Duncan - 12 March 2012 in Panda updates,Usability

Squash your bounce rate

In an attempt to pull website usability and website rankings closer together, the infamous Google Panda update included data on pages per visit and bounce rate making their algorithms more critical than ever.

The real lost traffic to websites in this area is where a visitor leaves within a nanosecond of reaching the page as opposed to an indexation issue at Google’s end due to ambiguity/semantics of the typed search in question.

What is bounce rate?

Before launching into this, bloggers or company blogs are exempt from this article because blogs typically have an 80% plus bounce rate as it is different in its composition to a website.

The other part is a well known fact but when you build your online empire it is all too easy to lose track of. Countless studies prove that on average a visitor will make a decision to stay or leave a website within 3 seconds WITHOUT scrolling. It is true that ‘below the fold’ content is also equally important with the advent of quick finger tip browsing on tablet/smartphone, but if your above the fold content isn’t clear and high relevant (see the remedies given below) then your below the fold will be ghostland.

A bounce is defined as a single page visit and is then expressed as a percentage of visits vs bounce visits. Technically, once your analytics script has been downloaded within the user’s session and they leave without the script being downloaded again on any other page. This is important to understand because your analytics installation needs to be completed in line with the guidelines supplied to you – for example click here for the Google Analytics installation developer notes.

Why you need to get to grips with bounce rate

In the SEO world, farming traffic was popular; in 2011 it was killed by Panda. Now, SEO experts must be tuned into getting to grips with bounce rate because of the directional change of Google’s algos. And there are some umcomfortable SEOs out there because of this.

There is always some type of cost of generating online traffic – at a minimum, this will be your time. If in excess of 50% of your visits are bouncing then you have a problem that you need to prioritise and some suggested measures are listed below.

Some decent remedies of bounce rate

– Check the site loading time using Google Webmasters. This gives you the facts that you need to take to your developer if it comes back in the red (see diagram below).
– Use of contrast and bold colours to make reading easy
– Employ decent line spacing so that any text is easier on the eye.
– Choose a simple, web safe font. Consider the variety of devices that will be accessing your website.
– Break up text and don’t have long paragraphs. Eye scanning experiments have shown our eye movements go left to right, typically 3 times to make a ‘3’ shape.
– Contextual links – link to other posts or pages within your site’s text content to encourage website engagement. Just because you make a clear path that you desire doesn’t mean that your visitor will follow it.
– Check your navigation against your competition and critically evaluate it. Is your navigation concise, helpful and a good breakdown of your content/business type?
– Test. A/B testing for lower page view websites and Multivariate testing for higher traffic ecommerce websites is an absolute no-brainer.

Google Webmasters site performance – to access go to ‘Labs’ & then ‘Site Performance’

Duncan Colman


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