How to Reduce the Bounce Rate on Your WordPress Website
Realizing that your WordPress website has a high bounce rate is a bit like realizing that maybe your child is not the most promising kid in the class. You have invested in web design and site content, followed almost every expert advice for building a successful website, yet when you check your site’s metrics, it seems like all these efforts mean little, and the bounce rates don’t tend to drop. Naturally, you like the website that you’ve created. But, does your target audience like it, too? Bounce rate is closely related to the user experience. Before we dive into this topic, let’s take a few important questions out of the way.
In this article you’ll find out:
According to Google, “A bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.” It refers to visitors who come to the site and then leave without viewing other pages within the same website. But, let’s put this in context to understand it better. For example, you have written a comprehensive article, researched your keywords and used them properly, and followed all the other SEO rules.You worked hard and you finally achieved a good ranking. Your content shows up on the first search page, people click on it as it promises to answer their need, but when they come to your site they realize your article is not what they actually needed. So, they simply leave without exploring any other page of your site. The mere event of them leaving your page without interacting with the rest of your site is what we call a bounce. When you track those bounces during a specific period and then compare their number with the total number of people who visited your site in the same period, you get a ratio, which, translated into a percentage, constitutes the bounce rate for that period.
While a bounce rate of 75% may be a stellar success for one website, it can also be a total disaster for another. There is, actually, no general rule about what a good bounce rate is, but there are some statistics that can give you an insight into what’s acceptable for your type of website. For example, service sites have the lowest bounce rates, usually ranging between 10-30% as opposed to blogs whose bounce rates sometimes reach 98%. Now, let’s just take a second to see what typically happens when a visitor lands on a blog post, reads the entire article, and then leaves without opening any other page of the site. This still counts as a bounce, although the visitor may have been perfectly happy with the content of the article. Does this mean that the content wasn’t good enough? Maybe, and maybe the visitor simply found what he needed and then left. Many argue that the way Google Analytics measures the bounce rate doesn’t reflect the user’s interest realistically. Before you make a conclusion, always bear in mind how visitors typically behave on different types of websites. You certainly behave differently on a dictionary website and in an online store, so concluding that a dictionary website is not successful based on its bounce rate could not be further from the truth. These numbers are there only to give you a general idea and to level your expectations. There is no reason to compare your bounce rates with other similar site’s rates. You can only guess what’s their ultimate goal and content strategy. Your only benchmark should be your own performance history.
Generally speaking, there are two reasons why a visitor leaves your site – he either fails to find what he needs because you don’t have what he is looking for, or your website is too confusing to use so he quits before really even giving it a try. The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce bounce rates in both cases. These actionable tips will help you diagnose your blind spots and find solutions:
Optimize Your Content
We can never stress enough how important quality content is. This counts for its every aspect – from technical to substantial, and all in between. First of all, always keep your content fresh, update the outdated articles, implement the necessary changes to make the articles relevant and timely. It is a huge turn off to go through the whole text just to realize that the product or service it describes is no longer offered, or the information it provides is no longer valid.
Secondly, Google has a thing for longer articles. Length does provide some points in the ranking game simply because longer articles are seen as more relevant. Length also shows the visitor that you have in-depth knowledge of the issue at hand, which makes it more likely he’ll explore your page and your site. And the more authority you have in your niche, the better your site will perform, from ranking to retention rate. An authority of course is not built solely on the article length, you will hardly achieve anything by filling your articles with catchy words and common phrases that don’t mean a lot.
Another important aspect to consider is also the article structure. You need to present your content wisely, and the inverted pyramid rule has proven to be the most effective way to keep the reader engaged. Basically, it means you should organize the information by priority and catch the reader’s attention with the first couple of sentences.
Finally, think about your headlines. Do they reflect the nature of your content or are maybe, a bit misleading? Don’t get easily carried away with catchy words, rather use your target keywords and try to reflect the essence of your article as precisely as possible.
