After a quick Google search, a user visits one of the first websites the search engine suggests. After spending only a few minutes on the website’s landing page, they close their browser tab and navigate elsewhere. This is what’s known, in search terms, as a bounce.
It occurs when a visitor leaves a site after only looking at a single page. Consequently, bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who bounce. As you might expect, a high bounce rate is usually a bad thing.
It indicates that, for one reason or another, some of your site’s content isn’t relevant to your audience.
Note that we said “usually.” As with any other SEO metric, bounce rate is only valuable when taken in context with other metrics. If somebody “bounces” after 20 minutes on a page, that tells a very different story from someone who leaves after 30 seconds.
Moreover, for pages intended to convey information, such as blog posts or white papers, bounces aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They could simply indicate that a page served the user’s purpose extremely well – they found the page through Google, learned what they needed to know, and left.
Consider the following pages:
- The menu for a restaurant.
- A thought leadership blog intended to teach a particular skill or discuss a specific topic.
- A retailer’s “about” page, which includes hours of operation and contact information.
Generally, there is little reason for someone who has come to one of those three pages to look elsewhere on the site. They navigated there for a highly specific reason. Once their need has been met, they have no reason to remain.
So, for the bounce rate metric to have any meaning, you have to consider not only how a user found your site (search queries, ads, etc.), but also the purpose of the page they landed on. You also need to measure bounce rate in unison with other metrics such as time spent on site and how the user left your site.
As for pages that are meant to be more engaging, there are a few things you can do to keep your bounce rate at a more palatable level.
- Make sure your content is readable and easily-digestible. Break up large chunks of copy with images and subheaders.
- Avoid resource-intensive design elements, popup ads, and auto-playing video.
- Consider content quality, including your brand’s narrative and how compelling you’ve made your call to action.
- Examine your keywords. Are they relevant? Are you targeting the right people?
- Make sure your site is navigable on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
A website’s bounce rate is like any other metric. It loses a lot of meaning if you examine it in a vacuum. Whether a particular bounce rate is positive or negative depends largely on a website’s content and core objective.