Do you know what my bounce rate is? Not unless I tell you. The bounce rate of a website is a mystery to its visitors unless the webmaster specifically announces their statistic, yet it is one of the most important measurements of the user experience. It tells a webmaster how much his visitors are enjoying his content. So, who cares about bounce rate? You do!
What is Bounce Rate
The bounce rate of your blog is basically the rate at which people leave your site after landing on its first page. So a blog that generates a lot of hits, but their visitors leave after a few seconds of glancing at the first page will have a high bounce rate. Blogs with visitors that stick around and browse through the content will have a lower browse rate. It is a statistic which measures the user experience. And Webmasters are in a constant struggle to decipher it’s mysteries and achieve that low percentage bounce rate.
Fix Your Blog, Not Your Readers!
A while back, I visited a blog and I saw a post about bounce rate. The author discussed how the bounce rate was a reflection of a poor marketing strategy. He argued to great effect that it meant that you were targeting the wrong audience. He discussed how bloggers with a high bounce rate should re-think their marketing strategy and look to more targeted blogs and forums in their own niche. They should give up using ad exchanges, since those traditionally generate high bouncing visitors. It was a very convincing discussion about shifting your focus to a more targeted audience. I read through the article, I thought about it, and I moved on. The problem was, it was wrong.
Think about it, if you have a high bounce rate, by definition, people are coming to your site! Why would you want to pick up and leave the spot where you’ve figured out how to bring in the traffic and start over someplace else? Should you add on to your marketing efforts? Of course you should, but you shouldn’t give up on a strategy that is working. If you are doing something that is bringing in traffic which just isn’t sticking around to read your content, you don’t need to dump your traffic, you need to change your blog.
Anyone who is clicking a link to go to your blog, should already have some idea of what your blog is about. Your incoming links should be surrounded by your keywords. If you have a banner ad going in a traffic exchange, it should invoke a strong sense of what your site is about. Take a look at my entrecard ad for example:
There’s absolutely no reason why someone clicking on my card wouldn’t know that my blog is about making money online. Do I get a few hit and run card droppers? Of course I do, but I also get a ton of traffic from entrecard that sticks around for 10-15 minutes.
Every marketer should be doing their job correctly with their incoming links. Surround them with your keywords, make sure that anyone who clicks on your link knows why they are coming to your site.
If you are doing that, and you still have a high bounce rate, it’s time to rethink how you are presenting your content.
It’s not your reader’s fault if they clicked on a link that says Make Money Blogging and they show up and find an unattractive site with a few of short 2 paragraph articles on the front page. Or perhaps, you are creating incredible content and knocking it out of the park with every article, but your content is getting dropped quickly to your archives and isn’t easily spotted by the reader. Or they click on your link only to see the spinning beach ball for 10-15 seconds while your site loads. Marketing in a different place isn’t going to solve these problems. It’ll just bring you a different audience that’ll bounce just as quickly.
So, What can I do to Lower my Bounce Rate?
I was faced with this very question when I was first starting my site. I already knew I wasn’t entirely happy with my theme and my layout. At the time, my bounce rate was astronomical. It was around 80-90%. I felt that my content was decent enough to bring in some readers, but my audience wasn’t sticking around to read my other posts. I had to find a way to lower my bounce rate.
There’s also one thing I dislike about a typical blog structure: that is that posts get pushed down into the recesses of your archive as you generate new content. I felt that this typical leads to a high bounce rate as the audience reads one or two posts, but gets tired of scrolling down that single page and trying to go through the archive.
So, I set out to make some changes with the mindset that I would focus on fixing my blog and lower my bounce rate. It was an experiment. Could I continue marketing the same way to my 80-90% bounce rate audience and effectively lower my bounce rate just by changing my blog?
The first thing I wanted to focus on was to find a theme with a better layout. At the time, I was using one of the free themes from WordPress, constructor. It was a simple theme that allowed plenty of options, however, I wanted something a little more robust and more visually appealing. During my forays of blog surfing, I had spotted some blogs that I stood out to me as having attractive themes. Generally, you can find the name of the theme in the footer of any blog, so I was able to quickly discover which themes I really liked. I ended up choosing the Hybrid theme, which is visually attractive, as well as SEO friendly.
Selecting a new theme was really only my first step to lowering the bounce rate on my blog. A nicer theme really just makes some visual changes. My feeling was that it would only have a minor effect on my high bounce rate. What I really needed to do was to promote more of my content on my front page. I wanted to make some changes so that my front page will show off my content, not just display a list of blog posts.
I’ve seen this done in several ways. Some blogs will go with a magazine style layout with a grid of 2-4 excerpts on the front page and then a list of posts following. Some may have a featured content excerpt right at the top of their blog. Many of these methods can be effective. The key for me was to do something that will show the reader more of my content on the front page. I elected to look for a featured post slider.
In the beginning, I searched around for a good plugin to create a carousel of featured posts on my front page. If anyone is looking to implement this feature on their site, I found a plugin called featurific that created an excellent magazine style featured posts slider.
Eventually, I was able to find a Hybrid child theme that included a built in slider.
I also made a point of setting up my front page so I had a categorized post listing following the content. This acts like an index where my readers can see some of my other posts listed by category to assist in guiding them to the content that they are looking for.
My third step was to focus on making sure to focus on the quality of my content. I wanted to make sure that all my points were conveyed clearly to my readers. I also made an effort to be creative with my posts and have some fun with creating my content.
I implemented all these features into my blog.
You’ll notice that I did not make any changes to my actual marketing strategy. I didn’t drop entrecard, I continued visiting and commenting on the blogs in my niche. I continued advertising on craigslist. In all respects, my audience remained the same. The only thing that I changed was my blog.
So, what was the result of my experiment? How did it affect my high bounce rate? I’m not going to tell you, I’m going to show you:
By the way, the date that I implemented these changes was 9/22.
My bounce rate remains steady today under 10%. So, what do you think? Did my experiment work?
What did I Learn from my Experiment?
If you have a high bounce rate, change your blog, not your audience! In this case, I was able to lower my bounce rate dramatically without changing my audience at all. The only changes I made were internal to my blog to promote interest in the deeper articles. Showing more of my content and having a more visible directory structure really did wonders to lower my bounce rate.
Have you done anything that helped you get a lower bounce rate? If so, leave me a comment and tell us how you did it!