Now, let’s not forget some formatting hacks that can change the look of your article:
Use bullets to make the content look neat and more readable
Split the text into smaller chapters, as a neverending article with no structure may seem intimidating for readers
Use subheadings so that the readers can easily skim the text and focus on what matters to them
Use bold formatting reasonably – this is a great way to direct the reader’s attention but has no effect if you overdo it
Always check for typos and spelling errors as they make you seem unprofessional and like you don’t care enough for the reader
Pick a readable font and set the right font size, anything below 14px is not recommendable
And, also bear in mind, content isn’t just textual – images count as well. A well-chosen image can inspire and intrigue the visitor in less than a second. Attractive infographics, illustrations, pictograms, and similar formats all fall into this category. You don’t want your article to look like a picture book, and you don’t need to add a picture after every sentence, but images that illustrate a certain point, or describe complicated statistics in a way that is easy to understand, or simply fit the topic and type of the content well, can help you tame bounce rates. Also, pay attention to your image optimization, and make sure to adjust the image size so that it fits the rest of the content on the page.
Use Keywords to Target Your Audience
To provide a good user experience you need to know your audience. You need to know how they typically behave online, what interests them most, what they like… Because there’s no point in attracting just any visitor, but the right visitor who needs your products, services, or content and who is likely to stay on your website and interact.
When you have a clear vision in your mind of the kind of audience you want to attract, the next step is to find the keywords that match your content. This means that your keywords should reflect what your content is about. If the page a visitor lands on isn’t directly relevant to his query, it’s a safe bet that he is going to bounce.
This is often the case with double-meaning and polysemous keywords. For example, the commonly used word “manipulation” means illicit tampering in public discourse, whereas in science, it means scientific data processing. Although the concept where the keyword consists of only one word is abandoned, some words can have such a strong implication that they make the whole phrase confusing. The way to avoid this kind of ambiguity is to use more precise phrases that better describe the keyword and don’t mislead the reader, or even, in some cases completely avoid them and find some other relevant phrases that don’t leave that much room for wrong interpretation. Also, bear in mind that relevant meta descriptions can do a lot to attract the right audience, so pay attention to them just as you do to the article.
Enable Smooth Site Navigation
A well-designed menu, with thoughtfully chosen items, can help keep a visitor on your site. As we mentioned, one of the most common reasons why people quickly leave your site is that they find it hard to use. This means they can’t find what they came for easily, or at all. Since the menu is the key to the site navigation, if your menus are misleading or not easily accessible, visitors will be confused and are most likely to give up and search what they need on other sites instead of yours. If you know what most of your visitors look for on your site, don’t miss to include it on the menu. Event tracker functionality that is included in Google Analytics can help you find out which menu items are getting the most clicks. Another way to improve your site’s navigation is to add internal search. This makes it way easier for visitors to find what interests them, even if your menus aren’t perfect.
Use Popups Wisely
When used reasonably and purposefully, popups can be a powerful tool for growing your email list, informing the visitors about special offers and events, and similar. But, the thing is, hardly anyone ever comes to a page because of a popup, it is quite the other way around – intrusive and aggressive popups often drive us away even from a web page otherwise pretty appealing. There’s an ongoing discussion about whether or not popups should be used at all, as often the effect they produce outweighs its advantages. The thing is, they are most likely not friends to your bounce rate. Of course, not all pop-ups are created equal. Some are big and take up a large part of the page, others are small and discreet, and they certainly can’t have the same effect. But, even though they are a kind of a threat to the bounce rate, there is a way to keep them if they are important to you. For example, there are tools like OptinMonster that can help you set when and for how long you want the popup to show up, which can totally change its effect on the bounce rate and overall user experience.
Add Related Articles to the Post
Adding related articles to the post gives you a chance to keep your visitors longer on the page and inspire them to browse your site. This way, even if your article doesn’t serve them what they need, but it is of good quality generally, your visitors will be more likely to stay and continue the search on your site. Adding popular posts is also a good idea to inspire your visitors to explore your site. There are various ways to do this, and old-fashioned linking works perfectly.
Internal and External Links
Although they take the visitor to completely different locations, both internal and external links can actually help you reduce your bounce rates. Internal links do it in an obvious way by directing the visitors to the other pages of your site. They should be used often, as they are great for SEO, but not too often as irrelevant links don’t do much good. External links also help your SEO and are a good way to build credibility and authority, yet in the common setting they drive the visitor away from your page which is exactly what you want to avoid. Luckily there’s an easy solution that keeps the visitor on the page while still offering external links – simply set the external links to open in a new window, and your bounce rates will not be hurt.
