Rebecca’s train is delayed. She’s worried that there’s not going to be enough time to get to the shop and battle through the queue of commuters before it shuts. Searching for ‘opening times Aldi Market Street’, she’s relieved that she won’t have to go home and scrape a meal together from an almost finished bottle of BBQ sauce and some stale Ryvitas.
She was on the Contact Us page for a couple of seconds before leaving to look at the latest gossip on Facebook. Even though she got exactly what she needed, a glance at analytics would imply her session was a poor one.
High bounce rates don’t mean low performance
It’s absolutely normal to have a bounce rate over 80% on a Contact Us page. As a business owner or marketing manager, high bounce rates may look bad, but it doesn’t mean that your page isn’t performing as it should.
According to Google, the bounce rate is “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. Sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page, without interacting with the page).”
The ambiguity of an interaction in this definition is the starting point of a wider misunderstanding of bounce rates. User interaction by Google’s definition is an event (such as a click), a social interaction or opening a new page, but there are other ways to interact with a website that Google doesn’t measure.
Who’s to say a user hasn’t read your services and sent the URL across to their friend who needs exactly what you’re offering? If your content is a blog or an article, people actively scrolling down the page will have found information that interests them, but Google doesn’t track that. Beyond time on page and session duration, Google can’t track engagement if it doesn’t involve a click.
This isn’t to say that bounce rates should be ignored
While there are acceptable reasons for higher bounce rates, it is wise to check every page and ensure that nothing fundamentally wrong with the content or design is driving users off your site.
There are a few things that could be causing your bounce rate to rocket. Slow load times or pages that aren’t responsive on mobile are both big testers of patience that are likely to send visitors elsewhere.
Similarly, there is a lot of bad content out there. FAQs that don’t provide answers, spelling mistakes and broken pages that haven’t been populated. This should be obvious when you review pages, but even something as simple as a broken internal link or too many call to actions can confuse users and drive them back to Google.
If you’re finding high bounce rates on pages that should lead users through to important conversion points, it’s worth reinvesting time into improving them and carrying out testing to see what keeps users engaged and active on your website.
It’s all about context
As unnatural as it sounds, having a high bounce rate doesn’t mean your users aren’t happy. Every page on your website is there for a specific purpose and many are there to share information rather than secure a direct action.
Every site/page is different so ‘average bounce rates’ don’t really exist. That said, you can expect blogs to be higher than general organic traffic, which in turn will be higher than traffic driven to tailored pages by a specific campaign. If your paid clicks are bouncing, this needs to be fixed as a priority.
When looking at bounce rates, everything should be done in context—taking into account what the goal of the page is and where the users landing on it are coming from.
If it’s a blog that people have come to from a Facebook post on a Wednesday afternoon, then they’re probably just there to read the blog. You’ve enticed them in with the initial hook of your title (or because they know you’ve written some good content in the past) but the vast majority are unlikely to explore the site once they’ve read your closing sentence.
You can try and entice readers to stay longer with links to other blogs, or establish a regular relationship by getting them to sign up to your newsletter, but don’t be disheartened if they don’t stick around.
Our blog receives some of the highest traffic, but even posts with many visits, such as ‘Taking Market Share Back from Referral Giants’, have bounce rate percentages in the 90s. What’s key here though, is that people are spending over 5 minutes reading through Andy’s post. This shows the blog is meeting users’ expectations, piquing interest and keeping them on the page.
When you’re looking at pages where higher bounce rates are expected, checking the session times and source of the traffic is an effective way to see if the content and design is really working for your users. If your session time is barely long enough to read the opening line with a bounce rate that is worryingly close to 100%, it shows that something is amiss.
As a rule, always ask yourself the following questions: where are your users coming from? What do they want? Is your page fulfilling this need?
Even if your bounce rate is gold-star worthy and your session times are spot on, testing the design of your buttons, restructuring some content or adding a newsletter signup option are all ways to optimise your site and keep users happy.
Sometimes, giving users the information they’re looking for will naturally lead to shorter, single-page sessions, but that’s ok, because you should never put your statistics ahead of your visitors.