Your bounce rate is just one of the things you can look at to evaluate your website’s performance.

But what is a bounce rate? Should you be worried if it’s high? And is a high bounce rate always a sign of problems?

In this article, I’ll explain everything.

What is bounce rate?

Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who have exited your website from the same page they landed on. In other words, they landed on a page, then left without following any links or looking at any other pages.

If a high percentage of visitors are ‘bouncing’ off your website like this, there may be issues with the site that are causing them to leave.

How to check your bounce rate

If you have Google Analytics tracking code installed on your website, you can find out your bounce rate by logging into your Analytics account. The main metrics will display the bounce rate for your site as a whole, but you may have several landing pages that are contributing to it.

To get a breakdown of the bounce rates for each page, click on ‘Behaviour’ in the left-hand column, then choose ‘Site Content’ followed by ‘Landing Pages’.

In the table under the graph, click the header column labelled ‘Bounce Rate’ to sort the pages in order of the highest bounce rate. This will show you where the potential problems are.

Some landing pages, like blog posts, may naturally have a high bounce rate, but will be contributing to a higher bounce rate for your site as a whole. You can remove these pages from your total count using the Advanced filter.

What counts as a high bounce rate?

According to RocketFuel, a bounce rate of 25–30% is the best you can expect to achieve, though anything up to 40% is still ideal. A bounce rate lower than 25% could be a sign that something isn’t working.

The average bounce rate is 41–55%. Higher than 70% is high and is a sign that your website may have some problems.

10 Avoidable causes of a high bounce rate

Numerous things can cause a high bounce rate — and they’re not all bad. But let’s start with the ones that could be problematic.

1. Slow loading

If your website doesn’t load within three seconds, visitors will get impatient and they won’t stick around.

If a visitor has clicked on a link for your website and leaves before your site has loaded, this will count as a bounce.

What causes slow loading?

Here are a few possible causes:

  • Large images or media files that haven’t been optimised properly
  • Cheap, low-performance web hosting
  • Custom fonts
  • Too many fancy features and/or effects
  • Messy coding.

You can use this GTmetrix tool to check your website’s load time and get an actionable list of the things you need to fix.

2. Curveballs

You throw your visitors a curveball when you take them somewhere they’re not expecting to go. For example, if your Google search title and meta tags are misleading. Or your clever advert takes them to a product page rather than a dedicated landing page.

This can also happen if your site feels confusing, with a design and message that isn’t cohesive and doesn’t make sense.

As well as checking your own links, you should check your backlinks from other sites, in case those links are misleading your visitors.

3. Low quality traffic

You should be aiming to attract high quality traffic. This means visitors who are a good match for what you’re offering.

But if the visitors you’re attracting aren’t a good match, then those visitors won’t be staying.

This can happen when businesses attempt to optimise their own websites and choose keywords that are high performing, but not necessarily the best for their target market.

4. Pop-ups

There is nothing more off-putting to a visitor than landing on a website and being greeted by an intrusive pop-up, or succession of pop-ups. They’re intensely irritating, often cover the entire screen and can be difficult, sometimes even impossible, to close down.

Google doesn’t judge these pop-ups favourably and if your visitors are suitably annoyed by them, they’ll leave your site.

If you must use pop-ups for your offers or email sign-up, it’s best to display them when your visitor is about to leave your site, rather than when they arrive.

5. Non-responsive design

Your website should be optimised for a range of different devices, including smartphones and tablets. If this hasn’t been done properly, it can give some users a terrible experience — and it may cause them to depart as quickly as they arrived.

6. Impenetrable walls of copy

Dense paragraphs of copy, with no paragraph breaks, can be daunting and discouraging to visitors.

If you want them to stick around, split the content into short paragraphs and break it up with relevant headings that will make it easier to read.

7. Badly written content

Badly written content can cost you visitors in several different ways.

If it’s littered with typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors it will make you look careless and unprofessional.

If it’s unclear, reads awkwardly or doesn’t make sense it will confuse your visitors and have them reaching for the ‘back’ button.

And if it’s not written for your target market, it won’t ‘speak’ to your visitors as effectively as it needs to — so they won’t be engaged or compelled to read on.

8. Distractions

Adding too many “shiny things” to your website can detract visitors from your message and send them elsewhere.

For example, including lots of hyperlinks to other pages — especially pages outside your site. And intrusive media, like irrelevant photographs, flashing animations and autoplay videos that take attention away from your content.

For the best results, your content should be presented in a clear, non-distracting way that leads visitors to a clear and well-timed call to action.

9. Doesn’t seem trustworthy

Visitors will look for signs that your website is genuine and trustworthy. They include things like your website security certificate, postal address, landline phone number, professional accreditations and testimonials. If these things are missing, it could be a red flag

The same is true if your website contains suspect content, like spammy third-party advertising. Or it feels like a ghost town, with a blog that hasn’t been updated for years and links to inactive social media accounts.

If a website feels dodgy or not to be trusted, visitors won’t hang around for long.

10. Ineffective calls to action

I’ve talked about how misplaced and misjudged calls to action can kill your conversions before.

Diving in too early, leaving it too late, or progressing your relationship with your visitors too fast can all give cause for concern.

The same is true if your contact form asks for a lot of mandatory information that you don’t really need and your visitors are not comfortable giving.

When a high bounce rate isn’t problematic

A high bounce rate isn’t always indicative of problems and sometimes it’s to be expected. Here are five examples of when that might be the case.

1. You have a one-page website

If your website only has one page, your visitors will have nowhere else to go and no other pages to visit. In this case you’re bound to have a high bounce rate.

It’s worth noting that a one-page website is never advisable and can be particularly problematic if you want your website to rank well in the search engines.

2. Your landing page answers the query

If your visitors are only searching for the answer to a question — and your landing page answers that question, it’s done its job and no further action is required.

3. Your landing page is an article

If your landing page is a blog post, visitors may click to read the article with no other agenda and no interest in finding out more about your business.

Of course, you can finish your article with a promotional paragraph and direct them to another page of your site, but it doesn’t always mean they will follow.

4. Your landing page has a contact form

If visitors can contact you direct from the landing page, they might not need to explore any other pages.

5. Affiliate links

If your landing page contains affiliate links, then its whole purpose is to direct visitors to a third-party site, so it’s probably just doing its job.

Is your website underperforming?

Perhaps your website isn’t getting as many leads or making as many sales as you think it should be.

If there are problems, wouldn’t it make sense to find them and fix them?

I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance copywriter and website specialist based in Leicester, UK.

My website audit will look at all the elements of your site that could be contributing to a poor performance and limiting your results, then give you practical advice on how to fix them.

If you’d like to find out more, visit my website auditing page or get in touch for an informal chat.