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How to keep people on your website

Reduce your bounce rate

Man looking at audience graphs on a Mac
(Image: © Shutterstock / NicoElNino)

We all want to get our site to the top of Google. But that’s only half the story – what happens when people click through to your site? Do they hang around and check out what you have to offer – or quickly move on to the next result? 

Obviously, we want the former to happen, so how can we make sure it does? When visitors find nothing of interest on your site at first glance and leave immediately, this is known as a bounce. A site with a high bounce rate from good quality traffic sources is an indicator that the website isn’t performing up to visitors’ expectations. 

Sources of traffic

Reducing your website’s bounce rate is a great first step in improving its overall performance and conversion rate. First, you need to analyze the bounce rates of the different traffic sources. Focus your efforts on improving the bounce rates of the highest converting traffic sources, such as:  

Ignore the bounce rate from unqualified sources, such as:  

  • Unknown referrer sites
  • Social networking sites
  • Random directory sites

Landing page design 

Mac with open web design project

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Rawpixel)

How you design your landing pages can make a difference to your bounce rate. Take the example of Real Gap, which provides gap year and traveling ideas in over 35 countries for those youngsters wishing to take a year off before, during or after university. The website uses specially designed landing pages for its pay-per-click (PPC) accounts. The PPC page has a strong call to action, whereas the SEO page just contains general gap year information. 

Not surprisingly, the bounce rate for the PPC page is far lower than for the organic page: 18.24 percent for the former compared with 25.44 percent for the latter. It’s a clear demonstration of how the design of the page people land on influences the bounce rate. So what’s the secret to designing a page with a low bounce rate? Here are some helpful tips.

  • Make sure your headline refers directly to the place where your visitor came from or the ad copy that drove the click. 
  • It’s vital to provide a clear call to action. Here’s a good example: ‘Only $99 per night at the Hilton Hotel in Paris. Book now.’ Here’s a bad example: ‘Cheap hotels in Paris, the most romantic city in the world. Choose from 300 hotels in Paris, France.’
  • You need to write clear, specific and targeted content that’s geared specifically towards your visitors. Don’t write content that is vague or general. Your visitors are here to read about a specific subject, so they won’t thank you for wasting their time.
  • Hierarchy – place the most important information at the beginning of paragraphs and bullet lists.
  • Keep it simple. Remove all extraneous matter from your landing page. Ask for only enough information to complete the desired action.

Testing

How do you know what’s working and what isn’t in terms of keeping visitors on your site? 

Answer: you don’t. So assume nothing, and test everything. 

Thanks to Google’s Content Experiments (in Analytics), we can create, test and monitor the performance of landing pages. The purpose of testing your landing pages is to reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates. Setting up an A/B split test on Google Content Experiments is very easy and free. Here’s a basic overview of the steps involved: 

  • Create a campaign to test landing pages against each other.
  • Upload the URL of the original page that you’re testing. 
  • Upload the URLs of the other landing pages you want to test against the original. 
  • Copy the JavaScript codes provided by Google and paste them into the relevant pages you’re trying to test. (This requires access to the HTML code of the pages.) 
  • Send at least 500 visitors to the primary URL and Google will separate those visitors randomly for you to test the performance of the pages in a non-biased way. You can do this by using AdWords, email campaigns or even affiliates to send traffic from specific keywords through the funnel.

Golden rules 

Couple thinking on yellow background

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi)

Finally, here are some golden rules to remember when you’re designing and testing landing pages:  

  • No idea is a bad idea until you’ve seen it in action. If you get an idea for a landing page, try it! Try them all. 
  • Make a different landing page for every keyword that gets at least 500 clicks per month. This ensures your highest converting keywords get all the attention they deserve. 
  • Send at least 500 visitors from the same traffic source/ keyword to each landing page, to accurately gauge its performance. 
  • Once you’ve tested several landing pages, try improving them by testing different versions of the best performing pages. 
  • The best landing pages can then be tested to varying degrees using multivariate testing. This is where you test specific elements of the page rather than entirely new pages. 

Creating landing pages that encourage visitors to stay longer can sometimes be time-consuming and expensive, but it’s absolutely essential to high converting, high-performing websites. In the words of Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”