Bounce Rate is your enemy: 5 key ways to minimize bounce rate


Tired of Making Chump Change Online?

Before you say “Oh no! Another Google Panda update blog entry”, let me make it clear that Google is dead serious about imposing stricter QUALITY CONTROL on its search results.  They have repeatedly defined “quality content” in terms of ORIGINAL content.  That’s the whole point of the Scraper update.  While it nuked many dupe content and link farms, there are still quite a few still intact.  Still, the message can’t get any louder and clearer than that–ORIGINAL CONTENT MATTERS.

NOTE: For the May 13 update regarding this topic, click here

You can’t spin your way out of Google’s Quality Content jihad

Does this mean you can just spin or morph original text into smithereens and start uploading them to thousands of sites to get backlink clusters?  How about spinning and morphing paragraph brackets targeting differing keyword clusters and uploading them en masse to a massive network of blogs?  In other words, once the “originality” portion of the latest algo changes has been addressed can mass publishers go back to business as usual.

The obvious answer is NO.  How come?  If originality was the end all be all solution to Google’s latest “quality” jihad, original content networks wouldn’t have been affected by the latest algo change.  It’s understandable to see article dumps like take a hit (they are down 15% according to Alexa and still continue to bleed) because most articles submitted to these places have been submitted to others.  It’s also understandable to see sites that use a lot of PLR content take a hit.  What isn’t easily understandable is when original content sites took a hit. This is an obvious clue that the algo change didn’t just involve checking for ORIGINALITY.

Bounce rate is an honest metric of content quality

We suspect that Bounce Rate played a bigger role in the latest algo change and foresee it playing an even bigger role in the future.  Why the bigger role?  First, it is fairly easy to implement–when a searcher goes from Google results to a specific listing and clicks the back button, that’s fairly easy to track and time.  Why would Google reinvent the wheel with something more elaborate?  This method is cheaper and already available for them to fully exploit.  Second, it is hard to fake unless you’re talking about interlinked botnets doing a coordinated dance to manipulate bounce rates across the globe.  Third, it is an “unconscious” behavior by the search consumer and is more honest than consciously self-reported metrics.  There are no pretensions just a person quickly and automatically sizing up content and moving on.  One’s actions speak better than one’s words.

5 Solutions that lower bounce rate

Assuming that bounce rate is a key factor in the current algo and future updates, what can webmasters and publishers do to decrease bounce rate?

Solution #1:  Tighter fit between keyword searched and content displayed

This is probably the most common complaint Google gets.  Someone searches for something specific and gets a page that is only tangentially related.  Webmasters should pay careful attention to their stats systems (Google Analytics is one obvious solution) and keep track of which keyword clusters bring up which content pages.  Tighten up the correlation between the two by highlighting searched term at the top of the page or use it in subheadings or even put it in graphical form (depending on your page and niche).
The key here is to tell the searcher (who is in a rush) “You found what you were looking for–stop your search here and read!”

Solution #2:  Give the reader reasons to stay longer on your pages

Bounce rate measures only one thing: how long your visitor stays on the page referred by a search result before clicking the back button or closing the window.  They don’t go deeper into your site.  They just bounce back out.  You have to give them REASONS to stay longer on the page.  Trick #1 is to make your pages read like PYRAMIDS — at the top of the pyramid is the search term/topic they are looking for.  You have to structure your content so they get more and more details as they read down.  You don’t give everything at the top but use the top of the content structure to build up the reader’s appetite to read further and further down.  Depending on your niche, you can put the core information at the top but goad them to read further down by posting WARNINGS / SECRETS / SCANDALS / ETC.  Basically, website copywriting “flavor nuggets” that keep their attention while building value in their eyes.

Solution #3  Make your pages longer

This is quite nice and simple.  It works by brute force.  Want people to stay longer on your pages?  MAKE THEM by writing out longer articles.  Does this mean you can drone on and on about the same subject?  No.  Doing that would probably INCREASE your bounce rate instead of minimizing it.  The secrets to doing this correctly are a) having on page elements that make your long page easier to read — graphical markers, bullet point formatting, diagrams, and other visual reading aids and b) writing your long page in modules that build suspense or hype up the other modules on the same page.  You are, in a sense, textually linking to other sections so if you hook the reader with one part they follow to the next part and your bounce rate and visit time decline.

Solution #4:  Hate Filler with a passion

One of the biggest sins webmasters and online publishers commit is to build their sites for search engines and not people.  Actually having the visitor read and interact with the content is an afterthought compared to the gold rush mentality of getting search engine traffic “by any means necessary.”  This is wrong.  The focus must always be on the reader of your pages.  You are probably wasting lots of hard earned traffic goading people from search engines with juicy keywords only to dump them on to flaccid, boring, and dull content with no call to action, no reader interaction, or, ultimately, no value.  You must engineer your content strategy with the following questions in mind.

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What writing style do they prefer?
  • How do they consume content?
  • How do I infuse my readers’ values into my content?
  • How do they pass on information to others?  How can I encourage this?

The book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has a chapter on START WITH THE END IN MIND.  This is the principle in action with this solution–start with your readers in mind.  Build your content around their needs and twist the SEO considerations accordingly.  Not the other way around.  Remember, boys and girls, Googlebot doesn’t have a credit card but your target visitor does.

Solution #5  Social Networks are your friends

Believe it or not, the content your target audience wants YOU to produce already exists.  Where?  User forums and chat boards where your target audience hang out.  I am not saying copy and paste/steal this material but study them.  What kind of issues do they raise?  How do these themes interact with your current content strategy?  How can you incorporate the topics of these discussions into your articles and blog posts?  The key takeaway here is: Your customers are already talking about THEIR needs.  You just need to step up to the plate and list out key questions that address these needs and arrange your existing content/produce new content accordingly.  Write for actual audiences not just for search engine robots.

For more help with bounce rate/quality content assistance, click here

Photo Credits: S Memon 87

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