The Cure for High Bounce Rates

Many websites suffer from a high bounce rate. Like rejection to a kid who just wants to be loved, it is the scourge of content managers and web administrators everywhere. What is bounce rate? As defined by Google, bounce rate is…

The percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page).

Why is bounce rate important?

Source: Mykl RoventineIt’s an excellent measure of the quality of your website content. Bounce rate can also serve as a reflection of your marketing efforts in the conversion stage. Bounce rate tells us which pages on your site are very relevant and compelling as well as those that clearly are not. The trick to finding a remedy is understanding the symptoms. There are three primary reasons why visitors turn and run…

“This provided all the information I need”

This is likely a good thing on “contact us” or “visit us” / driving directions pages. Some visitors are simply looking to answer a question. Consider what stage in the buying cycle your visitor is in. Those ready to purchase may stay longer. Those in “research mode” may scan the page quickly for pertinent information and leave only to come back later.


  • Don’t worry too much. Depending on the visitor’s motivation for leaving, nothing may need to be done at all. As noted, some bounces are OK. For this reason, a bounce rate of about 20-25% is actually pretty healthy.
  • Encourage them to come back. Consider a retargeting campaign that will allow you to display relevant online display advertisements (aka banners) to those who have visited your site previously. These advertisements would appear on other popular sites. The technology relies on cookies (no, not the kind with macadamia nuts).

“I’m not sure what to do next

In these cases, it is simply a matter of clearly demonstrating to the visitor what she should do now. ABC with a CTA. For those not down with the TLA’s (three letter acronyms) ~ always be closing with a call to action. “Always be closing” is not just a mantra for people slinging insurance policies, used cars or properties in Rio Rancho Estates, Florida. Websites must be selling constantly too. Many visitors won’t always know the next logical step. You must show them.


  • Add multiple calls to action (phone, email newsletter sign-up, contact info submit form, product purchase). Provide omnipresent calls to action such as phone numbers and customer service contact links, but also include relevant next steps given the context of the experience (i.e. add to cart, request more info, download the guide, etc.)
  • Don’t ask for a marriage proposal on the first date. A few brave souls may want to jump right in with you, but others will not. To use Zappos as an example, 75% of purchases come from returning customers. Obtain a modicum of contact information from your visitors, and utilize retention tactics like email marketing and social media to build relationships with individual prospects.

“This is not what I expected

This is probably the most challenging scenario as it is based on a varying number of purchase intentions. I hope this doesn’t upset you, but your product/service is not for everyone. Some won’t like what you have to offer and will backpedal quickly. Sorry, this is another reason why a 20-25% is acceptable in most cases. For those bouncing customers that are a good match, there are a few items to cover…


  • Consider the source. Review marketing programs driving traffic to select pages. Modification of messaging and marketing tactics may be necessary. Ensure your creative that attracts is similar to that which aims to convert. Maintain consistency throughout the entire sales process. Carefully track each tactic, referring site, search engine, keyword, etc. on an individual basis. This will make your life easier when it’s time to make adjustments.
  • Too much clutter? Start by analyzing the pages with the highest bounce rates, and eliminate elements that provide zero value. I’m not necessarily recommending a “take only what you need to survive” approach to web design and usability. Often times the extra features, advantages and benefits content can lead to a sale or lead capture. The point here is to provide compelling, relevant information first and allow the visitor to access deeper and more detailed information further down on the page or on secondary pages.Try this exercise:
    1. Take two markers or highlighters, each with a different color.
    2. Identify three to four different scenarios in which a customer could be coming to your site (e.g. just browsing, doing some research, ready to buy).
    3. Imagine you are the customer in the first scenario.
    4. Actually print out (I know – weird, right) a copy of the page that is giving you fits.
    5. Draw a circle or highlight that information on the page that is actually helpful to moving you along the sales funnel.
    6. Draw a circle or highlight that which is not helpful with the other color.
    7. Repeat this steps 4-6 for each scenario.
    8. Take a look at all three or four printed sheets and determine if there are some commonalities between what is helpful and what is not. If there are certain items marked as “not helpful” on every page, you should strongly consider ditching them. You may find the need to modify layouts, content and features of the page as well.
  • Adopt A Culture of Continuous Testing. Best practices for design, page layout, colors, font usage, call to action, etc. will only get you so far. In truth, following best practices is similar to using a really good map for a destination other than your own. What is “best” for one website and marketing program may not produce results for yours. Consider them a guide, not gospel. Find out the best combination of page elements by giving options to your visitors and determining which of those compel your visitors to hang out longer. Here’s a quick list of tools to help you.

Google Website Optimizer – Recommended. Read this book if you go this route
Vertster – A fantastic product, great for Taguchi-style tests.
SiteSpect – Never used, but I’ve talked with them and been impressed.
8 Seconds – A bonus for this post, this tool provides testing for email campaigns.