Want your site to do better in Google search results? Then you need to care about reducing your bounce rate.
How do I reduce my bounce rate in WordPress
In this post, we will discuss:
- What a bounce rate is
- Why we care about bounce rates (It’s a Google Ranking Factor!)
- What a good bounce rate is
- How do I reduce my bounce rate in WordPress?
And we’re off!
What’s a bounce rate
Just in case you’re not clear on what your bounce rate is, here is the definition of bounce rate from Google:
“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).”
You can find your bounce rate in Google Analytics where it is one of the first stats listed for your web property. Its placement shows just how important Google thinks it is.
As I get asked about this a lot, I’m going to add that your bounce rate really doesn’t have anything to do with the average number of pages people are viewing on your site. That’s a different statistic altogether. The two might be related in that someone who doesn’t bounce is seeing at least two pages on your site, and thus your average pages per session is higher.
What I am getting at is that bounce rate is just whether the user stayed on your site or left right away. If one person views two pages and another person bounces, you don’t get a rate of 150% (three pageviews divided by two users). In that scenario, your bounce rate is 50%.
Why do we care about bounce rate?
Bounce rate is important because Google uses it as a factor to determine your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
When someone clicks on your site from Google search results, if they then back out right away or go somewhere else, Google then thinks that they didn’t like what they saw on your page and might downgrade you in the SERPs. Low bounce rate results go high and stay high. High bounce rates drop. Thus, bounce rate is important.
Of course, even if Google and search engines in general didn’t exist, you would still want to reduce your bounce rate as you want people to stay on your site and view a lot of pages!
Image via gorocketfuel.com by Jay Peyton
What is a good bounce rate?
At this point you might be wondering whether your bounce rate is any good, or if it drastically needs improvement.
Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any official guidelines to bounce rates from Google. You just need to do the best you can, and that really depends on what type of site you are.
If you write short, viral stories, or if you rely on something like reddit or stumbleupon for a huge chunk of your traffic, you might have high bounce rates. That is because users come to your site to view on thing, and then they click back to reddit or they hit the stumble button on stumbleupon. If that is the case, I think just getting a bounce rate of under 70% might be good for you.
If you write long, detailed posts for a specific market and want lots or return readers, then you might be able to get a bounce rate in the 30-40% range.
Jay Peyton at Rocket Fuel sampled 60 sites for bounce rate and found that:
“Most websites will see bounce rates fall somewhere between 26% and 70%. The average bounce rate for the websites in my sample set was 49%.”
Jay also wrote (in the same post) that:
“As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.”
Some people have actually argued that a low bounce rate might be a bad sign, as that means you aren’t getting many new users from search results. Just naturally, some users should be finding your site in search and immediately realizing that your article or post isn’t what they were looking for and they then leave.
The argument is that if your bounce rate is super low, then you aren’t attracting new people to view your site. You aren’t growing, your stagnating.
I’m not sure that I agree with that argument, as ideally don’t you want everyone who comes to your site to stick around? Maybe that isn’t logical though and it is something to consider that a bounce rate that is too low might be bad. Most of us don’t have that problem to worry about.
How to lower bounce rate
So how do you get users to stick on your site, AKA, How do I reduce my bounce rate in WordPress?
Have a nice website design
Does your site look like it was designed in 1992? Do you have broken links and images all over the page? Is your site easy to look at? If not, then it’s time for a redesign.
Just like in everything else, first impressions are important. They might even be more important for websites than for other stuff.
I would recommend just doing a standard format (header with logo and menu, blog posts on the left, sidebar on the right), choosing a few colors (probably 3 or 4 along with white and black/gray), getting a readable font, and keeping the design simple.
Is your design mobile friendly?
A growing number of users are visiting sites from mobile devices, so optimizing for mobile is important (google actually made this a ranking factor now).
You can either build a mobile site, use a mobile plugin to show another version of your site, or make your site responsive so that it fits any device by rearranging itself. I think the latter is the best option for most people, but it also is the most difficult to achieve.
If you’re page takes forever to load, a lot of people will just click out of it. I know this happens to me at least once a week where I click to go to a site, it doesn’t load in the first five seconds, and I leave.
To improve load times, you should get a good host (see my sidebar for recommended hosts), make sure your host can handle the number of visitors your are getting each day, use an image compressing plugin like smush.it to compress images, and use a caching plugin like Super Cache (my current favorite) or W3 Total Cache.
Caching is essentially storing copies of your page to present to users when the page doesn’t load right away. Well, that is a simple way to look at it at least. For more info, read the Wikipedia page on page cache.
The popup dilemma
One issue that comes up a lot when talking about bounce rates is popups.
