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How and why to keep away the dreaded Google bounce

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75% bounce. 63% bounce. 95% bounce. 38% bounce. Maybe you’ve seen those in your Google Analytics, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re missing an important metric in that last column (see screenshot below) that Google graciously gives you to help you win the internet marketing game.

Google analytics bounce

Bouncing ball is not the game you want to play

Bouncy rubber balls might be fun for kids, but bouncing is no fun for online businesses. In fact, it can be downright painful because if they bounce too high, Google will return with a slap so hard it can bury that web page of yours into the ground – and then the game is over.

So what is a bounce?

Google defines bounce rate this way:

“Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.”

In other words, bounce is the opposite of stick, so getting people to stick on your site is the goal.

And why should the bounce rate matter to you?

1. Google uses the bounce rate as a signal for the relevancy and popularity of your web page.

Imagine yourself sitting outside a coffee shop on a park bench reading a paper and you notice that everyone who walks into the shop immediately turns away. Other than raise your curiosity about why, after enough people walk away without stepping further than the threshold or coming back out in a matter of seconds, would you think the coffee shop really met those visitors needs? And worse, wouldn’t you think there was something in that shop that was repelling them?

This is what Google thinks when people bounce off your site. Remember, it wants to return results people will be happy with, results they care about and provide what they are looking for.

Google knows which keywords brought them to the site. If people using a particularly keyword consistently turn away, what will Google think about that keyword and its relevancy to you? Clearly, it would think it’s irrelevant.

Why else should you care?

Because if people are bouncing away, they don’t like what you’re offering them.

What should you do about keywords that you want to be relevant to you but that continually bounce people away?

1. Give them what they want.

Make sure the pages that are pulling people in on your keywords actually give them what they want and make them want to stay. How do you do that?

  • First step is to  make sure your Title and description metatags are actually relevant. Those are the tags that show up in a Google query. They may be misleading and bringing people in under “false pretenses.”
  • Second, if those metatags are right for you, check to be sure the copy on your page continues on after that “metatag introduction,” and that it fills the need of the searcher.

    In the example above, you can see lots of bounces for the keywords “Santa Cruz chiropractors” but not for “Santa Cruz chiropractor.” Why?We can’t know for sure, but possibly because those looking want to see a complete list of chiropractors in Santa Cruz. Or maybe they’re comparison shopping from one to another.

    I don’t know for sure. But in any case, I’d want to try and keep them there and turn them into a customer. I’m making that attempt by drawing lots of attention to Dr. Griffin’s great reviews and “Best Chiropractor” award. No need to comparison shop if you have the best right here is my logic.

    (On the other hand, maybe they are not really bounces at all! See the “Google, listen up” subheading below.)

  • Third, make it really clear, visually clear, that that page is about those metatags.– Use descriptive subheadings that are big, bold and complete, or almost complete, sentences.

    – Use bullet points to make it easy to see the points you are making on that page.

    I tell my clients to squint when reviewing your page. What stands out? If the keywords, your message, and your call to action don’t, then you have a problem.

Check out the screenshots below and see what a difference the subheadings and heading within the body of the copy make on that page.

Not so sticky

headings improve a web pages stickiness

In the screenshot above, you’ll see that Dr. Griffin has links to blog topics on the right which can draw clicks and prevent bounces, and that’s good, but remember, most people landing here are looking for a Santa Cruz Chiropractor.

How well does that page convert for her?

Stickier with less bounce

Would this one get you to stick around more?

good example of optimized page

Note the title’s reference to “Best Chiropractor,” and the Yelp box on the right.

If you want a great chiropractor in Santa Cruz, would you think you found one or would you bounce away? Stick? or bounce?

2. Dangle the carrot.

Additionally, try to lead people further into your site so they don’t bounce. This is particularly challenging on blog posts because many people just come for the information in that particular post.

How do you get them to visit other pages?

  • Invite them to read more by whetting their appetite about other topics you wrote about. You can do this by referencing other articles directly within the article.
  • Include the “latest posts” links in your sidebar.
  • Use WordPress’ “Related Posts” plugin to show them related posts at the end of the post. (And fix it if it’s breaking as it is in this blog!)
  • Offer a special discount (and make it attractive and eye-catching), but make them click to another page to actually get it.
  • Place a call to action and lead capture form on every page. Once the page is submitted, they are directed to another page, and, voilá, no bounce.

