Bounce rate is a Google Analytics metric that tells you the percentage of people who “bounce” off your site (i.e. visit your site and leave from the first page they arrive on).
To find out your bounce rate, log into your Google Analytics account.
(If you haven’t set up Google Analytics on your blog, do it. It’s powerful, very useful, and completely free. You can find out more about Google Analytics in episode 30 of the podcast.)
Once you’re in Google Analytics, go to Audience → Overview and look at the Bounce Rate. You should see a little chart and a percentage that looks something like this:
On my Digital Photography School site the percentage is around 78%. That means 78% of the people who arrive at the site only view the page they arrive on.
You can click the little chart or select from the dropdown menu to see the entire chart for the previous month (or whatever period you select):
Most blogs don’t see much day-to day-variation in their bounce rate. Mine changes slightly when I send out our email (which I’ll talk about soon), but chances are your blog has a steady, even line when you view your chart.
Interpreting Your Bounce Rate
A high number (say, 99%) means a lot of people are leaving your blog without checking out any of your content beyond the page they arrive on.
A low number means a lot of people are sticking around, and looking at more than one post or page on your site.
Bloggers often think a high number is bad and a low number is good, and later in the post I’ll be showing you ways to lower your bounce rate. But it’s worth keeping in mind that a high bounce rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance:
- You might want readers to leave and do something else. For instance, if you promote affiliate products you probably want to send readers away to buy them.
- You might want people to call your business. And a high bounce rate might suggest that’s working. People are finding your site, and then picking up the phone to call you.
- You might sell products through a major e-retailer such as Amazon or eBay. If you are, you’ll need to send people away from your site.
- You might be getting readers to sign up to your email list through a popup tool that doesn’t load another page on your site.
How to Drill Down When You’re Looking at Bounce Rate
While looking at the bounce rate for your entire site can be interesting, it’s better to focus on specific pages. You can do this by going to Behavior → Site Content → Content Drilldown, and clicking on the page you’re interested in. Here’s an example:
On ProBlogger, the bounce rate for the front page is 61%. That’s lower than our site average, which is normally in the high 70s. When people arrive on the front page, they’re probably trying to figure out what the site is, what content they’re interested in, and so on. So it makes sense for the bounce rate of that page to be relatively low.
Other pages have a much higher bounce rate. One post from 2012 gets search engine traffic every day, but its bounce rate is 91%. People arrive, see that the information isn’t relevant for them, and leave.
How to Look at the Bounce Rate of Different Sources of Traffic
Another thing to be aware of is that bounce rates vary depending on the traffic source. In Google Analytics, you can go to Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels to view the bounce rates for different sources of traffic. It’ll look something like this:
On Digital Photography School, Google traffic bounces away at 77% and social media traffic bounces at 81%. But email traffic has a much lower bounce rate – 55%.
So when I’m looking at lowering the bounce rate there, I’m particularly interested in the Google traffic because more than half of my traffic comes from Google. And most of it comes from first-time visitors. I’d love them to stick around and hopefully subscribe.
But I’m not particularly bothered about lowering the bounce rate for email traffic. It’s already pretty low, and those people have already subscribed.
13 Straightforward Ways to Lower the Bounce Rate on Your Blog
Now that you understand bounce rates, and how to break it down by page and traffic source in Google Analytics, let’s go through some ways to lower it.
#1: Make a Great First Impression
When someone comes to your site for the first time, they decide within seconds whether it’s credible, is relevant to them, and has content worth reading.
And they base those decisions on your design, branding, tagline, and other clear indicators to the benefits of them reading.
#2: Work on Social Proof
If you have a testimony from a reader (or from someone well known), include it. If you’ve got a lot of Twitter followers or email subscribers, put the number on your site. If you’ve been quoted or featured in mainstream media and can use that publication’s logo, use it.
These are all signals to first-time visitors that your site is credible and useful.
#3: Remove the Dates on Your Blog Posts
This might be a bit controversial, but I’m going to suggest it anyway. Consider removing the dates on your blog posts. It can help make a good first impression – especially when you have a lot of older evergreen posts.
On my Digital Photography School site I have a post about shutter speed that I wrote in 2007. It’s just as relevant today, but if I included the date on that post people would inevitably judge it as less worth reading.
#4: Make Your Site Easy to Use
It might sound obvious, but people are more likely to click around on your site if it’s easy to do. Make sure your site loads quickly, and make your content easy to read.
