How to Conquer High Bounce Rates With Better UX
Imagine for a moment that you opened a retail store in a busy pedestrian mall. Hundreds or thousands of people are setting foot in your shop each day. Sounds good, right?
Now imagine that a third of them would step inside, take a glance at what you had, and then walk out without looking at anything. Wouldn’t you want to know what happened? One moment they’re checking out your sign outside, looking in your window, and stepping in through the front door. Then, just seconds later they decided to take their time and attention elsewhere. We would be willing to bet that would drive any entrepreneur executive crazy.
As maddening as that scenario might seem, it’s one that hundreds of business owners around Tulsa are facing every day. The only difference is that it’s happening online, making it harder to diagnose and easier to ignore.
Understanding UX and Page Bounces
A bounce occurs on your website when a visitor arrives on one of your pages and leaves without taking any action. They don’t click through to a link or check out any other pages. They just leave. That’s generally considered a bad thing (although not always, but that’s something we will come back to later).
Since a bounce is the online equivalent of having that person walk into your store, glance around, and then leave, it only makes sense that marketers want to do whatever they can to prevent them. After all, every bounce represents a missed opportunity to generate a conversion or sale. That’s painful, especially if you are paying to generate that traffic through search or social advertising.
In our years of experience, we have often found that high bounce rates are associated with poor user experience (or UX). This just means that potential customers coming to a website are having a hard time finding what they are looking for or interacting with the website in general. Once the biggest problems or issues are cleared up, buyers hang around longer and convert at a higher rate.
So, what kinds of UX improvements can lower your bounce rate? We’re glad you asked.
9 Proven UX Improvements That Lower Bounce Rates
UX isn’t an exact science. What visitors expect from one business or website might not align perfectly with their needs on another. Things like company size, location, industry, and brand awareness all make a big difference.
Still, there are lots of proven steps you and your web design team can take to improve the usability of your website and decrease bounce rates. Let’s look at nine of the most powerful…
#1 Get to the Point
The people you want to do business with have a lot on their plates. They don’t have time to dig through your website, admire its aesthetic beauty, and sift through various conceptual meanings. They need to arrive at your home page (or any page on your site, really) and be able to get a very quick sense of what is going on.
In the traditional print publishing world, the advice was always to put the most important news item “above the fold.” That way, anyone passing on the street or glancing at a current edition would be able to glean the headline story right away. That increased the odds that they would purchase a paper to find out more. You should be doing the same with your website.
When people don’t understand what your company is about, or whether you can help them, they leave to find clearer solutions. Get to the point quickly and remove all ambiguity.
#2 Keep Things Clean
When it comes to web design, white space is your friend. There can be a temptation to overcrowd pages with ads, images, and flashing calls to action. Marketers want to give buyers every chance to see what’s being offered and take advantage, but it usually does more harm than good.
For one thing, when you adopt a somewhat minimalist approach to page design it’s easier to get to the point. And for another, it demonstrates a clarity of thought. The more cluttered your message is, the harder it can be for visitors to fully absorb and respond. In other words, one good image or paragraph focused on your buyer’s most pressing need is better than thousands of words that get in the way.
Resist the urge to add too much to your pages, and don’t pressure your web design team to incorporate additional elements to a clean layout.
#3 Speed Your Website Up
It’s not exactly a secret that most website visitors are impatient. Studies have shown you have between two and three seconds to impress a potential customer before they leave and try a different search result. If your pages don’t even come online during that short window you’ll have missed your chance before it even materialized.
There are a lot of factors that can slow down website performance. Slow hosting servers, outdated plug-ins, improperly formatted images, and extraneous pieces of HTML code are all frequent culprits. A thorough website audit is the first step towards identifying these types of issues and resolving them.
Often, simply speeding your website up is one of the most effective ways to reduce your bounce rate. If large numbers of visitors are leaving your website directly from a search visit or social referral, slow web performance could be the hidden cause.
#4 Be Mobile Friendly
It has been a few years now since mobile web users became a majority on the internet, and yet there are still business owners hanging onto websites with partial or nonexistent mobile compatibility.
If your business site produces errors, loads unevenly, or is just slow to appear on phones and tablets, it’s going to cause you bounce-related headaches. Most of your customers just aren’t going to hang around or sift through a website that appears to be incomplete.
