The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
Reducing Bounce and Exit Rates
Your site is up, and your product is out there for the world to see. Before you know it, you have visitors trickling in to see what you have to offer.
Despite the depths of the Internet and the billions of pages offered, users are arriving at your website, and then without any explanation—they’re leaving.
They come and then they go, maybe after a minute, maybe even less. After all of the hours you’ve put in, the majority of your visitors aren’t staying around long enough to get past your landing page. Many of them visit once and never return.
Do not immediately move through the five steps of grief; in this chapter we’re going to go over some ways to change this trend for the better. Tweet this!
In Chapter 1, we touched briefly on your Bounce and Exit Rates. In this chapter we’ll look at these numbers in much more detail. First, let’s review those key terms.
An Exit Rate is specific to each page; it’s the percentage of people who leave after viewing the page. Your exit rate lets you know the last page that users view before they move on. A very high exit rate on a specific page can be a red flag.
For example, if your product tour page that details the benefits of what you sell has one of the highest exit rates, you are likely not connecting the true value of your product with your visitors.
Your Bounce Rate is the number of visitors who leave your website after visiting a single page. Each page has its own bounce rate, but initially you probably want to address look at the bounce rates for three pages:
- Landing pages that you’re sending paid traffic to through ads
- Pages where you are attempting to make conversions happen
- High traffic pages–pages that most of your visitors see
The higher your bounce rate, the lower your percentage of engaged users. Your bounce rate can be affected by your page, but also by the quality of the traffic coming to your site.
All of the following ways of leaving your site constitute a bounce:
- Hit the back button
- Type a different URL
- Close the window or tab
- Click on an external link
- Timeout 
But how do you find your bounce rate?
This is where your analytics come in. We touched briefly on analytics in Chapters 1 and 4, and we’ll discuss them in much more detail in Chapter 9, but for the sake of our discussion of bounce rates, we’re going to mention them again. They are that important.
A basic analytics report will give you an overall bounce rate, with options to dig deeper and find out the bounce rates for individual pages. In Google Analytics, you’ll find this by going to Content > Site Content > Pages.
Once you have a grasp of what your bounce rate is, it’s time to figure out why visitors aren’t sticking around in the first place.
Your toolbox for determining what’s causing your high bounce rate contains many of same tools we discussed in Chapter 4. Again, we’ll discuss these at length in Chapter 9, but the basics are as follows.
- Analytics – Figure out bounce rate and traffic sources for your most popular pages. Your website’s overall bounce rate is too vague a number. A detailed page-level report will help you identify your highest traffic pages and your worst offenders when it comes to bounce rates. Analytics also delivers insights regarding where this traffic is coming from.
- User Testing – Figure out what users are doing on your site. The ability to observe how users interact with your site is invaluable in determining the cause of high bounce rates. Using a CrazyEgg heatmap might reveal that only 30% of visitors see your call to action.
- User Surveys – Ask users what they are looking for and whether they can find it. Analytics and testing will only tell you so much. Some stuff you can only figure out by asking visitors directly.
Here are some of the most common culprits:
- Your website is visually unappealing. Sometimes the fix is obvious. A visitor has stumbled across your site, and they are unimpressed by your cheesy stock images and choice of Comic Sans as a font. Never underestimate the power of an attractive, easy-on-the-eyes website compared to a cluttered eye-sore. Great design creates credibility.
- Your website is difficult to use. Maybe your site copy makes perfect sense to you, but visitors are left confused or, even worse, offended. It could also be that users are not visiting more pages because they can’t find them. Either because of poor layout, poor information architecture, technical errors, or malfunctioning buttons and page errors, users are left stranded.
- Your website doesn’t meet user expectations. Unlike in the previous scenario, in which the user can’t easily leave the landing page, in this situation someone visits your website based on a promise that isn’t kept. If you do offer what they’re looking for it might not be easily located from the page they landed on. Users lack the motivation or time to scour every page you have, so it is crucial to remove the obstacles that cause them to give up and look elsewhere.
- The people coming to your website aren’t the right people. The type of person viewing the page is just as important–if not more so–than the page itself. If people are bouncing it may be because they arrived based on a false promise. This is traffic you can’t really optimize, because they are going to bounce regardless. To avoid this, be sure your ads accurately represent your product and keywords align with your site’s mission.
There is no Call to Action. This issue is quite comparable to to the “lack of usability/navigation” issue, though likely even more detrimental to your bounce rate. Users arrive to your site one way or another, and simply don’t know where to go next—the shopping cart is nowhere to be found, it’s not clear how to subscribe to your blog, etc. Whatever the activity you’ve designated as conversion, if the user has no idea what you want them to do, there is a huge problem.
