11 Common Reasons for a High Website Bounce Rate

website bounce rate

Website bounce rate is an important metric every site operator needs to keep an eye on. It’s the percentage of people who leave your website without visiting any other pages than the one they first landed on. Every site experiences a significant bounce rate—bouncing is a normal part of browsing the web—but a high bounce rate means your site isn’t helping your brand succeed the way it could and should be.

What exactly constitutes a “high” bounce rate varies depending on the type of site, industry, and other factors. But as a general rule of thumb, somewhere around 40 percent is considered average. Many experts say that up to 50 to 55 percent, while somewhat high, isn’t cause for concern.

Do a little online research about average bounce rates in your industry. If some of your pages—especially your home page and key landing pages—have a high rate, consider the possible explanations below. Usually, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on once you know what to look for.

Why People Abandon Your Website

  1. Your page takes too long to load. Common reasons for this include lousy site hosting, large or too many images, crazy custom fonts, and elaborate sliders or special effects. People only wait an average of 4 seconds for a page to load. Check your load time and get useful information with a free online tool like Pingdom.
  1. The page isn’t relevant to visitors. If you drive traffic to a landing page with deceptive ads, if your page ranks high on Google for keywords or search intents that aren’t related to what’s actually there, if your snippets in search engine results don’t accurately describe the page, or if people are otherwise getting to the page with expectations that go unmet, they click away.
  1. Your website doesn’t look trustworthy. People form impressions of a website within seconds. A lot of elements contribute to a positive or negative first impression. A few big things that send up red flags in visitors’ minds include an outdated look, spammy or overly salesy content, flashing or tacky graphics, no visible trust signals, and copy with multiple spelling or grammatical errors.
  1. Aggressive attempts to sell, sell, sell! If visitors are met with lots of promotional pitches, pop-ups trying to sell them something, or other prominent or pushy sales-oriented elements, it’s an immediate turn-off. This is especially true if what they see isn’t relevant to whatever brought them to the page. This incorporates numbers 2 and 4 above, and it also annoys people and makes your brand appear selfish.
  1. Confusing page layout or site navigation. As any competent web designer knows, intuitive navigation and user-friendly pages are essential to retaining users. If they can’t easily find what they came looking for, or if it’s a struggle to locate the additional information they need, they won’t waste much time. Not when there are competitor sites to try.
  1. Pages can’t be easily skimmed. This goes along with number 5. Readers like to quickly skim a page to locate exactly what they want. They usually aren’t interested in wading through large blocks of text or scrolling endlessly. Keep copy to the minimum needed for the page’s purpose, limit paragraphs to a few lines, use bold headings frequently down the page, and, if it’s a long page, offer a menu at the top that let users jump down to their area of interest.
  1. There’s no clear next step. People arrive at a webpage with a purpose. Typically, they’re in a stage of the buyer’s journey and hope to move from one phase to the next. If they like what they see on your page, they want to take another step. If you don’t have an obvious call to action (CTA) or don’t give them an easy option for what to do next, they often just leave the site. And this doesn’t only happen if you lack any next step; it also happens if you trigger decision paralysis with too many possible next steps.
  1. You’re marketing to people outside your target audience. If your marketing efforts aren’t reaching the right consumers, if they’re attracting people who just aren’t interested in your products or services for any of countless possible reasons, the people you send to your site will leave. Look at what you’re doing on social media, in your email marketing, and elsewhere; are you sure it’s relevant to your target market and its buyer persona?  
  1. Your page has low-quality content. We mentioned spelling and grammar mistakes above, but that’s just one aspect of poor content. If the writing on your webpage rambles, is hard to follow, doesn’t have a clear purpose, doesn’t address a narrow topic, doesn’t provide the information it promises, doesn’t say anything of value to the reader, or otherwise fails to engage, people give up quickly. There are plenty of other sources for content.
  1. Your page is hard to read. If visitors are greeted by an unpleasant or illegible font, if the type is too small, if there are images in the middle of text blocks, if the layout is screwy, if your page has weird colors, if the text blends into the background, if a dark background and pale text bothers their eyes, they’re gone. White or light-colored backgrounds with black or dark text is standard for a reason. The same few fonts are so widely used for a reason.
  1. You don’t have a mobile-friendly website. Today, many—possibly even most—of the people who come to your website do so from their smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. If you don’t have a responsive web design that displays and works properly on mobile devices, a large number of your visitors will leave immediately.

Bouncing May Not Always Be Bad

A high bounce rate isn’t by default a bad thing. If your website has one or more pages that intentionally direct the visitor away from your site, then the bounce rate is part of the page’s success.

For example, a page’s primary purpose may be to get users to call you. If they arrive on the page, find your phone number, close the site and call you, the page works. If the page’s CTA takes people offsite to your products on a third-party site (Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, etc.), then a high bounce rate is desirable. If you want people clicking on ads that redirect away from your site or filling out a form that doesn’t take them to another page, same thing.

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