Bounce Rate – How to keep people interested!

Posted on December 22nd, by Brett Ackerman in Analytics, Digital Marketing, Online Strategy. No Comments

A common area to website improvement is lowering the bounce rate. Of the many websites we review this is typically our first suggestion for improvement.

Just to refresh, bounce rate is defined as a visitor that leaves a website after viewing a single page. Some people also like to include a time period in the definition, since one page may be exactly what some sites are built to present. No matter the definition a high bounce rate is a problem – it means you are not appealing to your target audience and not getting visitors to learn more about your products or services. There are three primary things to look at when considering bounce rate:

  1. User goals
  2. Navigation
  3. Traffic Sources

User Goals

Why are users coming to the site – are they looking for directions, billing information, career information? Knowing this is the first part of the battle. By understanding your target audience you can create an initial list of why people are coming to your site. Of course this is an educated guess; the next step is looking at how visitors actually use the site.

Looking at keywords and exit pages are an excellent method to actually determine what people are interested in. Keywords will tell you what topics are of most interest to people when searching for and finding your site. Checking how the keywords of your competitor’s sites are optimized will also give you clues as to what your target market is interested in finding on your site. Regular review of your keywords will help to uncover new topics or goals of interest to your audience. Exit pages will also provide clues as to why your audience is on your site. Each exit page tells you:

  • Why people came to the site; OR
  • Where people lost interest in the site.

Understanding information about success or failure of your site visitors is critical to further understanding user goals. Your website should be built to support the user goals as clearly as possible. For example if your customers are there to find out about a specific product – don’t bury it three clicks deep. “Business Products” -> “Our Cool Business Product List” -> “Our Cool Product” Information with a link to “Our Cool Product” should be on the home page, or on the entry page for that product.

Rule: Put your product or service information with links to more detail on the homepage or landing pages.


How people achieve their goals on your website is the next piece of the puzzle. Let’s take the case of a U.S. based B2B site which offered a simple form to find a distributor. In an effort to simplify the search for international users a country drop-down was added. International users were at the time, less than 5% of total traffic – a single new click, the new country drop down reduced distributor searches by 50%. So while there is a benefit to simplifying the form for an international user, the result was actually a 50% reduction in any users searching for a distributor. Simply switching to a drop-down that defaults to the U.S. helped to bring distributor searches back up.

Rule: Make your information as easy to find as possible for the potential customer. Don’t add clicks unless there is a compelling reason for your visitor to make the extra click.

Traffic Sources – Referrals

How people reach your site is the next piece of the puzzle. Are visitors from a specific source bouncing more than others? If some of the high-bounce rate visitors are coming from a source within your control – say search engine marketing (SEM) then you should consider two things: user goals of the audience you are attracting (see above) or the audience itself. If your keywords or call to action are bringing in the wrong audience; then you should stop paying for those keywords or change the call to action. One common example is an ecommerce site offering a ‘free’ sample of their product – make sure the ‘free’ sample is easy to receive. Of course you may be asking for something in return such as registering on the site or an email address; gauge the value of your request for the value of your free sample. Analysis of Bounce Rate to Referrals is similar to the user goal analysis:

  • What was the context that brought people to the site; and then
  • Did people find what they were looking for?

Traffic Sources – Search

So for search engine marketing or optimization, identify the keywords with a high bounce rate. Then check to see if the keywords are used in the right context compared to other search results for that keyword and if the landing page sets the right context. By looking at keywords from this perspective you can see if the keyword and context together are informing potential clients of what to expect when they get to your site.

The questions to answer are:

  • Are we using the right keyword? If no, then stop using! If yes, then the next step is:
  • Does the search context match our site? Are the other search results for this keyword similar, are do people know what they are going to get if they click on our search result or ad? If no then stop using? Finally:
  • Does the landing page match the context set by the keyword and search result context? If not change the landing page!

Bounce Rate Considerations – Summary

So reducing bounce rate is about several different things.

  1. Understand and support use goals;
  2. Make navigation as easy as possible; and
  3. Understand why people come to your site and that they are get what they expect.

Author: Jay Murphy, Trionia, Inc.

For further reading:

“Bounce Rate: Sexiest Web Metric Ever?”, Avinash Kaushik, MarketingProfs Daily Fix, 26 June 2007

Reduce Bounce Rates: Fight for the Second Click“, Jakob Nielsen, Alert Box, 30 June 2008,

“How to Analyze and Improve the ‘Bounce Rate’ for your Website”, Maki – Dosh Dosh blog, 3 July 2008,

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