Responsive web design platforms make it easy and affordable to maintain mobile compatibility without losing your most important branding or conversion elements. Trying to attract customers without the ability to adapt your content to smaller screens virtually guarantees that your bounce rate will be higher than normal.
#5 Streamline Navigation
Sometimes would-be customers leave your website simply because they can’t find what they’re looking for. Your navigation is dense or unconventional, so they decide it’s too much hassle to keep researching your products and services.
In general, it’s good to have your business website be as “flat” as possible, meaning that visitors can get from one page or topic to another easily. The more steps there are between one section or topic and another, the higher the odds they’ll decide finding what they were looking for just isn’t worth the trouble.
A confusing navigation structure will affect bounce rates, but it may also show up in terms of short and erratic page visits. Good use of web analytics can help you identify and solve these problems.
#6 Break Up Content Blocks
No one likes reading long blocks of text on a website. Even when there is a great deal of information to be conveyed it’s better to break things up with subheadings, bulleted lists, infographics, and other visual tools.
Most business owners and marketers understand this intuitively, but it’s easy to lose sight of when you want to cram a lot of juicy details onto a product page or appeal to Google’s search spiders. There isn’t anything wrong with having plenty to say (you could take this article as proof). What’s problematic, though, is confronting a visitor with paragraph after paragraph of words without anything to make them easier to scan.
When in doubt, break up a big idea into several sections. Separate topics into new pages if needed, or convey your message through images and videos. What you should never do, if you want to keep visitors on your site and decrease bounce, is hit them with too many words at once.
#7 Edit and Proofread
While it isn’t strictly a usability issue, using improper grammar, spelling, and punctuation will affect bounce rates.
In extreme situations, potential customers might not be able to follow your logic or messaging because they don’t understand. In most cases, though, the issue with sloppy editing and proofreading is that it undercuts your credibility. Prospects leave your site immediately because they feel you aren’t professional or can’t be trusted based on the quality of your text.
Most businesspeople don’t enjoy copywriting or content creation. If you aren’t great with words, have someone else double check your marketing messages to ensure they aren’t driving customers away.
#8 Link to Other Pages and Resources
As obvious as it might seem, some visitors could bounce from your website simply because they don’t know what to do next. Building a clear and intuitive navigation structure in your website can go a long way toward solving this problem but it isn’t the only answer.
Most of the pages on your site are going to have internal text and image links that point towards other resources. You don’t want to overdo it, but these should be easy to identify and follow. That way buyers can move along to related products, services, or topics as they move through their own journey and stay engaged with your content along the way.
Having too many or too few internal links can increase bounce rates, so study your web analytics to find a happy medium.
#9 Give a Clear and Compelling Next Step
Your most important internal link and navigation element is the call to action that drives conversions. If you want visitors to click a ‘buy’ button, sign up for an appointment, or take some other next step, ask them in a clear and distinct way.
There is an art and science to crafting offers, but the big takeaways are to frame things in value-added terms and be direct. Let prospects know what you want them to do and what’s in it for them. Fail to make your UX in an explicit way and your website will bleed traffic rather than generating conversions.
Finding the perfect call to action is often a matter of experimentation. Keep looking for offers that reduce bounces while improving your conversion rates.
Look Beyond the Bounce Rate
While the bulk of this article has been devoted to improving your UX in a way that decreases bounce rates, we have to add one little caveat before we let you go: bounce rates are not a perfect measure of activity and engagement.
In fact, bounce rates should be considered alongside other performance indicators to get a sense of what is and isn’t working on your website. Because some people may study your pages intently before leaving, they could have a high time on site measurement or scroll depth that tells a deeper story than a simple bounce statistic would.
Suppose for a moment that you were to find our blog on Google and spend a few minutes reading this article, for example. If you then moved on without committing another action that bounce wouldn’t look great in our web statistics. But, you might have been so impressed with our ideas that you decided to contact us by phone to learn more. In that case the “bad” result would actually be a positive interaction.
The point here is to treat high bounce rates as a sign that improvement is needed, but not to ignore all other signals of progress or user involvement. They represent just one data point, not the whole story of how your target market views your website.