My Bounce Rate Is Too High

One of the more common problems people approach me about is that their bounce rate is “too high.” The bounce rate is a measurement of people who leave your site after viewing just one page. If you have a multi-page website and want people to look at many different pages, then a high bounce rate can be a concern as it means people aren’t looking through the depths of what your site offers.

So, what do you do about a high bounce rate? Well, first off, we need to be clear that some types of content will naturally have a higher bounce rate than others. For example, a resource page that answers the specific question the visitor wanted answered will likely have a higher bounce rate because once the question is answered, people are likely to leave. In comparison, a search result page listing a variety of products people will probably have a lower bounce rate, as people should want to explore these products more deeply.

On the flip side, you can also have a “too low” bounce rate. For instance, let’s say you have a landing page that brings people in from an ad, answers peoples questions, and then encourages people to call you. If there is a low bounce rate, that means instead of calling you, visitors have chosen instead to look through the rest of your site. That could be a sign that landing page isn’t doing a great job convincing people to call you as you might have expected.

How do you determine this, though? How do you know if you have a “too high” or “too low” bounce rate? How do you correct a bounce rate that isn’t where you want it? Two places to start are by looking at different aspects of the user experience on the page(s) with a non-ideal bounce rate.

Expectation Alignment

For any page on your site, there are two sets of expectations to consider: visitor expectations and business expectations. What do people visiting your site expect from this page? What do you as a business expect from this page? The more alignment there is between those two questions, the better that page will perform for the business and for visitors. That includes a more ideal bounce rate. However, if there is a mis-alignment between the two, or a Gap of Expectation, then that page will not perform so great and that is often when you see a too high/too low bounce rate.

For example, let’s say people visit an informational article on your website that talks about your industry, how to make a purchase, and basics of what products exist in this space. You have a call to action on the end of this page asking people to make a purchase of a related product you sell, and nobody clicks this. In fact, this page has a high bounce rate. Why is that? Your business expectation is for people to make a purchase (given the call to action). However, chances are these visitors are in the early stages of the buying cycle. They want information about the types of products available and how to use this product, but still have more research to do before making a purchase decision. Your call to action expects one thing (products/shop/buy) but visitors expect another (more information leading up to a purchase). That mis-alignment will lead to poorer user response to this page, which includes a higher bounce rate.

Evaluating Customer Journey

To better align those expectations, you need to decide where each page of your site fits in the customer journey. Let’s say you have that informational page on your website that intends to serve people as they begin their pre-purchase research, then you need to design every aspect of that page for people who are at the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey. That includes how you write the content and what the next logical step it is people will want to take after reading this page. You want your content to keep moving people forward.

If you give people the appropriate next step on every page of the site, then people will be less likely to bounce (or more likely to bounce if that is the next logical step). Let’s go back to that example of the informational article on your site where there is the call to action asking for somebody to make a purchase. Asking for a purchase is too many steps ahead on the customer journey. Instead, you want to ask people to take some next step that is logical following the content they just viewed. For example, that could be an interview with your CEO addressing some open questions people may have they need answered. Or, it could be a link to another informational page about a different series of topics. If you adjust your pages to have calls to action that keep people moving forward, you can achieve a more ideal bounce rate.