Two Simple Rules For Fixing High Bounce Rate Pages

Of all the metrics that I struggle and fight with, probably the easiest one I’ve found to correct is a high bounce rate. The reality of website design lies in the fact that many choices are made in page layout, color and image choice based on what the graphic designer or website owner like—not what the customer wants.

Testing on the web has come such a long way in recent years. Once upon a time you had to make a change, and then watch metrics to see if things were better or worse. Now you can make educated choices to determine why people aren’t clicking on a button, or why they’re distracted from beginning your sales funnel with a variety of inexpensive tools and metrics that any webmaster, beginner or expert, can use. Aside from systemic issues such as bad coding that makes pages load extremely slowly, its quite easy to fix your high bounce rate pages.

Fixing high bounce rate pages in two simple steps

The first thing I do when I work on a web page with a high bounce rate is figure out what is distracting the user and making them leave. I always start with the organic phrases used to find that page. For example, one of my clients offers vacation rental units in a variety of complexes around Mexico coastal resorts. His number two keyword is “Riviera Maya weather.” The landing page for that keyword has a 70%+ bounce rate, and my client wanted to know why. All it took was a quick look at the page to see that it isn’t about weather at all—it’s about renting vacation units in a complex, with weather info pasted in below the fold.

The problem? the searcher is mislead to believe the page is about weather. When they land on the page and don’t see the weather information they’re expecting, they leave right away, their queries unanswered. In this scenario we’ve learned the first rule of fixing high bounce rate pages: Make sure traffic to the page is targeted and you’re giving users what you promise in the search query on the landing page they arrive on.

After determining the traffic to the page is targeted and should be engaging with the content, I look at the layout itself. I use a few tools for this depending upon the timeframe I have for research. If I need immediate results I capture a .jpeg of the above the fold portion of web page, and run it through the Attention Wizard tool from Site Tuners. This tool simulates the eye tracking on a page via an algorithm and generates a heat map of the hot spots and path the typical eye will take around the page. This provides really quite remarkable insight that can help you find fast ideas for improving engagement on a page. Attention Wizard is also great for testing page layouts you want to try, because the page doesn’t have to be live anywhere. If you can create a .jpg of a page you can test its potential results.

If I have more time to test, and want results based on the eyetracking from actual visitors rather than that simulated by an algorithm, I use ClickTale, which I’ve talked about previously.

Either tool will help you determine where they eye and the mouse is going instead of into your sales funnel. Use this data to improve page layout and get users to your message faster. The second rule of fixing high bounce rate pages: Make your conversion path so easy to follow that a monkey could figure it out.

Bounce rates can kill your conversion path, but in reality they’re pretty simple to fix. Can every high bounce rate page be fixed with these steps? Probably not, but I bet you can address 75% of the issues caused by high bounce rate pages by following these steps.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox


About The Author: is the co-founder of Ignitor Digital, along with long-time colleague Mary Bowling. At Ignitor, Carrie tackles tough technical SEO roadblocks many small business owners don't even know they have. Her experience with analytics and troubleshooting helps her get to the root of issues. When not working, Carrie loves to cook for friends and family, hang out with her pretty awesome kids, and read books that have little-to-no educational value! You can also follow Carrie on twitter, @carriehill.

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  • Marcus C

    Try Google Website Optimizer to try different landing pages. It’s free and it gives you a better baseline of working ideas before you jump into a more expensive solution.

    Sometimes a high bounce rate can be a result of other things, such as a highly successful SEO campaign that not only nets the intended keywords but also long-tail keywords that may not lead to sales or conversions. You can rank well for your target keywords and get the engagement you expect, but then find you get thousands of long-tails that are much weaker, but for which you rank as well. I have seen it hurt my bounce rate, but that doesn’t mean my content isn’t engaging. It is merely an opportunity to add new content hyperlinked from the lower bounce rate page.

  • Stupidscript

    In the only example in the the article, we are shown how an organic hit on a page that was not developed to satisfy that keyword results in a high bounce rate. Although we do not know how the bounce rate was “fixed” for these “misdirected” organic hits (which actually are “directed” organic hits based on the page text and its keyword density), we are told that “fixing it” had something to do with eye- and mouse-tracking studies.

    Is this article about funneling sales to “Attention Wizard” and “ClickTale”?

    Rule 1: “Make sure traffic to the page is targeted and you’re giving users what you promise in the search query on the landing page they arrive on.” (Nothing to do with eye- or mouse-tracking. And I’m certain I heard this before … somewhere …)

    Rule 2: “Make your conversion path so easy to follow that a monkey could figure it out.” (Excellent advice … for monkeys … but not very useful for humans.)

    While I enjoy a good ramble as much as the next guy, you should have a warning for articles that are just wild gesticulations about this-and-that-and-the-other-thing. Maybe have a “variety” section for posts like this, instead of titling them with the misleading: “Two Simple Rules For Fixing High Bounce Rates”. (The rules have been repeated, above, for your reference, and as you can tell, they offer nothing toward satisfying the title that said monkey could not have deduced.)

    I feel like I have been “misdirected”.

  • Carrie Hill


    First let me apologize for misleading or misdirecting you. I continually find it a struggle to find the line between novice and “not a novice” when I’m writing – feedback is certainly helpful for fine tuning my skills and I appreciate your time.

    My point, maybe not so clearly stated – is that there are 2 major reasons for high bounce rate – unqualified traffic to a page (ie: rankings that have nothing to do with the content on the page) – or a lack of clarity on what you want the user to do once they get on the page.

    Using keywords that dont mislead, and using tools to determine where the eye falls are great ways of improving searcher experience once they land on yoru pages.

    I look at a lot of sites, review many for our Business Development department, and offer suggestions for improvement. When someone asks “Why is my bounce rate so high” these are the 2 answers I give most often – I said 75% of the time in my expreience, honeslty I think its more than that.

    Again, thanks very much for your feedback – I appreicate the time you took and will improve my communication in future articles with your help.


    ps – no I wasnt funneling sales to ClickTale or AttentionWizard – I truly like the tools and use them all the time, but I get to compensation or anything else – I pay the same as every other webaster :)

  • mjtenore

    Hi Carrie,

    I wrote a piece today for Poynter Online that you and your readers might be interested in. It lists five strategies for lowering your site’s bounce rate. I talked to some people at the Huffington Post, Forbes and DailyMe who are experimenting with interesting ways of keeping users engaged and promoting “stickiness.”

    You can read the story here:

    ~Mallary Tenore, The Poynter Institute

  • Carrie Hill

    Thanks for the link Mallary – I’ll check it out :)

  • Sean Grimes

    Glad I found this article. I’m just delving into the world of SEO so when I logged into my Google Analytics account and noticed my site has a high bounce rate, I had to research the topic and found this site.

    The one thing I noticed when I arrived to your blog is that I was not presented with annoying popups. Many website owners including myself use plugins that probably do more harm than good.

    Looks like I may have to turn off some features on my site until I can get my bounce rate down. I’m sure that can be very annoying.

    Sean Grimes


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