In measuring website performance, there’s a metric called bounce rate. It reflects how many visitors navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.
Your site’s bounce rate can be a very reliable indicator of whether your visitors’ first impression is a good one or a bad one.
If your bounce rate is high, you’re going to need to make some changes to your site.
This article will explain the most common reasons that visitors leave a website prematurely. Corresponding with each reason, we’ve also provided some actionable advice about how you can avoid site abandonment.
Let’s get started!
In some cases, site owners experience a high bounce rate due to technical factors.
Things like poor site performance, a lack of security, improper use of multimedia, and a design that’s not mobile-friendly can all greatly shorten the amount of time that visitors stay on your website.
All those factors and more are discussed in this section.
Your Site Loads Too Slowly
If your site doesn’t load in a few seconds, visitors will leave. They will find what they’re looking for elsewhere, moving on to what is, from their perspective, a site that works.
It may seem harsh, but that’s the reality of how a slow-loading site can impact your business—visitors don’t just leave your site, they go to your competitor’s site!
Neil Patel has shared data showing that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
If your site loads slowly, there’s a good chance that the culprit is oversized imaged.
In addition to determining the optimal size and scale for your images, there are a number of other ways to improve your website load time, such as limiting scripts, compressing your HTML files, minimizing server requests, and implementing browser caching.
Increasing your site’s speed will not only keep visitors from leaving, it’s also highly beneficial for your SEO!
Your Site Seems Unsecure
When a security-conscious user leaves a site, it’s often more about what they don’t see than what they do see.
For one thing, if the site’s URL doesn’t begin with “https,” there’s no SSL certificate in place, which means that browser communication won’t be encrypted.
Security concerns can scare visitors away from your site.
To avoid having your site seem unsecure to your visitors, install an SSL certificate. This is especially important if your website collects users’ personal information or accepts online payments.
You should also prominently display recognized trust symbols on your site, for example, security badges from reputable website security providers.
By running a secure site, you’ll give visitors the sense that your business is trustworthy and they’ll stay on your site longer.
Too Many Pop-ups, or Pop-ups Too Soon
Pop-ups can increase conversions, but they can also drive customers away.
If your site displays too many pop-ups or the first one appears before the visitor has had a chance to look around your site, you’ll lose a lot of people.
In addition to limiting usage of pop-ups to only those that you can prove are having a positive impact, you should also ensure that every pop-up can be easily dismissed. Also, configure certain pop-ups to not display if a visitor has been on your site before.
While misuse of pop-ups can hurt your bounce rate, there’s actually one type of pop-up that can be instrumental in keeping visitors on your site: exit-intent pop-ups.
Easily implemented with the right plugin, exit-intent technology tracks visitors’ mouse movements and detects when they’re about to leave the site.
A compelling “Wait, don’t leave!” message can be the thing that keeps a new customer relationship from ending before it starts.
Your Website Isn’t Mobile-Friendly
Most people access the web using mobile devices. If your site doesn’t display and function properly on phones and tablets, a huge part of your target audience will leave within seconds of viewing your content.
One way you can find out if your site design is usable on mobile devices is by checking it with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Companies with a lot of resources will usually create a separate version of their website that’s optimized for mobile access. That solution is not viable for most small businesses.
Implementing responsive design is a far more practical approach for small business owners. Responsive design ensures that content displays differently depending on the size of the screen being used.
If you run a WordPress site and you don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of responsive design, there’s a theme called Responsive and many others that were created specifically to make your content more accessible on mobile devices.
Your Site Auto-Plays Audio or Video
Auto-playing media of any kind is a huge turnoff to users.
It is, essentially, visitor repellent.
For one thing, audio or video that loads automatically will make your site slower. If the first thing your visitors see is a buffering video, they’ll scoff, roll their eyes, and click away to your competitor’s website.
The only people that might dislike auto-playing video more than new visitors are your longtime customers. They already know your content and will not appreciate being force-fed the information again every time they visit.
If you insist on auto-playing something, don’t do it as soon as the visitor arrives. Wait until they’ve had a chance to consume some of your content. What would be better though, is to simply make the content available so users have the option to consume it at their convenience.
Content and Design Reasons
This section describes some reasons behind a high bounce rate that are related to your site’s content and design.
Your Design Stresses Form over Function
Visitors will make a snap judgment about your website within a few seconds of seeing it.
If it’s all business, to the point that the site is visually unappealing, people will turn away.
That’s almost never the problem though.
It’s far more common for site owners to err the other way, creating a site that stresses good looks over usability, and that can drive visitors away just as quickly as one that’s not pretty enough.