Users hate popups. They just landed on a site that they are wondering if it is any good, and BOOM, there’s a popup.
That just annoys people and can lead to a lot of people just clicking out of your site right away.
So why use them? Because they are great at getting people to subscribe to your mailing list, and building your mailing list is one of the best ways to build your business and online presence. Here is an article I wrote on why you need an email subscribe form.
My current favorite subscription form software is SumoMe. They have a new feature called “Welcome Mat” that displays basically an entire screen sized page above your site to get users to subscribe, and they can scroll down if they don’t want to subscribe.
The nice thing about SumoMe is that it works with tons of email subscription services like MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, etc, and they also let you redirect to success pages, which I’ll cover more below.
Begin your article with a bang!
Want people to stick around? Then hook them early.
Write a compelling headline
You probably know this already, but writing a good headline really helps your article as it can either hone in on keywords or keyphrases that you are targetting, or it can be something that is a little clickbait-y that entices users to click.
Either strategy is fine, and maybe you can combine the two to optimal effect.
Use a good image
That first image in your post is really huge in getting people to stick around, or even to come see your post in the first place.
If you have no image, that isn’t good.
If your image is terrible quality, broken, unresponsive, too big, or something else is wrong with it, it will probably turn users off right away and they will instantly leave.
Ideally, your image is somehow related to your post, is high quality, and is responsive (changes to fit different devices and screen sizes).
You might even want to do images that are more likely to get shared on social media. If that is the case, you should brand your images with your logo or watermark.
Images do slow down page speed and take up a lot of space, so you might want to use a plugin like Smush.it for WordPress. That compresses image size.
Write an awesome introduction
After the headline and first image, a good intro is one great way to hook readers into staying on your page.
The longer they stay, the better chance they click something else, i.e. don’t bounce.
Tell users what they’ll get out of it
Another good way to get people to stick is to tell them right away what they will get by sticking around.
Some sites begin every article with something like, “in this article, you will learn” and then they have a list of everything you’ll learn.
Another effective way to hook people is to ask them if they are doing something and then tell them why they absolutely need to.
Break up your content to make it easy to skim
Remember in high school when a teacher would ask you to open to a page in your text book and you’d go to that page and find nothing but text? People hate that, and in the real world, when they are online and have no reason that they HAVE to read your post, if your post is one big chunk of text, they will leave.
So how do you combat this? You break up your posts to make them easy to read and easy to skim.
I’ve written about breaking up your content before in my post about how you should be structuring your posts. The following is an abbreviated version of that.
Images are the best thing you can do to break up your content.
People just love images, and breaking your content up with images makes it seem like not so much text as they aren’t seeing that huge block of text on their screens all at once.
Images can also be an easier way to display information. You can take this really far and use infographics, where users can quickly view an image that display stats and short sentences to prove some kind of point.
An easy way to use images is to just have them be about whatever you are talking about in sections of your post, and then put that image right before that section. Users that are scrolling can then see some image and know that your next section is about whatever was in that image.
An example would be if you suddenly are randomly talking about McDonald’s in your post. You then could lead that section with a picture of McDonald’s. People would see that image of McDonald’s and be like, “why is there a picture of McDonald’s in this section” and then maybe they would read it.
For that one guy/gal out there that only read this section because of that picture of McDonald’s, got ya!
You’ll notice I used a lot of subheadings to break up this post. This makes posts much easier to skim. In fact, you could pretty much just read the headings and save yourself a lot of time.
Avoid big chunks of text (see high school text book example at the top of this section). Keep your paragraphs to three sentences or less. You can even write one line paragraphs. Those big blocks of text are scary and nobody wants to see that.
Lists (either number or with bullets)
For some reason, people love lists. That’s why so many posts now days are “Top 11 reasons to go to Hawaii. You won’t believe number 4!”
It’s an easy way to digest info, people want to know what’s number one if it is numbered, and they also are graphically interesting.
Write a summary or tldr;
An example of a site that does this is the Daily Mail. At the beginning of each post they have a list over-viewing each main point in the post.
A tldr; stands for “too long, didn’t read.” This is just another name for a summary, but for people that aren’t going to read the whole post.
Add some special elements like quotes to tweet, polls, a video, podcast, etc.
This last one is super un-necessary but is just something you could do to keep people on your site a bit longer and break up your content more.
One cool thing that’s kind of en vogue right now are those timers at the top of posts that tell you how long it will take to read the post. You can do this with the TimeSpan WordPress plugin, provided your theme is capable.
Links, links, links!
