The Bounce Rate Epidemic

published on December 6th, 2008 · more from the blog →

So like most bloggers out there in the wilds of the interweb, I have become more and more obsessed with tracking my website statistics, on a daily basis I find myself scrutinising my stats and beating myself up over what I can do to be more popular.

One of the most closely watched figures I use is the Bounce Rate.

High Bounce Rate = Low Goal Conversion

Meaning the more people that bounce off your website having visited only 1 page, the less captivating your content is to your visitors, sorry to be blunt, but someone had to tell you.

I only discovered a few days ago that my website is not that abnormal, with a bounce rate of about 50% my site appears to be pretty average, if not on the low side!

However I still can't understand why this figure is still so high! Half of all the people that come to my website have gone away either not finding what it is they want, or, having found what they want are not interested in anything else I have to say! Now I'm not taking this too personally, but something is wrong. If you had to go to 3 supermarkets before you could find an Apple, you wouldn't be very happy right?

So I was wondering, knowing all this, and having "brilliant" search engines on the web nowadays, why is this number still so high?

Possible causes

  • Poor Search Query

  • Poor Search Engine

  • Poor Page Title or Link text

  • You're All Backwards!

Poor Search Query

So this could be the user at home doing a search that isn't really what they wanted. Searching for "Oranges" when really they mean "Apples". What can we do about this? Well other than giving out common sense pills and reeducating the masses, not a lot.

Poor Search Engine

Yup, I'm going to slag off Google. Google is amazing, I know that, but search engines will have to adapt, with more and more content flying about search engines need to be ranking based on semantics, they need to work out what type of content and in what context your search is being done, so for example "eating apples" there are multiple, very different queries there "how to eat an apple", "pictures of people eating apples", "health benefits of eating apples" etc. etc. More and more of the web is going to be based around these things, and the links out there are already trying to do this, for example links to your friends on Facebook have the tag rel="friend" so computers can understand that that link leads to a friend of yours. Clever stuff eh.

Poor Page Title or Link text

The web is full of exaggerated titles to get your attention, and maybe those articles are getting lots of page clicks, but if the content doesn't doll out what the title suggests, you're brand is going to suffer and people will be less likely to click on you next time. Now I'm not saying "don't use clever titles" what I'm saying is make sure you have the content there to back it up. Typical examples are those videos on YouTube that have semi naked women right in the middle of the video so you click on it, only to find out that it's some anti-war campaign or something. (Not that I click on those videos ;-p)

You're All Backwards!

So I could just be over-reacting, the whole point of the web is to get information as quick as possible and run away giving nothing back, right? Well yes, I imagine websites like Wikipedia have a pretty high bounce rate, but they have built up a reputation for only needing to go to one page, maybe this is a good thing and we should all be striving to get 90+% bounce rates? I keep going back there for more.

Lastly I want to ask the question..

How can we effectively measure the level of enjoyment or relevance to the consumer?

If you are a shop or selling something this is a pretty good way of measuring how successful your content has been, if they like the content they'll buy.

So there are ways of mimicking this level of feedback in your analytics program, I use Google Analytics and it has a feature where you can set Goals for your visitors and you simply get a Conversion rate.

BUT! Yep I have a but... what if you have no goals? I'm a blogger, the only goal I have is to entertain or inform people of the ramblings in my head. How do I track that? Maybe I should start asking for donations ;-) well.. maybe not.