But, Google listen up, a bounce is NOT always a clear indicator that people aren’t finding what they came looking for.

Why do I say that? Because you may have done such a great job on your landing page that you sold them immediately, and because you put the phone number very visible on every page, maybe they picked up the phone to call you without clicking anywhere in your site.

So I was particularly pleased when I read this tweet by @ruthburr on Twitter in her Pubcon tweets:

“What constitutes a bounce? If a 1-page visit is much shorter than the norm across the ecosystem (depends on niche).”

Did this come from Google itself? I don’t know. I wasn’t there, but I’m trying to find out. Does anyone reading this know?

The bigger question is, is Google now considering time on the page when determining whether or not something is a bounce?

Think about this. Let’s say your niche is plumbers. Most looking for a plumber might check out a page, then call. If they call, they will be sitting on that page for awhile, perhaps not clicking into the site at all – why would they? They already decided to call that plumber. Maybe they even left the page open and walked away with their phone. This probably happens a lot.

So maybe, just maybe, Google is taking this into consideration. According to this logic, then, Google might not consider a one-page visit to the plumber’s site (niche) a bounce unless the visitor didn’t stay long enough to make a phone call. And that would also mean, if Google is doing that, that the bounces for “Santa Cruz chiropractors” shown above really are the kind of bounces that hurt, and by that I mean the kind that hurt business because those bouncers haven’t taken the time to call.

I’m hoping that there is truth in that Tweet. Until we know for sure, though, do your best to catch the ball before it bounces.

And now that you’ve read this, I bet you’re thinking you never knew so much went into SEO. At least that’s true with this SEO.

P.S. If anyone reading this has clever ways to move visitors through the site, please post in comments below.

Kat

Kat

Top Kat at Kat & Mouse Co.
Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.
Kat

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Kat

Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.

Comments (24)

  • Brittany

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    Great tips! It’s so easy to do, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that :)

    Reply

  • Rachel

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    Wow! Thank you so much for demystifying this aspect of google analytics. My brain literally hurts every time I open the report and try to decipher the content. Many, many thanks!

    Reply

    • Kat

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      You’re very welcome!

      Reply

  • Cory Zacker

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    Oh holy grail, thy name is Google. I’ve attended lectures on Adwords and SEO sponsored by Google and they make it all sound so easy. It really isn’t, but your post today did help make it clearer – many thanks!

    Reply

    • Kat

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      You’re welcome! So glad to have helped!

      Reply

  • Jaspreet Mundeir, ND

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    Great info. I didn’t quite understand the bounce rate and your post explained it very clearly. I logged into my google analytics and started looking at it closely as I was reading the article. Maybe I need to put on a blog roll on my page to people to click through to other pages.

    Reply

  • Kat

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    @Jaspreet, actually your blog roll typically points to other blogs, not within your own. You’ll want to include latest posts instead.

    Reply

  • Dina Colman

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    I think I need the blog that comes before this blog — Google Analytics 101. I have web statistics that I get from my own web software, but I don’t use Google Analytics. I’ll look into it and use this blog for future reference!

    Reply

  • Kat

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    @Dina, don’t think too hard. Just give your readers what they came looking for and make it crystal clear within 8 seconds that they found it. It’s that simple.

    Reply

  • Judy Stone-Goldman

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    I have a good deal to learn about this, so I know this is information I can use. I was a bit overwhelmed, so I tended to read the large-print headers just to get a feel. Because I am not a “natural” when it comes to this kind of info, this was too much for me to absorb at once. But I did understand the concept of bounce, and I truly appreciate all the info. This could last me a month! I guess I’ll make it an independent study for myself.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    http://www.thereflectivewriter.com
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

    Reply

  • Maureena Bivins, PhD

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    So much to know! Very good information. Clearly written. I will have to check the google analytics for my sites. I have no clue when I stand. Yikes! Trying hard not to freak out!

