Installing Google Analytics is simply a must for any website owner; this powerful free analytics package will tell you exactly how people find your site and what they do when they get there... and that's just for starters.
Amongst all the metrics, one of the most important is 'bounce rate', defined in Analytics as the percentage of single page visits, or, in other words, visits in which the person looked at your webpage and just left again.
Why Does Bounce Rate Matter?
Bounce rate matters because a high bounce rate on a page is a clear and unambiguous warning sign that it isn't doing its job.
In the final analysis, it's almost always impossible for someone to get closer to doing business with you if they only view one page of your website. All the good stuff - like sales, bookings, registrations - requires multiple page views.
What constitutes a 'high' bounce rate?
A bounce rate of 70% or more is red alert territory, 50% warrants attention, and 25% to 30% is OK. It's important to recognize that in practice even the very best sites will ALWAYS have a bounce rate of at least 20% - that's just the nature of the web.
There are also a couple of caveats.
It's possible, either through somebody random linking through to your site or because you promote your site in an inappropriate place, that you get some traffic that is just plain not right for your site. That's going to affect your bounce rate negatively but isn't necessarily a reflection on your content.
In addition, if you run a blog, it's quite possible - and not necessarily undesirable - for a proportion of people to visit your site just to read your latest blog post, and then leave again. That practice will also lead to an increased bounce rate.
But these minor considerations aside, bringing your bounce rate down is one of the most surefire ways there is to improve your website's performance. Here are three simple ways to do it.
3 Simple Tactics For Bringing Your Bounce Rate Down
1. Stop plastering links to social sites all over your site.
I realize that putting links to social sites on a website at every possible opportunity is the new orthodoxy. It's also bonkers.
Think about it - you work your butt off to get traffic to your website. You slave over guest blog posts and SEO and pour money into advertising. Then, when people get to your site, the very first thing you do with eye-catching graphics in key areas is... send them back off to Facebook or Twitter.
I have news for you - your business probably isn't as interesting to your visitors as the distractions of friends, celebrities and news on social sites. Those visitors are gone for good.
I know what you're thinking: but maybe by linking to social sites I'll get more followers, and that's a good thing, right?
Well listen, email is still the killer app and if you get people to join your email list then you can turn them onto your social sites while keeping them on your site (since an email signup is going to happen on YOUR site, not Mark Zuckerberg's).
What about the business of demonstrating social proof through links to social sites? Well, in most cases you can communicate this WITHOUT linking away from your site. If you want people to know you have 1,000 Facebook fans, you can just say this - you don't actually need a widget to prove it.
Really - start looking at social sites as things that should be driving YOU traffic, not the other way round. If you'll panic without putting social links on your site then put them on your 'About' page and leave it at that.
2. Make a point of promoting your most popular pages across your site, for example in your sidebar.
Your sidebar is a great place to put links to your most popular content - you know, the stuff people have shown you they really WANT to look at on your site.
How can you tell which content people are most interested in? Simple: go into Analytics and hand pick the three or four pages that are a) most viewed b) that people spend the most time on and c) have the lowest bounce rates. Then give these proven pages the prominence they deserve.
What you think is important content is largely irrelevant - learn instead from the way your visitors are already voting with their feet.
3. Make a habit of internal linking.
Placing links within your content to other relevant pages on your site is not only good SEO practice, but will encourage human visitors to explore more of your site.
Personally, when this is overdone I find it a bit gratuitous, but there's absolutely no reason the average blog post couldn't link to, say, three or four other related posts.
So simple - but how much are you doing it?
What are your favorite tips for reducing bounce rate? Share in the comments below.
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After 10 years in online publishing and small business marketing, Robert Tyson set up The Tyson Report to provide small business owners with beginner-friendly online training and support in internet marketing strategy, including how to build a list, where to get traffic, and social marketing.