Bounce rates are simply a fact of life if you’re a site owner. Your site can’t be everything to everyone, and you’re not always going to have what people are searching for or wanted to see so people will end sessions prematurely and not stay on your site very long.
Of course, bounce rates aren’t always necessarily a sign of disinterest or disengagement. Google Analytics defines bounce rate as “the number of single-page sessions divided by the number of total sessions”. This means that if someone found the answer they were looking for extremely quickly then navigated to a new URL, closed their browser, or hit the back button then their visit would count towards your bounce rate. Hence, bounce rates are never 100% reliable when it comes to content performance.
But when it comes to content optimization however, you do need to start paying attention to bounce rates regardless of what this number actually indicates. As search engine algorithms grow more sophisticated, bounce rates are now starting to factor into SERP placement.
Here’s how you can factor bounce rate reduction into your content optimization efforts.
Address major user experience shortfalls.
One of the foremost reasons people leave sites they just visited is because it was clunky to navigate, there’s no mobile website or a poorly-functioning one, or ads and native pop-ups made the content virtually impossible to interact with.
Try to relaunch the page after examining potential issues with your UI/UX and see if bounce rates afterward, such as removing ad bars or making them easier to navigate around. Failing that, conduct some usability tests with external users and get their feedback on what needs to be improved.
Increase page speed.
Page speed is an ever-important part of improving user experience. People don’t have the same patience that they had in the dial-up days so if your page speed is poor, you need to take the right steps to fix it immediately. Slow load times equate to higher bounce rates because if your site doesn’t load fast enough on their device, that user will go elsewhere.
You could be having server issues that are causing a domino effect with low page speed and thus, high bounce rates. Minifying your images and other visual content could also increase page speed and improve user experience.
Bury the lede slightly and have plenty of inbound links.
You want your content to be high quality and helpful, not spammy, right?
If it seems that your bounce rate is unusually high but your conversions and session length aren’t cause for concern, it could be that the content is solving their problem immediately but they aren’t engaging with the rest of your site at all. Don’t put the solution to the problem at the top of the page, and remember to put in some inbound links.
Inbound links serve two distinct purposes: to increase engagement across your various webpages while the user is already there reading your content, and SEO purposes. Building strong evergreen content that serves as a pillar can provide more bounce rate killing helpful content with rich inbound links. Those inbound links will help optimize your content further by lending the linked pages higher SERP placement, since they’re equally as important to link-building as external backlinks.
The page doesn’t seem recent enough.
One challenge with content is that it needs to be constantly refreshed, especially in fields that constantly have cutting-edge developments or mandated legal changes. If someone didn’t spy a 5-year-old publication date immediately, they’re likely to bounce once they’re on the page.
Look into historical optimization so you don’t have to delete the pre-existing engagement and search engine affinity you already cultivated. You can update and refresh the most crucial aspects of that old content and not only reduce bounce rates for your recent visits, but even get new users to visit that page in the process.
Bounce rates aren’t always indicative of poorly-performing content, you’ll need to examine other metrics to see why it’s particularly high for that page. Essentially though, it’s often a technical aspect like page speed, adware, or other user experience flaws that are contributing to high bounce rates and thus knocking your SERP ranks down.
Rachel P is an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. She is also a content strategist here at Writer Access and would be happy to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.