    Reply

  • Vicki Dello Joio

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    So helpful to begin to understand what bounces even are, though a little scary to think if I don’t deal with a high bounce rate i could get buried. Gasp. I want to see how to integrate this info into my landing page as I do work to upgrade my site. I very much appreciate the generosity of sharing your expertise. I might be able to absorb more in a short blog, but this is one I will come back to and refer to as I work my marketing plan. Thank you

    Reply

  • Kat

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    Thanks all for your feedback. I tend to write instruction manuals because I’m a teacher at heart. Will provide in smaller doses from now on.

    Reply

  • Candace Davenport

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    Great article, but you could go into much more detail in many different parts (all different blogs!). I agree, that maybe for your next post, just a beginning google analyticals to get us started? But I do understand a bounce rate now.

    Google analytics never matched my own website stats., so got confused and never took the time to compare the differences. You have got me going back to do that now!

    Candace Davenport
    http://www.ourlittlebooks.com ~ Little Books with a Big Message

    Reply

  • Kirk Zacharda

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    Great post and it makes alot of sense. I cant stand clicking through to something and it not even be relevant. I feel tricked and mislead and will bounce on out of there. I do my best to have my tags be relevant to my posts.

    Reply

  • Jillian

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    I was clicking through my Analytics site a few weeks ago and came across the “bounce” percentage. No clue what it meant! 77%, to be honest.

    I was horrified to realize that people were not staying on my site at all. I dug deeper and found that really random keywords were pointing people to my site, like “bed bug pictures”. UGH, definitely not what I wanted!

    Changed things around and voila! The bounce rate went down significantly!

    I love the suggestion about squinting and seeing what stands out. Will definitely use it! This blog was also so much better at explaining what bounce rates are than the google help page!

    Jillian
    Jillian Todd Portrait Couture
    http://www.jilliantodd.com
    http://www.jilliantoddblog.com

    Reply

    • Kat

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      Jillian, Would you mind telling this audience “how you changed things around,” in other words, how you got rid of the bed bugs? Or dear, I hope this doesn’t attract that audience now. :) I’m so glad you found this helpful!

      Reply

  • Imogen Ragone

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    Enlightening post. I never knew what bounce really was before. It seems that getting people to visit more than one page of your site is key. I will certainly think of your points as upgrade my website/blog.

    Reply

  • Donna McCord

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    Welcome to Blogger Monday, Kathy! This was very helpful and I look forward to future blogs from you! The whole Google analytics thing has always been something I wish I understood more; I am wondering if bounce rate can be impacted too by customers that go to your home page just to get your phone number and then leave; I see that there is some work for us to do to reduce our bounce rate, and I am going to be talking to our web people about that. I have just begun working with an SEO person who is going to help us with our Adwords success and I will talk to him about all of this as well and see if he knows as much as you do! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    Reply

  • Pat Zahn

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    I still don’t know what’s a good percentage though – what are you shooting for? My eyes start to cross from all the statistics. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

    Reply

    • Kat

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      As I tried to show, a high bounce rate might not be all bad. It may mean that your landing page converted them on the spot. So, it’s more important that you look at the results you are getting in other ways. Is the phone ringing? Is the cash register ka-chinging? However, I still try to get people clicking around and get that bounce rate down if I can. I just followed suggestions in the comments here to shorten my posts and created a series. Series are really great to get clicks back and forth and you can see that here. http://bit.ly/uT7Mhe Overall, though, I like to shoot for a 30%-45% bounce rate.

      Reply

  • Julieanne Case

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    It’s hard to do it all. I’m not even sure how to set my metatags on wordpress. I enjoyed reading the information but I had to break it up. It took 3 different times for me to read this post. The information is valuable but the length was tough for me.

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your essence, joy, vitality, youth.| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | AgeLoc Skin Care | Pharmanex Supplements

    http://thereconnectivehighway.com

    Reply

    • Kat

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      Thank you for the advice! I’m creating series from now on. I’m a teacher at heart, so get carried away.

      Reply

  • Jennifer Peek

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    Your use of examples and visuals is a huge help. I get the general SEO concepts but this really helped me put it context with my own site. So much of the information that is available is either written in a highly technical way or is as dry as a textbook (even if it is not techy). It is great to not only know what bounce rate is but how it affects my site – and how I can make my site stickier.

    Reply

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