Even if you have a great product and an effective user acquisition funnel, a high bounce rate can stop your business from reaching its full potential.

There will be no conversions and no revenue if visitors to your site leave shortly after arriving without taking any actions.

That alone should inspire you to do everything in your power to reduce bounce rate on-site.

But making matters worse, if you have a high bounce rate, people will have a hard time finding your site to begin with. You see, bounce rate is a major factor in ranking on SERPs. A high bounce rate basically tells Google (and the other search engines) that your site is not worth visiting.

It all adds up to one conclusion — lowering your bounce rate should be a huge priority for any marketer.

There are many factors that influence bounce rate, and we’ll cover 16 of them in this article. But first, let’s talk about exactly what bounce rate is.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a measure of the percentage of people who visit your site but leave without taking an action on your page, such as clicking on a CTA, entering information into a form, or navigating to another page on your site.

To put it more technically, Google counts a user as bounced when they only open only a single page, without triggering any other requests.

Search engines use bounce rate as a proxy for how good your site is at providing value to the users who come to your site. Visitors who find what they want quickly don’t bounce. Visitors that are frustrated or surprised by your site’s content leave — often to never return.

A good bounce rate varies by industry. Retail sites tend to have bounce rates of 20-45%, while news sites can be much higher, with some approaching 90% bounce rates.

How to lower your bounce rate

Optimize for the following factors so that the people who come to your site want to stop, stay a while, and click around.

1. Use Smart Content Personalization

The modern web user is savvy, discerning, and expects a highly personalized experience. There’s no better way to give it to them than with smart content recommendations, which is when a blog or website dynamically shows each visitor the most relevant pieces of related content to read next.

Today, most sites already use a content recommendation algorithm of some sort. These sections surface the most recent article, the most popular articles, an article from the same section, or some other statically defined rule. You’ve likely seen a section that looks like this:

An example of a content recommendation module on Intercom’s site

But as we started to work on experiments for our own site, that got us thinking. Every visitor is different — so why are we showing them content that ignores their behavior? Isn’t that making our visitors bounce?

Wouldn’t it be smarter to make the perfect recommendation for each visitor based on their unique behavior and traits?

Smart content incorporates data about a user’s behavior, demographics, and firmographics in order to show them the content they are sure to love. The content that makes them read more articles, stay on-site for a longer period of time, and convert in higher numbers.

2. Improve your page load time

Think about how much you hate being stuck in traffic.

Okay, that was rough…

A slow-loading page gives your users the online equivalent of that same feeling.

Slow page loads are enough to turn even the most mild mannered user into a raving ball of frustration, and they are certainly not going to stick around your site very long.

What’s amazing is how quickly people get fed up with a site that loads slowly. A mere 1-second delay in load time has been shown to cause:

  • 7% loss in conversions
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • 11% fewer page views

Moz has some great tips on improving your page load speed, including optimizing your images, using compression techniques, and reducing redirects.

3. Increase the quality of your traffic

When it comes to overall website traffic numbers, quantity is great, but quality is what you are really after. After all, pretty much anyone can buy low-priced traffic of dubious quality from any number of less than reputable online vendors.

But those visitors are not going to be part of your target audience, they are not going to buy, and thus are unlikely to stick around very long. Do your best to target your ads and demand gen efforts towards people that fit your ideal customer profile.

4. Use personalized chatbots

Chatbots are nearly ubiquitous these days, but not all chatbots are created equal.

Modern data tools and tracking technology, such as the offerings from companies like Clearbit and Segment, make it so that you can de-anonymize your traffic. In doing so, you can make it so that your chatbots are some of the most highly engaging, bounce rate reducing tools a marketer can find..

What is more likely to draw someone into a conversation:

  • a chatbot that calls out the user’s company and provides a relevant offer based on their industry,
  • or a generic, “Can I help with anything?”

The stats bear it out — personalization is more effective.

5. Improve content readability

This is especially important if someone lands directly on a text-heavy piece of content. Even though our middle school lit teachers would have us believe otherwise, most people are turned off by long chunks of unbroken text.

Online, you aren’t trying to win a Pulitzer. You’re trying to convey useful information in an easily digestible manner. So, be liberal with your use of bullet points, line breaks, bolded text, and images.

Readability = reduce bounce rate = content marketing success

Also, make sure that your headlines are clear and relevant, as that’s what people are likely to skim if they are only going to give your page a once over to see if it is worth their time.

6. Take pride in your design

Most sites are moving to a clean aesthetic with bountiful whitespace. The user should feel welcomed, and it should be immediately clear: what you do and what you are offering.

Other than page load speed, nothing sends users fleeing faster than a confusing and cluttered web page. A trend as of late is to use friendly, welcoming illustrations as a way of making your brand feel warm and approachable.

Buffer’s use of illustration on their homepage is extraordinary

Buffer executes this technique flawlessly — making their homepage a fun and warm introduction to their brand.

7. Personalize your CTAs

Your call to action (CTA) can make or break your bounce rate. A good one entices users to delve further into learning about your product, while a so-so one will fail to draw a user’s attention and make it more likely that they will bounce off the page.