Avoid Distracting Advertising
While advertising is usually considered as something that brings you money, aggressive ads that overpopulate the page are basically a recipe to make visitors bounce instantly. This is especially true for auto-playing ads that have nothing in common with the article’s topic. The ads are hardly going to bring you money if they drive away your visitors.
Customize Your 404 Error page
The 404 landing page that opens when a visitor clicks on an invalid link to your website isn’t usually an ideal situation for your visitor, but you can still make it useful. Think of the 404 page as your chance to get the visitor back on your site. Include links to other pages of your website on it, so the visitor gets the impression that he can still find what he is looking for without leaving your site. Adding a search on page 404 would also be a smart move as it may also convince your visitor that you have what they need, despite the fact they landed on the error page. Also, never underestimate the power of good design, and make sure your 404 error page design is just as engaging as any other page’s design on your site.
Consider a Minimalist Design
Minimalist web design is all the rage lately and for a lot of good reasons. One of the important ones is that it allows the user to focus on the content without being distracted by too many details. A simple page with no header, sidebar, or footer is often a holiday for the reader’s eyes. If you add a nice CTA to it, you can also expect an improvement in your conversion rates. Don’t look at the white spaces on your pages as a chance to populate your site with ads or popups, leave them white, just like they are – it gives off a more professional image and your visitors will certainly appreciate it.
Improve Page Loading Speed
If you are sure you have done everything you could regarding the quality of your content, but the bounce rate still does not go down, it is time to check your page loading speed. However motivated your visitors are to come and stay on your site, if the page takes too long to load, they will leave without questioning their decision for a second. People expect the page to load in less than two seconds, anything even slightly longer is a goodbye to your website. This is especially true for mobile sites. Statistics show that for example, pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, whereas pages that load in five seconds have bounce rates increased to 38%.
Mobile Responsiveness is a Must
More than 50 percent of all site visits come from mobile. If you add mobile-first indexing criteria to this, it is clear you have to think about the mobile version of your site just as much as the standard one. Once a visitor has a bad experience on your mobile site, there’s almost zero chance he’ll ever return. Luckily, most WordPress themes are made with this in mind, but it is always wise to check how responsive your site is by yourself. There’s a variety of tools to help you with that, but that’s a topic for another article.
Translate Your Website
If you are interacting with a world-wide audience on your website, it would be wise to show them a localized landing page. There are many excellent translation plugins that can help you localize your site easily. This could greatly reduce the bounce rate as many users may simply struggle with English and would greatly appreciate the content in their own language. Translated pages are a nice way to show to your customers that you put in the effort and that every customer is equally important to you. It also makes you look more professional and more available for communication.
Good storytelling makes the visitor feel as he is a part of something bigger than what he initially came for on your website. If you get your visitors intrigued, they will be more likely to explore your website further. Therefore, every piece of your content should be a part of your story in one way or another. Apart from that, people simply love good stories. If you manage to make them a hero of your own story, the better for you and your business. Converting your customers to your brand story heroes demands a lot of creativity and careful thinking but pays off in many different ways.
Build Your Credibility
This is obviously not something you can achieve in a few clicks of a button, but there are details that tell your visitors whether they are in a safe place or not. The first thing that speaks about your credibility is again, your content. If it is badly written, no matter how well you use the keywords, visitors will probably not trust you. This also counts for design. Images of poor quality never give off a positive impression. Allowing your visitors to contact you easily, by making your email and phone number available and contact link easily accessible is a sign that you are to be trusted. The thing is, people are more likely to stay on a website they trust.
Let’s Wrap It All Up
As you might have already noticed, the content has once again proved to be the king. But, there’s a lot more to what quality content implies than simply writing a compelling article. A smart content strategy, based on the in-depth knowledge of your target audience, is definitely a prerequisite for favorable statistics. Seeing your website through your visitor’s eyes is a skill you should often practice if you want to keep the bounce rate at an optimum level. A lot of details matter in that respect, and while it may seem impossible to have them all covered and properly addressed, it actually all fits naturally once you understand what a typical visitor looks for on your website and how he behaves.