So, the key to publishing a site that users won’t immediately leave is to achieve a balance between form and function.
Focus on eliminating visual clutter, ensure your site has plenty of white space, and pay attention to the font you’re using. Sans serif fonts like Arial, size 16px or larger, are the most readable. You can go down to 12px but no smaller.
A lot of sites these days are going with large fonts and minimalistic designs. It never hurts to follow a trend like that, but keep an eye on changing user tastes and be ready to update your site’s look in response.
Your Images Fail to Engage
Having the right images on your site can play a big part in keeping your bounce rate low. It can help establish a connection between you and your visitors, draw them in, and make them want to explore more of your site.
The wrong images can have the opposite effect.
You should think about who your visitors are and design your site with photos that will resonate with them.
There’s one factor related to your site’s images that’s more about placement than content. You shouldn’t use large graphics “above-the-fold,” meaning the part of your home page or landing page that visitors see before they start scrolling. Images on that part of the page will not only have a negative impact on load time, they’ll take up valuable page real estate that would be better used to convey your value proposition.
Your Content Is Inaccurate or Outdated
Search engines aren’t alone in using perceived authority as a key factor when assessing websites—humans do that too.
When a user sees that your blog content, product description, or video tutorial contains outdated or incorrect information, your status as an authority in your niche goes up in smoke. A few seconds later, that user is browsing the pages of your competitor’s website.
By keeping the content of your website current, detailed, and accurate, you’ll make it more useful to your target audience.
Refresh your blog content regularly. There should be a line near the title of each article that displays the new publish date. If you run an e-commerce website, ensure that your product descriptions don’t describe last year’s model.
There’s a very good chance that users are comparing your content to that of your competitors. If there are major differences in what you’re both saying, and it turns out that your site is the wrong one, that’s sure to drive your visitors away.
On the other hand, if your site has up-to-date, accurate information that’s helpful to your target audience, you’ll enjoy a very low bounce rate.
Your Site Is Hard to Navigate
How many clicks does it take to lose a website visitor?
If your site is hard to navigate, users won’t be able to find what they’re looking for. They’ll search for a while, but after a few clicks, they’ll give up and go somewhere else.
One of the keys to avoiding that problem is knowing what your visitors will most likely want to access, and then making that content highly available.
If you run an online store, a good example would be your site’s shipping details. Almost every customer will want to know how much shipping will cost, so they shouldn’t have to drill down to a submenu to find the info.
Any business with even a moderately large product line will need to ensure their website has easy-to-use menus that properly categorize the offerings. Otherwise, visitors will become confused or frustrated when they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Reasons Related to Visitor Intent
Sometimes there’s a major disconnect between the reason a person visits your site and what they find there. It typically happens when you’ve targeted the wrong people, or when your visitors were led to expect something that your site can’t deliver.
This section covers those scenarios.
Your Outreach Targets the Wrong Audience
If your website’s performance stats show that a lot of people hit your site and immediately leave, it could be because your promotional ads and backlinks are ending up in front of the wrong people.
Let’s say you own a luxury yacht company, and for some reason, you ran an ad on DiscountCanoes.com. Any visitor that clicks into your site from that channel would be scratching their head with one hand and leaving your site with the other.
That’s an extreme example but it makes the point. Whether it’s via social media, backlinks, paid ads, or another channel, your marketing outreach needs to be aimed at your ideal customer. If it’s not targeted precisely at your audience, this can contribute to a high bounce rate.
Your Site Doesn’t Deliver on Users’ Expectations
There are many ways that a prospect can find your site. It could be a backlink in a niche-related blog, or maybe a social media post that you created specifically to attract visitors.
No matter how users learn about your site, they’re bound to come in with some expectations about what they’ll find there. If what they find doesn’t match their expectations, they’ll immediately hit the Back button.
Maybe that guest blog post you wrote overdoes it a bit when extolling the virtues of your offering.
Perhaps your ad copy slightly exaggerates your value proposition to get people’s attention.
Generating interest in your business is tough, but it pays to keep your messages honest and ensure that they accurately represent what you have to offer. If your message is compelling enough to attract a visitor, but your site’s content can’t back it up, earning a very brief page view will be a hollow victory.
Lower Your Website’s Bounce Rate and Keep It Low
Getting your bounce rate down to a reasonable number is doable if you follow the advice in this article but it’s not a one-time task.
With any design or content change that could slow your site down, you’ll have to take steps to ensure that load time remains acceptable.
You’ll need to resist the urge to increase your usage of pop-ups. You’ll have to maintain a design that’s optimized for mobile devices.
There’s an ongoing requirement to keep your content current.
Do any of the above reasons apply to your website?