You own a sporting goods store that’s having an awesome sale on fishing reels. You advertise in the newspaper, put banners on the storefront, and send out a mass email. The turnout is great! A thousand customers show up, but only ten customers are able to locate the reels on your cluttered, disorganized sales floor.
The remainder is left alone at sea, struggling (mind the pun), and more often than not, this struggle is all it takes to make your customer head for your competitor across the street (whose fishing reels are prominently displayed in the front window).
This is how e-commerce works, except it’s far easier to make a few clicks over to the competitor compared to crossing the street. If you’re making it hard for your users to take advantage of what you’re offering them, you’re essentially sending that competitor business.
Too Many Calls to Action (the flip-side of the “No Call to Action” coin). After reading about the last issue, it may seem impossible to offer too many calls to action, but this is quite often the case. On a site with too many calls to action, the user is overwhelmed by the possibilities—buttons and links are everywhere, and the user has no idea which one will deliver whatever it is he or she is looking for. Before you know it, they are seeking the comfort of a simpler, less cluttered site. Tweet this!
Do not get bogged down by all of the negative though. For each potential reason for a user to bounce, there are a number of fixes to help guarantee future users stick around.
When attempting to lower your bounce rate, keep your conversion goals in mind—what exactly is it you want users to do? You aren’t lowering bounce rates because bounce rate are inherently bad. You’re lowering bounce rates so people stick around long enough to subscribe to your email newsletter, download a document, make a purchase, and so on.
Now, lets take another look at the above issues:
Your website is unattractive.
When a user arrives at your website, is he or she greeted with a simple, easy-to-navigate site? Or is the user bogged down with pop-up ads, dated graphics, and a disorganized layout? Your goal is to provide exactly what they are looking for. If any visual element of your site stands in the way of this, you are creating friction, and friction kills conversion.
Your website is unusable or lacks navigation.
The easiest fix here is to actually put yourself in your users’ shoes and explore your site.
- Does every link work?
- Do you run into any technical errors?
- How is the load time?
- Can you easily follow your own navigation to your desired goal?
To take it a step further, consider asking a few close friends to try out your site and complete a task. Watch them and document their experience—specifically any problems they have. For the best possible representation, use friends from all over the spectrum, those inside your field and those who have no idea what you do or sell. Tweet this!
Your website doesn’t meet user expectation.
First, ask yourself these questions:
- What search terms did visitors use to get here?
- What website or ad did your visitors come from?
If the answers to these questions are readily available, you can make some assumptions about what visitors are looking for and expecting to get from your site. Again, this will come from analytics. To find this out in Google Analytics, you’ll use the All Traffic, Referrals, and Search Engines reports under Traffic Sources.
Many users will arrive via search engines, so it is important to know the their intent and make sure your site matches those expectations. For example, if you are sell marketing automation software but have a large percentage of visitors showing up looking up performance-based marketing agencies, you have a percentage of visitors who will never buy from you, no matter how optimized your landing pages are.
In addition to analytics, you should ask visitors what they’re looking for when they arrive on your site. This lets you determine visitor intent, going beyond keywords to the actual reasons a person is on your site.
For example, if you have a mobile photography iOS app and a visitor arrives on your site from searching “iPhone mobile photos” you don’t know if they’re looking for a photo taking app, photo editing app, how to backup their photos, or how to take better pictures with their phone. You can only get that information by asking.
There is no Call to Action.
If a user is lost, the best tip is for the site to be a guide. You need to guide the users towards your goal. The users shouldn’t have too think too much or look too hard when arriving at your site. Make certain that your Call to Action is prominently placed on your landing page. Also consider these tips to help guide your users to your CTA:
- Situate a “search function” in clear view for users
- Match keywords in ads you run to your CTA, this way the users naturally spot what they expected to find
Too Many Calls to Action.
With too many distractions comes the potential for the user to get anxious and hit the back button. There are many tools you can use to figure out exactly where you users scroll on the page, which will be covered in Chapter 9. But know for now that the most sure way to guide your user to your CTA is to give them little other choice. There should be a clear path upon the user arriving on the page to fulfilling the goal you set out.
Back to the fishing store example…
Upon advertising the awesome sale of fishing equipment, you would have every reason to prominently place all of that merchandise, so as soon as customers opened the door to the store they saw what they expected to find. There is no reason for anything else to block this pathway. No other merchandise. No other announcements for later sales cluttering the customer’s view. Nothing between the fishing reels and your customers.
These are of course just some examples. Your bounce rates are contingent on your website’s unique challenges and user base. Still, when attempting to lower your bounce keep the above tips in mind. The important thing is this—in order for visitors to convert into users, they have to stick around. In its most basic form, lowering your bounce rate is simply figuring out why people are leaving and fixing it.
Chapter 7 Notes