Using Google Bounce Rate To Improve Blog Traffic

There’s a lot that you can learn from Google Adsense to help you to improve your blog traffic. If you don’t already have it installed then read about installing Adsense else read on for some traffic building tips!

What Is ‘Bounce Rate’?

Google's definition of Bounce RateA page’s bounce rate is the measure of how many people arrived on that page and then left without visiting any other pages on your site. There can be good reasons for this, such as subscribers who have a link to a new post and know they have already read what they want to read from your blog.

But Bounce Rate can also be a warning sign that something is wrong with the page, website or even where your traffic is arriving from.

I suggest that a low bounce rate is around 20%. If you can achieve this regularly then you are onto a good thing! A high rate would be 50% and more, in which case you need to drill down and work out why you are losing people. But to do this you need to look at the different stats provided to see where you can be improving your site.

1) Where Are You Bouncing Visitors?

bouncerate2Have a look at the report under Behavior / Site Content / All Pages and sort the table by clicking on Bounce Rate. Bounce Rate is the percentage of people that have left your site from this page so it can be a good indicator of what pages people are not liking.

Ignore pages that have low traffic levels as the stats will be statistically unreliable, but take a look at the bounce rate. If you find a mixture of low / medium / high  rates then compare the pages carefully and see if there are any obvious reasons for visitors leaving. Are these lower quality writing? Do they have large images that are slow to load? Do they lack your normal levels of interest through formatting and supporting images?

If it’s fairly level but high (e.g. above 50%) then you need to see what’s wrong with the visitors in general.

2) Where Are Your Visitors Exiting?

exitsAlso in the Behavior / Site Content list is Exit Pages. This lists pages people most often leave the site from and the list can be different to the bounces because it’s not affected by the number of people arriving there. Have a look at these pages and decide if they are natural dead ends or whether a bit of clever linking could provide further reading.

Many of your posts could lead to further posts that are similar in nature or provide further detail. Other pages might be natural dead ends. For example a newsletter page is a natural dead end as people will finish reading, subscribe and move on. Likewise subscribers might view your home page or latest post and leave.

But where possible look at your exit pages and see if they are suffering any of the problems listed earlier or whether you can tempt readers to remain.

3) Which Visitor Sources Are You Bouncing Most?

bouncerate3Look at Acquisition / Overview and again compare the bounce rates. Here you can get a couple of useful pieces of information. If the bounce rate is steady across all sources then you are probably fine. If one source is particularly high then that is worth looking at.

We can see from the above chart that none of the bounce rates are particularly impressive, but Referral and Social are significantly higher than Organic Search and Direct. By clicking on Referral I was able to see that on the whole the bounce rate was similar, but one site (rankings-analytics.com) had a 100% bounce and almost 20% of Referrals. Clicking again on the website it was obvious that it was just some form of robot seeing if the site is still working. So that worry can be forgotten.

In this case, Social being high is also not an issue because it’s people coming across to see the latest additions to the catalogue, so single page visits are OK. It makes Social a bit like Direct visitors, which be slightly higher than the rest particularly if you have a successful list for reasons already explained. But if other sources are high then it’s a warning flag that visitors are possibly arriving expecting something other than what your blog provides. This is especially important to investigate if you are paying for advertising and these channels are high bounce rates.

A high bounce rate on organic search could mean that you have been trying to do some SEO work and got it wrong. Possibly you have worked on keywords that are suitable for your site but then your landing page doesn’t fulfil the promises made. It might not give sufficient detail and confidence if you have tried too hard to optimise it.

Your Direct users and Other have probably arrived from links on other sites. High levels here could mean that you are submitting articles or writing blog comments on sites that aren’t related enough or the content pages aren’t related enough. This tells you to target your articles and comments differently.

On the other hand, if any of these rates are very low then dig into them also. They could reveal sources that are providing very closely matched readers. In this case you can increase your efforts on these particular sites and drop your efforts on the sites that are producing too many bounces.

4) Are Your Readers Mobile?

bouncerate4Are your readers using computers or mobile devices? Audience / Mobile / Overview will soon tell you. Have a look at the percentage of desktop vs mobile and this will show you whether they are. Then look at the bounce rate of both. Are they even or is one particularly high?

A high bounce rate on mobile will probably indicate that you aren’t using a mobile friendly design (as per the site shown above). Changing your theme, or design, might be required. But it’s worth trying your site out on different devices.

windowsvsiphoneUnder the Mobile tab is Devices, which can indicate if a particular device isn’t loading properly. For example, I’ve seen mobile sites render beautifully in iOS and Android but not Windows.

If you don’t have access to any devices or one particular device seems to have a high bounce rate and you don’t own that particular device sites such as MobileTest run simulators in which you can test your website.

5) What Browsers Are People Using?

bouncerate5Audience / Technology / Browsers then OS will show you if your site is losing a lot of visitors to a certain browser. Some browsers aren’t as popular with developers as others and all do have their own little ‘quirks’. It will also point out (again) if some mobile users are less likely to stay on the site. The figures above show Internet Explorer having a lower bounce rate than Chrome, which could be explained by it being a very old site that was written for IE.

If there’s a stand out browser with a higher than average bounce rate download that browser (if you don’t already have it installed) and test the site yourself. For example, I’m recommending the site shown be tested on Chrome. You might need to make changes or even get a new theme. You can’t get your readers to change browser, so support the browsers they are using most.

Clicking on Operating System will break down the data for you by OS. This includes mobile operating systems so can back up the data uncovered in the Mobile information.

6) When Are People Leaving?

bouncerate6Look at Audience / Overview and change the graph to bounce rate. Is it fairly level or all over the place? Now, here’s the trick. Look at the peaks and troughs and the look at your list of published posts. Assuming your home page is one of the pages with the highest bounce rates, a lot of those bounces are coming from this page.

Study which of your posts have been followed by high and low bounce rates. Whilst these posts are the first thing that people see they will affect how long people are on the site for. If you are getting traffic from serious, well planned sites and suddenly you put up a jokey post  you might see that the bounce rate raises following this, dropping when a serious post is published.

This tells you not only what posts retain people but also what posts visitors are coming over and wanting to read about. Providing more of the posts that are followed by low bounce rates could do you a huge favour.

Does It Help?

It could just be fluke that a certain browser, device, page or whatever is losing more people, but it’s always worthwhile checking out for any inconsistencies that you can improve upon. A few minutes of digging can also point you in the direction of where you can best get new visitors from and sources that are maybe under performing.

Retaining visitors on your site might not seem as glamorous as increasing your SEO or notability through articles, guest posts and blog commenting, but it can lead to a better website that gains in reputation, builds followers and earns itself a good reputation and points you to which of these you are best employing.

This should result in longer term growth of the site.

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