The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why is My Homepage Bounce Rate So High?


Dealing with homepage bounce rate!
Over the past few months, I've received dozens of questions about homepage bounce rate so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it. I'm glad to see executives and marketers getting more involved with website optimization. I think it shows the true evolution of web marketing.

Let's start with a definition of Bounce Rate:
The percentage of visitors that visit one page on your website that exit the site before visiting another page.

Hence the word "bounce"... Here's a quick example. Tom sees a paid search advertisement for xyz company. He clicks through the ad and hits the homepage (more about why this could be a problem later.) He quickly scans the page and doesn't find a call to action to what he's looking for and promptly goes back to the paid search listings. That's a bounce.

Note: If you're a small business looking to learn more about web analytics, then you should check out my internet marketing ebook, Taking Control of Your Online Marketing. There's an entire chapter on Web Analytics covering the setup, installation, sections of reporting, how to track conversion, events, etc. It's a great place to start.

I figured that providing a list of some of the most common problems would be a smart way to build this post. So without further ado: (in no specific order...)

1. Your homepage doesn't speak to your personas (types of buyers)
I have mentioned this about a dozens times in related posts, but in my opinion, the best way to optimize your website is to determine your customer personas (types of buyers) and then build persuasive scenarios based on those personas. The days of pointing visitors to a website and simply listing a navigation and a quick intro are gone... I gave a quick example of persona development in my last post (HD TV buyers) if want to reference it.

2. Confusing Homepage Layout and Content, So What Exactly Do You Sell??
Let's say you are speaking to your personas (as mentioned above) and you still experience a high bounce rate. If that's the case, then there's a good chance that your homepage isn't laid out properly. As part of an abbreviated persona development project, my client learned that their customers tend to look for a search box when they hit the homepage of an e-commerce site. As a result, they moved their search box to a more prominent location on the page, improved their search algorithm, and improved the way their search results are displayed. Now, that's a great example of learning from your customers and making the appropriate changes to your website structure. And, they utilize a robust web analytics package to analyze their site activity to ensure the changes they made to the site are working. It's a constant evolution. That's just one example, but you should look at how you introduce your company, your text navigation, the visuals you have on the homepage, the lingo you utilize in the copy, the dimensions of your site as compared to your average visitor (via your analytics package), how quickly your page loads, etc.

3. External Campaigns Driving Visitors to Your Homepage
This can inaccurately bump up your homepage bounce rate and is a common problem that I see in web marketing. For example, paid search campaigns that lead to the homepage of your website, email marketing for a specific promotion that lead to your homepage, banners (yes, unfortunately some web marketers still use banners) that lead to your homepage, etc. I understand if you are undermanned and cannot build campaign landing pages, but I cannot emphasize how this can help your campaigns on multiple dimensions. You can split test landing pages, you can talk specifically to the campaign recipients, you can provide unique content for the promotion visitors, and you can track that landing page at a granular level. In addition, you can utilize your web analytics package to view clickstream reports to see where visitors go after viewing that specific landing page. I can keep going here, but I think you get the gist of why landing pages are important. Using landing pages will also give you a more accurate bounce rate for your homepage. Maybe 7% of your homepage bounce rate was from external campaigns. But please, don't go and refine your homepage until you have accurate data.

3. Ranking in Natural Search for Keywords that Aren't Directly Related to Your Company
If you haven't optimized your website for search, your homepage might actually be ranking for keywords that don't directly relate to your business. Typically, this isn't a big driver of traffic, unless you've really added content and phrases on your homepage that can be interpreted by the search engines as something else. This is something you can easily find via your web analytics program. Just pop into Natural Search and view the top keywords from each search engine. You'll be surprised what you find. For example, if you wrote a book on starting a golf instruction business and you get a few thousand people per month visiting your site by entering the keyword "best ways to increase the distance of your drive", then your homepage bounce rate might be inflated. Figure out why you are ranking for that keyword and then form a strategy for ranking for keywords that directly relate to your business. If you don't have the skill-set in house, then hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist.

4. Website Visitor Expectations are Not Met Properly (This also relates to the external campaign listing above...)
If you set expectations too high in an advertisement and suddenly you receive a lot of traffic from that advertisement, there's a chance a good portion of that traffic could bounce. If you sell Samsung TV's, but don't sell Panasonic TV's and your ad claims that you have the widest selection on the face of the earth, then it shouldn't be a shock when people looking for Panasonic TV's bounce off your site! One of the best lessons I learned regarding marketing copy was from John Caples (probably the most famous advertising copywriter ever). Keep it specific and keep it realistic. For example, "We provide a wide selection of Widescreen HD TV's from Samsung, Sony, Pioneer, and LG in sizes ranging from 26" to 50". Compare that to "We have the widest selection of HD TV's in North America and we must move our inventory today! We have every size imaginable!" If someone visits your site from the second ad and they are looking for a 60" Toshiba, they will probably bounce.

