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Website bounce rates: Is yours high? And how to lower it

Posted by Octopus Group - March 15, 2016

Your shiny new site is live, your user journeys are all planned, and you’ve dotted all the lower case Js in your page meta descriptions, yet it still seems everyone’s taken one look at your site and thought “Nah, not for me thanks”.

A high bounce rate (a metric to measure the percentage of users who land on one of your web pages and leave before clicking to anywhere else) can seem like a daunting challenge. But, before you even think about how you’re going to get that rate down first ask yourself, is my bounce rate even that high?

Quicksprout shared a fantastic infographic, digging into what bounce rates really mean, what yours should be, and how much they matter. It’s also pretty, which is something we have a real soft sport for. It even gives you a few tips to help get that rate down, a few of which we’ve looked at here.

Attract the right people

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably not had much of a problem attracting people to your site, but are they the right people? A high bounce rate can be as much down to a mismatch between who you are and what your site says about you as anything else. Get those metas crisp and useful, have multiple landing pages with unique content, and tighten up the targeting of any online campaigns you have on the go.

Be usable!

It must be immediately obvious to whomever lands on your site what you want them to do. Is it “learn more” (not always the best CTA), “get started now” or something more innovative like “Yes, I love free things!”? Do your research, and don’t be afraid to change it if things aren’t working. Make sure the journey is obvious, clear and gives your user value.

Keep distractions to a minimum

Don’t have ads where at all possible. Avoid using pop-ups or other ‘clutter’. Even making sure that any external links open in new windows/tabs can ensure people stay on your site longer.

Are bounce rates really all that?

Ok, so improving your bounce rate the ‘right’ way takes a bit of effort. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly easy metric to game, if you were so inclined.

Let’s say you have an infographic on your homepage, which you clearly want your user to consume. However, you’ve made it so small that there’s a clear “click to enlarge” CTA somewhere near or on it. The user clicks it, and the pop out actually serves up a separate web page on your site. The user might then leave your site taking no further action, however they won’t count as a bounce. All you’ve done is have them take a simple action, but immediately your metrics look way better.

Also – many blogs and content sites have started using intrusive pop ups to capture email addresses before allowing content to be viewed where the owners have discovered that repeat traffic and address capture is more valuable to them than a lower bounce rate.

The point is that at the end of the day, Google is not your customer. Your bounce rate can be useful, but getting it down for its own sake doesn’t really serve any purpose – as they say, you’re only cheating yourself. Make sure you focus your energy on reducing it in ways that will bring you closer to what you want your users to actually do on your site!


Perhaps the best bit of guidance we can give though is to understand that all bounce rates are not created the same. Running a blog with a bounce rate of 50% should be viewed as a triumph. Get the same rate on a retail or service site and you’re in trouble.

If you’re struggling for inspiration, look at some of the leaders in your space. What are they doing better than you?

Make sure to define your success realistically and always remember the most important comparison is with yourself. The best measure of success is tracking your improvement over time and continually setting yourself ambitious but reachable goals.


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