Bounce rate is the enemy of every website — it’s the percentage of visitors that come to your page and don’t go to any others within the same site. It can be frustrating and costly, especially if you’ve invested time and money into SEO and paid ads to get visitors to your site — you don’t want that hard work to go to waste once the person hits your page.
Businesses need to make sure their first impressions reel in the visitor in order to reduce bounce rate and to keep the person engaged with your brand. To help you combat pesky bounce rates, we’ve put together a list of usability considerations that can be used to lower your site’s bounce rate and improve visitor retention. From optimized page layouts to faster loading, there are a number of ways to keep web surfers hooked.
1. Be Mindful of Ad Placement
Let’s face it, no one likes looking at advertisements, but the reality is that many sites could not survive without them. Advertisements are a necessary evil that allows content providers to make money but too many advertisements can be a big turn-off to your readers.
Advertising that’s too close to your site navigation can cause accidental clicks, which force visitors to leave your page — unintentionally, and in frustration. Too many ads above the fold means your readers have more to wade through before getting to the heart of your site. Also, ads that interrupt your content or present themselves as if they were a part of your website can cause confusion and frustration.
Keep advertising prominently placed but far enough out of the way that visitors can still use your site without having to navigate around a sea of ads.
2. Lazy-Load Third-Party Content
The more third-party services, widgets and content your site contains, the slower your pages will load — and the faster your users will leave. By lazy-loading third-party content (loading content via AJAX when it is needed, after the initial page load) can greatly decrease the perceived load time and allow visitors to start accessing your site’s content while other media loads in the background.
3. Contrast Is Key
No one will stay on a site they can’t read. Of all of the ways to increase accessibility of a site, perhaps the biggest and easiest is to simply use good contrast. Not only does this make the site more accessible to visitors who may have difficulty seeing, but also has the overall effect of making important content easier to find and focus on. Contrast can be a powerful tool for directing the reader’s attention to where you want it to go.
More and more people are accessing the web via mobile devices, which means your site will be viewed on a variety of screen resolutions — in any number of lighting conditions — so your site needs to be as readable as possible in these situations.
4. Have Clean, Accessible Navigation
Just as no one will stay on a site they can’t see, they also won’t stay on a site they can’t navigate. Navigation should be prominent, clear and easily accessible. Consider repeating sidebar or top links in the footer and make sure click targets for menus are large enough for use at small resolutions. Avoid drop-down menus or provide alternatives, since these are inaccessible on touch devices.
If your site has a large amount of content, include search functionality and a site map to help visitors easily find the information they’re looking for.
5. Your Message Should Be Immediately Obvious
One of the biggest causes of a high bounce rate is visitor confusion. If a new visitor to your site has to figure out or hunt down information telling them what your site does, that’s an immediate red flag. Your site’s purpose should be immediately evident, and expressed clearly in both its design and its content.
Tour pages and feature pages can be a great way to give additional information to users looking to learn more, but they shouldn’t be a necessity to understand what your product, service or site provides. Use headlines and graphics to highlight important features and key information. Your content should be organized and supplemented in such a way so that it guides the reader through the experience.
Finally, make call-to-action items descriptive and easy to find. Consider, for instance, the difference between the vague “Learn more” versus the more descriptive “See a list of product features.”
6. No Distractions, Please
Once you’ve gotten a visitor to your site and have managed to engage them with your content, don’t do anything to interrupt that! Keep animation to a minimum and, whenever possible, avoid serving audio ads and disruptive fly-outs.
Interstitial ads, pop-up ads within your text content, and interruptions to speak with live chat representatives and sign up for newsletters can all turn a reader away from your site in a matter of seconds.
Treat your users with respect. Allow them to use your site for its intended purpose by presenting well-organized information clearly … and then getting out of the way.
7. Have a Responsive Layout
Earlier, we touched on mobile site usage and how increasing mobile traffic creates new concerns regarding readability and navigation. If your site gets a large amount of mobile traffic, then you probably want to go one step further by building your site around a responsive layout.
Responsive design is a good (often better) alternative to having specific mobile and large-screen versions of your site. A responsive layout uses techniques, such as CSS media queries, to rearrange and scale content based on screen resolution.
For that extra attention to detail, don’t forget high-resolution images and stylesheets for retina display. This greatly improves image sharpness and fidelity, making your site much easier to see on a small screen on devices supporting retina display technology.
Depending on the purpose, complexity and functionality of your site, multiple versions for web and large-screen may be a necessity. However, for the majority of sites on the web, a responsive design is a great way to ensure that your blog, web app or ecommerce site is easily accessible on a wide number of devices.
What other suggestions do you have for lowering bounce rates? What’s your pet peeve? Let us know in the comments.
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The Customer Experience Series is supported by Webtrends. What if you could deliver real-time relevant campaigns across social, mobile and web channels? That’s not wishful thinking. It’s customer intelligence. Webtrends shows you how with guides that help you market smarter and retain customers for the long haul with recipes for success and secrets of digital marketing. Go get a guide.
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