before you get ahead of yourself, it should be understood that no website will obtain a bounce rate of 0%. Most websites won’t even get close. Your goal for bounce rate will depend on the type of site you have.
For example, a blog (such as this) tends have a higher bounce rate on average because a user will read the article and leave because they accomplished what they wanted on the site; whereas, a retail store will tend to have a lower bounce rate because people are looking to buy and will look on a site until they do. The picture below illustrates the average bounce rate for different types of sites. Of course, it is better to be below average.
To lower your bounce rate, follow some of these tips:
- Know your audience – Who is looking at your site? Make sure any internal link is relevant to something they would want to click on.
- Be navigable – You want to create an appealing site, but don’t let creativity get in the way of helping a person find what they want on your site. Simplicity can be your ally for getting clicks.
- Dealing with external links – Having external links on your site is good for link building, but if someone clicks on one and it takes them to another site, it will hurt your bounce rate. Set up your site so that if an external link is clicked on, it will open in a new tab or new window.
- Increase your website speed – We live in a world where speed is everything. If it takes your page a couple seconds to download, you may have already lost some users and increased your bounce rate in the process. Take some time to boost your website speed.
- Are you mobile friendly – Similar to speed being essential in today’s world, being mobile friendly is almost more crucial. The number of searches from smartphones is increasing every year. That means half the traffic to your site could be from a phone. If you haven’t already, make your site mobile friendly unless you want users clicking “back.”
Following these tips wouldn’t just lower your bounce rate, it would also make your site more attractive and engaging for users ––metrics Google strongly considers for rankings. Now that you know about bounce rate, create a Google analytic account so you can track it. It is free and can be used to analyze other metrics on your site.