Matt Cutts‘ recent confirmation that Google don’t use bounce rate as a signal for search engine ranking will be of cold comfort to website owners who are confounded by their visitors’ refusal to stick around.
A site’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave the site from the page on which they arrived without interacting or following navigation. Sites with a high bounce rate are falling at the first hurdle, and it can often be difficult to determine exactly which factors are repelling users. Today we’re going to have a look at the five most likely reasons that your site is failing to engage people.
Low Quality Content
Users come to a website to have a need satisfied. If the content they find doesn’t meet that need, they’ll reach for the back button and head for the next site Google gives them. A site’s copy can be search engine optimized to perfection, but if it presents nothing of value to the reader or viewer, then it’s a wasted effort. Good quality content – including videos and images – is expensive, but it’s a necessity for keeping people around long enough to get conversions.
Slow to Load
As we saw in our recent series on website speed optimization, user’s levels of dissatisfaction rise by the second when they’re faced with a slow-loading page. Many won’t stick around to see your content and design if it takes more than a couple of seconds to arrive in front of their eyeballs. Take a look at the second article in our series to get some ideas how to fix the problem.
Poor Layout and Navigation
Good UI design is crucial to giving users an experience that will encourage them to engage with your site. The principle of least surprise is a great guideline to layout and navigation. Designers want to make sites that stand out from the crowd, but should be careful that they don’t deviate too much from the user’s expectations.
If users arrive at a site to find that it has been misrepresented to them by the search engine results, they aren’t going to be pleased. This can happen when sites are optimized for incorrect keywords, or have inaccurate titles and misleading meta descriptions. Google can only present the information to searchers that it finds on the site, so make sure your pages are optimized for the audience you want to attract. One excellent way to do this is to take advantage of rich snippets.
Poor Mobile Experience
Many of the users of a site are going to be using tablets and smartphones. A non-responsive site that’s unfriendly to mobile users is going to result in a high bounce rate, and the evidence shows that when visitors have a poor mobile experience, they quite often won’t return to a site. They’ll just go to a competitor who can offer a better experience.
We’ve give you five reasons your site might have a high bounce rate, but user satisfaction is a complicated endeavor; we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this issue. Leave a comment below, or join the conversation on Twitter.