One great way to reduce bounce rate is to just have a lot of links to other content on your site on each page. If you mention something, link to it. You’d be surprised at how many people will click on it. This is just plain old good user interface too. You’re making it easier for people to use your site.
You should also include links to any outside stuff you mention, again for the users. However, one trick you can do is make any outgoing links be target=”_blank” which makes them open in a new tab. In WordPress, when you use the page editor and add a link, you can also just choose “open a link in a new window/tab” which will add that target blank code for you.
Having outgoing links open in a new window or tab leaves your site open in the other tab, so users will come back to it and maybe click something on your site.
Add links and fill up your sidebar
Recent posts is a widget built into WordPress. It shows your most recent posts, and you can customize it to show an excerpt and the number of posts you want to show. There are also additional plugins you can use to use different image sizes, sort by category, and more.
Put your site’s most popular posts in your sidebar to make it easy for users to get to your most popular content. A good example of a site that does this is Niche Hacks.
Recent comments or recent activity
Recent comments is a widget that shows recent comments, making it easy for users to interact with each other. Social proof is huge, and so when users see that other users are all commenting on something, it will make them more likely to go there and read it, plus they might interact with the other commentors and become part of your site’s community.
Recent activity is like recent comments, but for sites using forums or BuddyPress. It could show stuff users are doing besides commenting.
Subscribe form with redirect
I mentioned this above. Basically, you should have a subscribe form on your site. When people subscribe, you can redirect them to a new page, like a success page that thanks them for subscribing. This reduces bounce rate as any user that subscribed is now automatically loading two pages.
This doesn’t have to be just in the sidebar either. You can do it wherever your subscribe form is, whether it is a popup, welcome mat, scroll box, top bar, under the post, in the sidebar, or wherever else it is.
Screenshot of Viget
At the end of your post give users something to click
So a user read your whole post, or at least skimmed to the end. If you want them to go to another page, you of course have to link to it.
End by suggesting an action
Just straight up telling someone to click something works pretty well. You could also suggest an article for them to read, tell them to subscribe, or anything else really. In that above screenshot, you’ll notice that Viget ends some of their posts by listing off other related posts that the reader might want to check out.
Use Jetpack related posts (or other)
Jetpack is an awesome plugin for WordPress that has tons of features. One of those is a related posts feature that shows related posts at the end of your post. I’m using it on this site, and it is a great way to show users other content they might be interested in.
Load next post
Auto loading the next post, or just having a link to the next post, is another good way to get people to keep reading. Maybe they didn’t find anything to click in the current article, but will find something in the next one.
A cool plugin that recently came out for auto loading the next post in WordPress is called Auto Load Next Post.
Use footer widgets
Much like you used widgets in the sidebar, you can use them in the footer to show people stuff to click. This could be your subscribe form, recent posts, top posts, recent activity (like comments), or anything at all. Just show them something to click to keep them on your site!
Redirect your email subscribers to a new page
Depending on your email subscribe form software, you can send users to a success page after they subscribe. So a user lands on a page on your site, subscribes, and is automatically sent to a second page.
If you use comments, redirect people after submitting a comment
I kind of hate dealing with comments and turned them off on my site (I do this on a lot of client sites too). I just hate dealing with spam and I feel bad if I don’t answer someone that comments right away.
Still, if you have the time to deal with them, comments are a great way to engage your community. One neat trick you can do with comments is redirect them after someone submits a comment so they go to a page where you thank them for commenting and ask them to join your subscription list.
Not only does this reduce bounce rate as that users is seeing two pages, but it can grow your email list and turn a casual reader that just happened to comment into a long time user.
I guess this post turned out to not be all that WordPress specific, as there is info here that anyone could really use to reduce their bounce rate.
I did mention some special plugins for WordPress that you can specifically use. I’ll list those off again here:
- Jetpack Related Posts – Displays three related posts at the end of your post for users to click.
- Auto Load Next Post – Simply auto loads the previous post as you scroll down the page. Also changes the URL address and the page title from that post. Keep people reading, keep them on your site, and maybe they’ll click something.
- TimeSpan – TimeSpan is a simple, easy to set-up WordPress plugin that automatically calculates the approximate length of time it will take to read a blog post. By letting people know what they’re getting into, they might stick around.
- Comment Redirect – Redirect commentors who just made their first comment to a page of your choice. Allows you to ask them to subscribe, like you on Facebook, etc. Make sure no commentors bounce.
- WP Super Cache – Cache your pages to reduce page load times and keep people interested and on your page.
- SumoMe – A subscribe form that you can use to redirect people who subscribe to prevent them from bouncing.
I hope this post gave you a satisfactory answer to the question “How do I reduce my bounce rate in WordPress?”