So, how do you fix your website bounce rate problem?
1. Track everything via a robust web analytics package and start analyzing the results (where are visitors coming from, which links on the homepage are most active, which real estate areas on the homepage are most accessed, is on-site search easily accessible, etc.)
2. Determine your personas and map out a plan for speaking to those personas right on your homepage (and in your navigation). This involves speaking with your customers, using web surveys, and speaking with your customer service people.
3. Split test changes to determine if they are working for you. If you don't have a benchmark, then how will you know if you are improving anything?
4. Run clickstream reporting to see where people are going (after you make changes based on your persona development). This will enable you to see which elements drive the most sales. In addition, it will enable you to see which elements drive the highest abandonment rate. For example, you might find that 45% of the people that click through your "New Additions" link leave the site on the next page.

And as usual in web marketing, be creative, be analytical, listen to your customers, listen to your customer service people, and track everything. It's definitely not easy, but if you utilize a structured approach, it could chop your homepage bounce rate down to a reasonable number!

GG

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8 Comments:

  • At 6:26 PM, OpenID spectatorspeaks said…

    High bounce rate is not always a problem.

    eg, If the homepage of an educational institution's landing page (or, the home page; which is pretty much optimized to load at fastest rate) has a very neat arrangement of content that user doesn't have to spend much time on the home page and he is able to locate his next page very easily.

    In this case, bounce rate of a the home page would surely be high. So you should always study your landing page and understand the bounce rate. Figure out what you expect your visitors to do on the page and then try to understand the bounce rate.

     
  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks for your comment. If someone bounces, they technically didn't visit any other pages but their landing page (the one page they visited). I've written a series of posts about bounce rate in case you wanted to check the others out.

    Thanks again.

    GG

     
  • At 10:02 PM, Blogger Spectator said…

    I guess there was a little confusion here. You misunderstood my argument about bounce rate of a page. I am sure you are referring to the bounce rate of the WebSite, not a specific page of the website (in our case, the landing page). Of course, high bounce rate of a website is an issue to worry about; but if a landing page has high bounce rate because the user's immediate click for next more specific/relevant page; then we need not worry.

     
  • At 5:10 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks again for your comment. Actually, bounce rate is defined as:
    The percentage of visitors that visit one page on your website that exit the site before visiting another page.

    So, if someone visits a page and then clicks through to another page, then it's not a bounce. If they exit your site from the second page, then that would be an 'exit' from the site (and would be counted towards the second page).

    Thanks.

    GG

     
  • At 5:46 AM, Blogger Spectator said…

    Thanks for the clarification. Actually, the definition i was referring is The Bounce Rate for a single page is the number of visitors who enter the site at a page and leave within the specified timeout period without viewing another page, divided by the total number of visitors who entered the site at that page. In contrast, the Bounce Rate for a web site is the number of web site visitors who visit only a single page of a web site per session divided by the total number of web site visits.

    However, you would know it better. Once again, thanks for clarifying. :)

     
  • At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Joe said…

    Still a bit confused about bounce rate. If people visit my website, they first arrive at my home page. But I'm seeing a high bounce rate from my Order page, which they can't get to without first visiting my Home page. If they visit my site by typing the address into their browser or by clicking a link, they come to the Home page, so how can there be a bounce from my Order page if they get there after visiting my Home page? Thanks!

     
  • At 7:00 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Joe. Bounce rate can be confusing sometimes. First, I don't know the exact structure of your website, how it's tagged, how you are driving people to your site, etc., but I'll try and give you some quick tips.

    If your order page is showing a high bounce rate, then the first thing you should do it to check referring sources to see where that traffic is coming from. That may reveal the problem right away. If people are arriving on your order page and then leaving, then you definitely would see a high bounce rate. However, if they hit a landing page (or your homepage), and then proceed to the order page, then your order page would have a higher exit rate versus bounce rate.

    Also, if you are sending people off of your site for payment processing, only to return to an order confirmation page, then that could also be throwing off your bounce rate for the page they are returning to. Again, I don't know your exact setup...

    I hope that helps.

    GG

     
  • At 3:07 AM, Anonymous David B said…

    Bounce rate can be confusing/worrying if your website is a news or information site as opposed to e commerce the visitor may have been satisfied with the info provided on the landing/homepage stayed for 2 minutes then left..nothing to worry about.

     
  • At 4:32 PM, OpenID David N said…

    It works better for me to think of how many are clicking through vs. how many are leaving the site. Instead of seeing that, for example, 90% of people are leaving after visiting that one page, I see there is actually 10% clicking through to other pages. That's a motivation for me to build-up the click through rate, rather than tear down the bounce rate.

     
  • At 1:21 AM, OpenID Anonymous said…

    HI there. Thanks for your comments on Bounce Vs Exit rate. Could you please tell me what is an normal/acceptable Bounce Rate?

     
  • At 11:00 AM, OpenID Glenn Gabe said…

    Sure, I get asked that question a lot. It really depends on the specific site and the source of traffic. For example, if you are paying for traffic, you defintely don't want a bounce rate over 50%... Actually, I would be looking for a bounce rate under 40% for campaign traffic (if not lower).

    If you see a bounce rate above 60% or 70%, then it's defintely a sign that's something isn't right. If you see even higher than that, then something is very wrong. You should analzye the situation to understand what's going on. For example, is the quality of traffic poor or is it the landing page? Also, you should focus on outcomes (conversions and events) as much as possible. Then you can understand how valuable a given traffic source or campaign is. You might want to read my post about that topic to learn more.

    I hope that helps.

    GG

     

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