For more on this, you might want to listen to episode 176 of the podcast where I talk about creating scannable content: making sure the text is easy to read, having clear navigation, making your site responsive so it’s optimised for mobile, minimising interruptions, and so on.
#5: Focus on High-Quality Content
If a first-time reader lands on a well-written, articulate article that enhances their life in some way, they’re going to click around. So focus on writing consistently good posts that help your reader as much as possible.
And investing time to write great content improves your blog in other ways too.
#6: Ask Readers to Connect in Some Way
Normally you want readers to make an ongoing connection with you – perhaps by subscribing to your email list or following you on social media. Make strong, clear calls to action in various parts of your blog to encourage readers to connect to you.
This will help keep readers coming back to your site as return visitors, which will reduce your bounce rate over time. On Digital Photography School we see that people who come back every day click around at a much higher rate than first-time visitors.
#7: Create Portals for Your Site
This is one of the best things I’ve done on ProBlogger. On the front page we have icons for different ‘portals’ (under “I need help to…”). The same icons also appear in the sidebar next to every single post.
Each portal is a special page that includes a video greeting (where I make a personal connection) and a call to subscribe. There’s also lots of information on each portal page. It isn’t a category page with links to our latest posts. Instead it’s a curated list of the best content we have.
These portals have reduced our bounce rate a lo. The individual portal pages have a bounce rate as low as 40%. If you’d like to know more about them, check out episode 114 of the podcast.
#8: Create a “Start Here” Page
Our “Start Here” page is featured prominently in our navigation: it’s the first item in the menu. It’s targeted at first-time readers, particularly those coming from Google who hopefully spot the link in the navigation and click on it.
You don’t have call yours a “Start Here” page. An “About” or “My Story” page could serve the same purpose.
#9: Make External Links Open in a New Tab
When you link to another site or blog from one of your posts, a simple way to ensure you don’t lose your reader is to make the external link open up in a new tab (or window). That way, the reader won’t actually leave your site.
This is simple to do in WordPress. Simply edit the link and click the checkbox to open it in a new tab. There are also WordPress plugins that can handle this for you, such as Open external links in a new window.
#10: Link Back to Older Content from Your Posts
When you write your next blog post, challenge yourself to create links to at least three of your existing posts. For example, you could link to a previous post that covers something you mention in greater detail.
Another option is to add suggested reading (or listening) at the end of your post. While you can do this using a plugin, I like to add in my own so I can choose exactly what I want to encourage readers to look at next.
You could also create an interlinked series of posts, which can be great not only for lowering your bounce rate but also for exploring more complex ideas on your blog.
#11: Link to Popular Posts in Your Sidebar
If you’ve got a post (or several posts) you know are popular, make sure they’re really easy to find. You could highlight them on your About or Start Here page. But you can also link to them in your sidebar.
You can do it with a text link, or you can get more creative with a button or a banner. For example, on ProBlogger we have an image in the sidebar that links to our “How to Start a Blog” post, with the call to action text in the image itself.
#12: Create a “Sneeze” Page
In the menu on Digital Photography School, we highlight a post called “Tips for Beginners” because it’s always popular with our readers. If a reader clicks that link, they end up on what I call a “Sneeze” page.
This page introduces the topic, then lists 40 or so different posts we’ve written that are relevant for beginners. The point of the page is to get people “sneezed” deeply into our archives.
You can also write entire posts with this in mind. One we produced for Digital Photography School is “21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know”.
#13: Make it Easy to Search Your Site
Many blogs don’t give readers the opportunity to search their content, or bury their search bar somewhere low on the page. This makes it hard for readers to search for information they particularly want.
Make sure your search bar is easy to find. You want you readers to find the right content as easily as possible.
I know that’s a lot to take in. So here are some practical steps for what you can do next:
#1: Identify the top three posts on your site that consistently get a lot of traffic.
#2: Have a look at the bounce rate on each post. Are they all similar, or is one much higher or lower than the others? Can you figure out why?
#3: Try to optimise those three posts to reduce the bounce rate. You could add a call to subscribe, include further reading, or add extra links in that content.
If you want to go further, create a “Start Here” page for your site, or create some “Sneeze” pages or posts to list your best content in particular categories.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below to let us know how you get on.
Image credit: Markus Spiske