You've worked hard building your website. So why isn't anybody sticking around to read your content?
High bounce rates -- that is, a large percentage of visitors who fail to engage with more than one page on your site -- are a common problem plaguing small-business websites. A number of factors can contribute to the problem, but there are a number of easy solutions as well.
To determine whether your site needs help getting visitors to stick around longer, log in to your Google Analytics dashboard. If you see a bounce rate higher than 50 percent to 60 percent of your visitors, or an average time-on-site that's less than one minute, consider taking one or all of the following actions.
Experiment with multimedia.
Multimedia files tend to hold viewers' attention for longer. Your visitors might not sit down and read 2,000 word articles, but they may listen to all of the same content in a single visit if it's conveyed via video or audio.
Try experimenting with everything from embedded video clips to slideshow presentations to podcasts to image galleries. Measure the impact of these additions on your site's "stickiness" metrics to determine which techniques to use again.
Make your content more readable.
If you've ever stopped by a web page that consists of nothing more than a long, unbroken piece of dense text, you know how important readability is in attracting and keeping people on a website.
To make your content more readable, adopt the following techniques:
- Cut paragraphs so that they consist of no more than two to five sentences
- Use subheads to break up content into sections
- Add bullet or numbered lists when possible
- Bold or italicize key words and phrases
These tips might seem simple, but they create more elements on a page for your readers to engage with, and can significantly reduce your site's bounce rates.
Add internal links.
Another contributing factor to high bounce rates is the failure to present readers with multiple content options that might interest them. For example, suppose you land on a sports website looking for the answer to the question, "Who won the 1997 Super Bowl?" The page gives you the answer, but fails to provide links to supporting pages about star players Brett Favre, Reggie White and Desmond Howard -- all topics that may have interested you and kept you on the site longer. Instead, you get your information and leave, contributing to the site's high bounce rate.
One simple way to keep people on your site longer is to add internal links to other related pages throughout your site. Though these links also provide some search engine optimization (SEO) value, it's important to structure them with the goal of helping your readers find other information they'll like. Don't use this as an opportunity to keyword-stuff your links full of SEO phrases.
Install a 'Related Posts' plugin to your blog.
On a similar note, if you run a company blog, consider adding a plugin like the WordPress Related Posts tool or Contextual Related Posts. Both of these tools automatically append a list of similar articles to the end of each of your blog posts, giving readers the opportunity to move on to other pages of your site.
If you do install one of these tools, don't simply adopt the default options. Test different headings ("You Might Also Like…" vs. "Related Posts") and display settings (lists of posts vs. image icons) to see which combinations make the biggest difference in reducing your bounce rate.
Prompt readers to action.
If you want readers to stick around on your site, ask them to do something for you. For example, you could:
- Suggest that readers check out a specific related post on your website
- Encourage them to leave comments at the end of your blog posts
- Direct them to free videos on your site
Remember, your website visitors can't read your mind. If you want them to take a specific action on your site to help reduce your bounce rate, don't hesitate to tell them.
These solutions should help improve your site's performance, but you may still need to do a thorough investigation of your site's analytics data to determine precisely where losses are occurring and how they can be prevented. With a bit of due diligence and experimentation, you should find ways to keep your visitors on your site longer.