Improve bounce rateI’ve always said that your blog’s statistics are a very good source of information for optimization, be it search engine optimization or simply design and usability improvements.

One of the most important indices your stats will measure is the bounce rate. Of course, some would say that the number of unique visitors or the number of page views are very – if not most – important, but I dare disagree for a simple reason: unique visitors and page views are fairly easy to get (buy) or manipulate (exchange).

That’s why I put my money on the bounce rate, but, before I continue, let’s see what is the bounce rate.

Bounce Rate Definition

This is what the all-knowing Wikipedia tells us about bounce rates:

A bounce occurs when a web site visitor leaves a page or a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs.

In other words, the bounce rate is the percentage of a page’s visitors that did not take any further action, transforming the entry page into an exit page. For that to occur, visitors would need to either close the browser window/tab, hit the “Back” button, type a new URL or simply wait until the current session expires.

So, basically, the way you optimize your landing page (entry page) will most likely influence your bounce rate.

The Average Bounce Rate

If we were to take as granted what Google’s Analytics Specialist Avinash Kaushik says, an acceptable bounce rate could vary anywhere between 20% and 50%, while anything above 50% should be worrying. While this sounds OK in theory, it’s not applicable in every case.

Let’s take those famous landing pages built especially to sell a product. How many people out of all page visitors are likely to buy the product? Most times only a small percentage. How many of these pages sell the product through their own website so that once the visitor clicks the “Buy” button, he won’t navigate away to an online shop or affiliate account?

Also, as you can easily see for yourself, blogs tend to have high bounce rates and that is explainable.

First of all, blogs are mostly informational websites with tons of content. We know that because of their nature, search engines have developed an affinity towards blogs, that being the reason we find a lot of blogs in search results pages.

Sometimes, the information returned in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) is not exactly what the user expects to find, meaning that a user will click on a link, visit the web page, not find the desired information and simply close the tab or hit the “Back” button to continue looking through the search results. This leads to a bounce rate increment.

This situation could be prevented through better on page SEO and especially keyword optimization.

Also, visitors coming from search engines are very targeted, meaning they know what they are looking for, and once they’ve found it, they are not as likely to continue browsing for other things, unless your blog is really good (from design to topics and writing style).

RSS subscribers and loyal readers also contribute to a blog’s high bounce rate. That sounds crazy, right? We all want more subscribers and readers. Well, it’s not crazy. By being a loyal reader or a RSS subscriber means that you are up to date with every new blog post so each visit will be generated by these new posts. These posts will be entry pages as well as exit pages, since visitors are most likely familiar with the rest of the content.

If subscribers are the reason behind your high bounce rate what can you do? You could shut down your feeds. I’m just joking, no need for drastic measures. Instead you could consider revising your writing style to a more conversational one. Start writing more “for the people”. Engage your readers. Make them want to post comments and by doing so, automatically take an action on your blog and lowering the bounce rate.

If High Bounce Rates Are Natural…

Then why are they so important? Again, we’re talking strictly about blogs. An online shop or a portal with a bounce rate of 70-80% is extremely bad.

By studying our blogs’ statistics we can find out which pages and keywords are most efficient, and by doing so, find a pattern for a better optimization.

Consider this. Blogsessive is mostly about “blogging tips”. Sure, each article debates a more specific topic, but those topics can be included in the big “blogging tips” area. So, if Blogsessive would have a high bounce rate for the “blogging tips” keyword that would be reason for concerns, because people interested in tips should basically browse more pages in search for more general information, unlike those searching for a specific situation or advice.

So, to answer the question in this post’s title: No, a higher bounce rate on your blog is not necessarily bad, but it’s definitely an indicator for further improvements.

How to Improve the Bounce Rate

If you’re not satisfied with what your stats are showing, here are some tips to help you improve your blog’s pages’ and overall bounce rate:

  1. Encourage communication;
  2. Use “Call for action” phrases;
  3. Link between your own articles as reference;
  4. Do on page SEO (URL, title and keyword optimization);
  5. Suggest readers similar or other interesting posts;
  6. Provide a popular posts list;
  7. Use interactive elements that would require users to take a small action, such as polls;
  8. Find your blog’s “pause points” (places where users will spend more time) and insert actions in those points;
  9. If you’re out-linking excessively, try to reduce the number of outgoing links;
  10. Reconsider your blog’s navigation and overall theme design that could generate usability issues.

Over to you

Do you have a high or a low bounce rate? How has the bounce rate affected your blog? What method(s) did you find most efficient to reduce the bounce rate?