A page with a simple, clear, well designed CTA is going to perform better than one with multiple CTAs all vying for the user’s attention.

This is another area where even small amounts of personalization can help. If you know that a user from a large company site just landed on your page, you can display a CTA that speaks their language (ie: “built for the enterprise”).

Plus, personalized CTAs convert 202% better than their generic counterparts, so it’s prudent to include them in your marketing arsenal.

8. Use high-quality internal links

In order to count as a bounced user, the user needs to actually click off of your site entirely.

But if your content is rich with relevant and useful internal hyperlinks to other blog posts, relevant case studies, and other content, it increases the odds that when someone clicks a link they are taken to other pages on your site.

That way they get the information they want and you lower your overall bounce rate. Win-win.

9. Set external links to open up in new windows or tabs

When a click occurs on an external link, that does not mean all is lost. You can change your site settings so that clicks on external links don’t trigger the URL to instantly change, but rather it opens a new tab in the browser.

Often, when someone clicks an external link on your site, they are just flagging the link for later review anyway. They don’t necessarily want to be instantly diverted from what they are doing or reading, so having links open in new tabs can actually improve the overall user experience. It also makes it that people don’t need to hit the ‘back’ button if they want to keep reading your page.

10. Personalize with real names where possible

One simple way to leverage personalization in order to keep people engaged is to use a visitor’s actual name (if you have access to it). Amazon has mastered this, peppering names all throughout their homepage.

Amazon’s personalized homepage

Using names is psychologically proven to cut through the noise, be it at a cocktail party or on a web page.

As Dale Carnegie put it in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

11. Use social proof

People might not trust their institutions these days, but they still trust their friends and peers. This makes social proof a highly effective, and basically essential feature of any website that is hoping to keep its visitors engaged.

There’s a reason you’d be hard-pressed to find any successful SaaS company that doesn’t heavily feature testimonials and logos on its main page. It’s because social proof is highly effective at boosting engagement. When someone lands on your site and sees the logos of companies they like and trust, it will pique their curiosity and keep them clicking.

Social proof on Hubspot’s homepage.

12. Track bounce rate-adjacent metrics

Bounce rate, as with most things when it comes to web analytics, is not an exact science. If a user reads an article and then closes the browser entirely, that time spent on site is not captured by Google and the visitor is counted as a bounce. That sort of behavior happens frequently (I do it all the time) that it’s worth keeping in mind monitoring as you analyze your bounce rate.

Another factor you can look at to see if you are doing a good job at keeping people on the page is dwell time, which is the total amount of time spent on any given page. You can use this metric to help you figure out ways to lower your bounce rate.

For instance, if you have a high dwell time but also a high bounce rate, it could be that your CTAs are not compelling enough to get your already interested users to take another action. You could test out personalized CTAs or change up your headlines, as a way to test your theory.

13. Tell powerful stories

Princeton University neuroscientist Uri Hasson, Ph.D., has spent his career studying how strong connections are formed, and he has come to the conclusion that there is no better way to get someone’s attention than through a compelling story.

Your company should prioritize storytelling wherever possible, but especially on your blogs, on product pages, and in ebooks. There is always an opportunity to insert a bit of story as a way to get people to actually care about your product.

Think about how companies like Airbnb find a way to inject storytelling into their product. Their experiences page is almost entirely focused on telling interesting stories as a way of enticing people to use their service.

14. Use exit intent popups

An exit intent popup is triggered when a user takes an action that is associated with a desire to leave your website. For example, their mouse might hover over the “x” in the corner that would close out the tab or the back button which would take you off the page.

It’s at this moment that you can target them with a popup (preferably a personalized popup) that incentivizes them to stay on the site. Maybe you do this by showing them content that they might be interested in based on their prior browsing habits, or a special discount.

However you go about it, the fact is that exit intent popups have a strong track record of boosting engagement, lowering bounce rate, and improving conversion rate.

15. Optimize your content for all browsers

While different web browsers can have pretty much the same functionality and rendering capabilities, there are still differences that crop up. If your page doesn’t load properly on a certain browser (meaning it shows up with broken links or distorted formatting), your bounce rate will likely increase.

It’s worth doing a consistent check on the most popular browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer) in order to make sure that your site loads quickly and error-free to make sure that you don’t turn away users because of easily fixable structural issues.

You can also check Google Search Console to get an idea if mobile compatibility or other technical issues are causing your site to have a higher than necessary bounce rate.

16. Test different page layouts

Even if you already have a great bounce rate, you can always do better, and running a few cheap tests is a great way to find out where you can improve.

Use A/B testing tools or usability tests that allow you to create new landing pages, change up your designs, try out new images, tweak your CTAs, and write new headlines.

You’ll eventually find a mix that keeps people from bouncing.

Reduce bounce rate and attract loyal customers

While you never want anyone to bounce, you especially don’t want your ideal customers to bounce. They are the ones who have the potential to bring in the most revenue and become brand evangelists, and just 15% of a business’s most loyal customers tend to account for 55% to 70% of a business’s sales (in line with the Pareto principle).

If you follow the above steps to keep your bounce rate down, your best prospects will get a chance to engage with your services. When that happens, revenue graphs that go up and to the right are just around the corner.