bouncingYour Bounce Rate is that depressing Internet statistic that measures the proportion of visitors that look at one single page of content and then bounce away, immediately leaving your site.  Bounce Rate has to be one of the most talked about statistics of the year, and yet one of the least well understood or interpreted.

We all want to reduce our bounce rates, that is to say we want to entice visitors to look at least one more page of content on our sites.  And a high bounce rate is a generally accepted signal that something is wrong, whether it’s your website content, or bad navigation, or poor user experience, or lousy business proposition.  A high bounce rate means your site has failed to engage your visitor enough to look at another page, and it might be that simple design changes can often lead to significant improvements in your bounce rate.

But in my experience, small businesses actively pursuing a search engine optimisation strategy may well experience a rise in their Bounce rate.

You must keep in mind that  Not all Bounces are Created Equal. You need to look at your Bounces on their individual characteristics and merits, and decide which Bounce rates provide significant information for your business, and which need addressing as a matter of priority.

1.  Evaluating Bounce on a “Page by Page” Basis

Let’s start with your Home page.  It should have a low bounce rate, as it is typically one of your most visited pages, and it acts as a signpost to encourage visitors to explore further.   It typically will have a linear path of links encouraging people to click through for further information.

By way of comparison, your search engine optimisation activities will often result in a huge number of what Jakob Nielsen calls “deep dips” – visitors arriving on interior pages that are highly relevant to their search phrase.  Obviously, these pages should be of interest to your visitors because the page is exactly what they were looking for. A high bounce rate for these pages might be a reason to worry.

However, you may also find that your pages may also be ranking highly for search phrases that are not appropriate, or do not show intention to buy your products or services.  And so these visitors will bounce, and because they were never really a prospective customer, you just can’t worry about them.

The danger would be to start redesigning your pages based on this spurious visitor activity.  You need to identify a strategy to focus on the behaviour of your real potential customers, not the time wasters.

2.  Bounce Rate for Particular Key Phrases

Some of your phrases do indeed show intention to buy, and you will want to carefully monitor these specific phrases and have a strategy in place to drive the bounce rate down.

Use your Google Analytics to segment out these phrases, and generate reports that help you to keep an eye on them.  Lose sight of this bounce rate at your peril, because it is at the heart of both your search engine optimisation and customer conversion strategy.

3.  Bounce Rate for Entry Sources

Your search engine optimisation activities will result in visitors coming from sites such as Digg, or Stumble Upon, who may well be idly browsing the web, and to be frank will never become a customer. Their bounce rate may be high, and my advice is don’t worry about it.  If appropriate, segment this traffic out, and review their bounce rate separately from other traffic sources.

How about links from other websites?  Visitors coming in as referrals from other sites should have a lower bounce rate, after all it is a recommendation that led them to visit your site.  You need to determine if the inbound link is indeed a recommendation that shows some intention on the part of the visitor, or again is just driving in random traffic.

Visitors from search engines are showing a high level of intention:  they have searched and clicked through to your site, and they should start engaging in your content.  High levels of bounces from search traffic should be a warning signal.  Either there is something wrong with your landing pages, or there is something wrong with your search engine optimisation strategy.

And of course, for a Pay Per Click campaign, a high bounce rate means wasted money with serious repurcussions for the overall cost of the campaign.  Keep a beady eye on your paid traffic sources, whether PPC, banners or other forms of paid advertising.

4.  Loyal Visitors

What about all you lovely people who follow visit my website in order to read my blog postings using either the RSS feed, or my email  marketing newsletter.

If I were thinking purely in terms of Bounce Rate, then I have to say you disapppoint me:  you often read one article, and then you leave.

But you are loyal visitors to the site, you come back week after week.  And to be honest, I’m happy if you usually just look at a page or two, because I suspect you’ve read some of my other articles already, and I hope from time to time I’ll lure you into clicking on the shiny new courses I’m running.

And finally…

One of the best techniques for reducing bounce rate is to offer specific links to further information at the bottom of the page, and hope your visitors will be motivated to learn more:

Search Engine Optimisation Myths:  don’t fall for these scams (PDF)

What’s happened to my search engine rankings?

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0 responses to “Search Engine Optimisation and Bounce Rates”

  1. Terry Lee says:

    It might be good to have a case study to illustrate your points. As a photographer, I rely on my website and images to gain business. What would you consider to be a good bounce rate, time spent on site and pages per visit?

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