Unleash the power of bounce rate analysis for SEO success

September 28, 2017
Bounce rate is one of the most important measures of website quality. And it seems simple enough: do people visit your site and interact with it, or do they come to one page and then leave – bouncing off. Like all things that seem simple, there is more to bounce rate than “lower is better”. Let’s take a look.

What is a bounce rate?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of bounce rate analysis, let’s define what a bounce rate is officially with the Google Analytics definition:

The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page.

For example, if one of your landing pages has a bounce rate of 82%, it means that 82 of every 100 users who click the page URL from organic search results leave your website without viewing any other pages.

Instead of sticking around, clicking through and getting wrapped up in your site, they just ‘bounced’ off the page they arrived at.

Now, a high bounce rate is usually an indication your site doesn’t do well at retaining visitors, but is that a bad thing? The answer depends heavily on what your website goals are and whether retaining users is how you achieve those goals.

Reasons to improve bounce rates

Whether you have a blog or an ecommerce website, you will want your site’s content to encourage visitors to perform actions that match your site goals.

Personal blog:

  • Your goals: Increase brand visibility online and encourage readers to view more pages.
  • Your KPIs (site goals): Increase pageviews. Decreasing bounce rates on key pages will help achieve that.

Ecommerce site:

  • Your goals: Keep users browsing until they convert into customers or contact you.
  • Your KPIs (site goals): Improve bounce rate on high-traffic landing pages, this will likely result in more page views and, in turn, more conversions.

Regardless of which one you have, your task right now is to answer this question:

What are your website goals and how do you measure success (KPIs)?

Where to improve bounce rates?

In insolation, the bounce rate can be misleading. They must be considered alongside other metrics to get the full picture of how your site is meeting the goals you have for it.

In some situations, a high bounce rate isn’t bad because your users might have performed the action you wanted them to on that single page. Perhaps they clicked on an affiliate product link or called your premises.

There are also some pages on your site that have a higher ‘natural bounce rate’. These include your ‘Contact Us’ page and your ‘Where to find us’ page. High bounce rates for these are totally okay.

More homework:

What other metrics you should look at to better assess the quality of your high bounce rates?

Now that we know what bounce rates are, let’s go looking for your bounce rate data.

1. Sign in to the Google Analytics profile for your website
2. Click Behaviour, then Site Content, then Landing Pages
3. Select Organic Traffic
4. Sort the Sessions metrics from highest to lowest

Now we don’t have a lot of blog posts yet at Mash, but one of the best traffic-driving blog posts this month is ‘What does Google Partners really mean?’. It also has an average bounce rate of 77.78% – something we we will try to understand and improve.

The bounce rate booster two-step

If lowering your bounce rate is part of your website goals, there is a simple two-step way to begin pursuing this immediately:

1. Bounce rate diagnosis
2. Bounce rate improvement checklist

Tools you’ll need:

  • Google Analytics: we will be looking at organic traffic, bounce rates and average session duration per landing page.
  • SEMRush (or any other ranking analysis tools): we will be looking at the organic keywords a URL ranks for.
  • Readtime (or any other similar tool): we will use this to calculate the time it takes to read or skim text.

Step 1: Bounce rate diagnosis

Generally, visitors bounce from a web page for the following reasons:

  • They didn’t find the information they were looking for
  • They found what they were looking for and left satisfied
  • A technical issue, such as slow page load drove them out
  • They were not encouraged to keep browsing or perform a particular action
  • A feature of the page annoyed them, such as a pop-up ad.

The good news is there are ways to improve current bounce rate. This flowchart will help you identify if you should focus on refreshing page content, increasing user engagement or improving technical elements to improve a page’s bounce rate.

What if average session duration is longer than estimated reading time?

Look at the Av. Session Duration of the page URL you’d like to improve bounce rate on. Then visit Readtime and paste the body text of that page into the box. Use Readtime’s stopwatch to see how long it will take a user to skim/scan-read the text on the page.

Is the Average Session Duration longer than reading time?

  • If yes – congratulations!
  • If no you might have to rework your intro to hook your readers a bit better or look closely at technical elements, such as page load.

As an example, it took me 1 minute and 27 seconds to skim ‘What does Google Partners really mean?’ and the Av. Session Duration reported in Google Analytics is 42 seconds. This means most people don’t read the content until the end, either because they have found the info they were looking for at the start … or got bored.

Does the page URL rank for relevant keywords?

Paste your page URL into AWRCloud and look at the organic keywords your page URL ranks for. Does your blog post/page URL rank for relevant keywords?

  • If yes – congratulations.
  • If no – this might mean you have to rework your topic and refresh the content on the page.

As an example, our page URL doesn’t rank for heaps of keywords, but they are all relevant to the content of the page so it’s fair to say that the blog post answers most users’ queries.

Step 2: Bounce rate improvement checklist

Increasing user engagement:

  • Do you have comments enabled?
  • Do you have social share features?
  • Do you have related blog posts at the bottom of your page?
  • Do you have calls to actions on the page?

Improve technical elements:

  • Do you have breadcrumbs on the page?
  • Is your page loading fast?
  • Do you avoid pop-up ads or pop-up windows?
  • Do you have links to helpful internal pages?
  • Do links to external websites open in a different browser tab or window?
  • Do you have a search bar on the page?
  • If your content is lengthy, is it structured and contains text links?
  • Is there a table of content at the top or is content structured in tabs?
  • If the burger menu on your mobile site working?

Refresh content:

  • Can your content be featured for the Google Quick Answer box?
  • Does your content answer at least one question from the Google ‘People Also Ask’ list?
  • Is there a way to gain rich snippets for your page URL?
  • Have you looked at your internal search query report in Google Analytics for this page URL?
  • Does your content link to helpful internal pages?
  • Do you have calls to action on the page?
  • Is your content visual enough?
  • Is your content readable enough?
  • Does your piece of content resonate with your audience?
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