Ask Spork Marketing: Why Is My Website’s Bounce Rate Going Up, And How Do I Fix It?

An auto parts ecommerce client recently asked:

“Looking at analytics, I noticed our site’s bounce rate is going up. Why is this happening, and what can we do to fix it?”

The short answer: There are many factors that impact bounce rate. It’s rarely just one thing. You’ll have to do some analysis and see what you find.

What Is Bounce Rate?

As defined by Google Analytics, a “bounce” is a website visitor who came to a page on your site, never clicked anything, and left. Typically, we assume a visitor who bounced spent very little time on your site. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that are bounces.

Please note that a bounce could be a person who came to your homepage, studied it carefully, and then picked up the phone to call and order a part (or whatever). So, it’s important to understand that a bounce isn’t always bad. It’s usually bad when a site has a high bounce rate, but not always.

Traffic Quality and Landing Page Have a Big Impact on Bounce Rates

Bounce rate is not a universal figure. Bounces can be higher or lower based purely on the type of landing page, traffic source, or type of visit. A person who lands on the home page of your site is less likely to bounce than someone who lands on a product page. A person who visits your site from a Google search is less likely to bounce than someone who visits from a post on Facebook.

There are three questions to answer when you’re trying to understand bounce rate.

1. Where is the traffic coming from? Did the site get a bunch of visitors from Reddit or Twitter or Facebook (or some other social media platform)? If so, that can explain a sudden increase in bounce rate. Social media traffic tends to have a very high bounce rate, as people who are on social media are generally looking to be entertained.

Likewise, any type of ad traffic – AdWords, a banner campaign, etc. – will have a higher than average bounce rate. Ad traffic is fickle, and people who click on ads aren’t usually interested in spending a lot of time looking for whatever it is they’re trying to find. If your landing page doesn’t show them what they expect to see, they may leave.

2. What pages are getting the most traffic? Bounce rates change based on the landing page. When someone lands on the homepage, there are usually lots of places for them to click and further engage with the site. If someone lands on a product page, oftentimes the only click option is “add to cart.” If they’re not ready to do that, they might leave.

Knowing which pages are getting traffic can help you understand why the bounce rate is changing, as well as point to potential trouble spots. If you notice one of your pages has a really high bounce rate, that’s definitely a page you want to review.

3. Is bounce rate up for a particular browser or device, or is it universal? If you see iPhone bounce rates have gone way, way up, and everything else is sort of normal, you could deduce that iPhone users are having trouble viewing your site. If you see that bounce rates are higher for Google Chrome browser users than FireFox users, there may be an issue that’s browser specific.

Browsershots.org is a free testing tool that you can use to see how your website appears in various browsers. You can specify screensize, browser version, and so on. If the free tool is taking too long to load, Browsera is a nice tool that’s affordable and works well.

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How To Improve Your Bounce Rate

Digging into the why of bounce rates isn’t always productive, as there are a lot of potential explanations for problems, and not a lot of data. Likewise, bounce rates can be impacted by site-wide problems.

Therefore, there are some general best practices for reducing bounce rates that should always be followed.

1. Load time of one second or less. While a one second load time is often impossible for complex ecommerce sites (Magento, we’re looking at you), it’s a great goal. If there’s anything that can be done to make your site load faster, it will almost certainly improve bounce rate.

2. Convey trust. We’ve talked about website trust signals before, but the idea is that consumers won’t stay on your site if they don’t trust it. A few small additions to your site could make a big difference in terms of conveying trust and reducing bounce rate.

3. Give the visitor what they want. One of the main reasons people bounce is that they don’t see what they’re expecting.

If, for example, you’re selling auto parts online, consumers expect to see a price, a part number, a part name, and a photo right there when the product page loads. They usually want to see some sort of description too, and an “add to cart” or “buy now” button. If these items aren’t present on your product page, that could explain why consumers are bouncing.

4. Make sure your website looks up-to-date. While the definition of “up to date” is pretty loose, most consumers know “old” when they see it.

We’re not saying you need a new website design, but if it’s been five or more years since you’ve updated your design, it’s definitely time to consider a refresh.

Finally, as always, we’re available to help auto parts manufacturers and etailers analyze the performance of their site, conduct testing, and implement improvements as part of our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) services. Learn more about our CRO work here.

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