How I Keep My Bounce Rate Under 2%

Keeping visitors on your website is a key component to success. The more time a visitor spends on your site, the more likely they are to follow through with whatever action you want them to take, whether that’s subscribing to a newsletter, purchasing a product, or making an inquiry.

For the past year, my bounce rate has averaged 3.5%. If I remove a couple of short events from my stats that drive that number higher (and which appear to be related to changes in Google’s algorithm), it’s averaged under 2%. That means for every 100 people who visit my site, 98 of them click through to at least one other page.

Below is a screenshot from my analytics account for the past month, showing my 1.79% bounce rate. Now, I’m not getting millions of visitors per month, but I do get enough to make this a statistically accurate percentage (it’s based on numbers much higher than what most political polling pools are made up of).

bounce rate in Google Analytics

My site is a blog, so bounce rates that low might not be possible on more sales-driven sites. But the principles I’ve used to keep my bounce rate low can be applied to virtually any type of site, whether it’s a blog or a sales site, to lower your bounce rate.

Now, the good news is that there’s nothing complicated in what I’ve done. My site uses a stock template with some minimal customizations. There are no expensive plugins or anything else that every single site owner out there can’t afford to do.

1. Simple, Easy to Find Navigation

easy to find navigation

Navigation on the site is located in two places: the first is above the header, at the very top of the page. This navigation bar provides links to all pages on the site. It’s simple to find, stands out due to the contrast between it and the rest of the page, and only includes a handful of links. This makes it very user-friendly.

The second navigation option is located in the sidebar. At the top is a search bar, which makes it easy to find relevant posts in the archives (where there are over 300 posts).

Then there’s a banner that links to an internal page, followed by social media links that go off-site. This might seem counter-intuitive for keeping a bounce rate low, but there’s a trade-off. If a visitor is going to leave my site, I’d definitely prefer them to leave by going to one of my social media profiles than to just simple click their back button.

Next are category listings and tag clouds. The category list is purposely kept short: 12 categories in total. Anything longer becomes cumbersome and unusable. You want to make sure that your category listings will all fit on your user’s screen at the same time, without the need for scrolling. The tag cloud is more organic, with the most popular tags larger than the least popular.

From there are more widgets, subscribe buttons, and a recent posts feed. These are mostly tertiary navigation options, and aren’t widely used. But, considering there is relevant content spanning the entire length of the page, it makes sense to use more of the sidebar, as long as there’s still sufficient white space. This wouldn’t necessarily be the case, though, with a design where the sidebar is also included on individual post pages (more on that in “An Uncluttered Design” below).

The big thing here is that there’s no fancy, complicated navigation. No assisted search. No mega drop-down menus. It’s no more complicated than it absolutely has to be. Granted, such simple navigation won’t work for every site, but the basic principle of not making it more complex than it absolutely has to be is a good one to follow regardless of the number of pages on your site.

2. Every Single Page Counts

every webpage counts

This is probably the single biggest thing you can do to lower your bounce rate: make sure that every single page on your website is useful, interesting, and well-laid-out. Visitors aren’t likely to just land on your home page, or even one of your carefully crafted landing pages. They’ll land on whatever page shows up for them in search results, or whatever page they found linked through social media.

If they land on a page that’s hard to read, has a poor design, is boring, or otherwise loses their attention, they’re going to head straight for their back button.

On my site, every single article I publish is something I hope will be useful and engaging for my readers. I don’t post for the sake of posting; I post when I have something to say.

3. An Uncluttered Design

An Uncluttered Design

A simple design makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Consistency is also key. Every page on my site has the navigation at the top. No matter which page a visitor lands on, they’ll see that navigation bar.

That doesn’t mean that every single page on your site has to look the same. The individual post pages on my site have a single-column layout (sans-sidebar) and a white background behind the content. The font size is also larger than it is on the front page, which adds to improved readability. But regardless of whether you’re looking at the home page, an interior page, or an individual post, you’ll get an uncluttered and simple design that makes it easy to focus on the content.

4. Tag Clouds

tag clouds

Tag clouds are a great way to let visitors browse for useful content. While they don’t work well for every site, they’re great for blogs or other sites with article-style content (they even work well for e-commerce sites with a large volume of products).

One key to effective tags, though, is to be consistent in which tags you use. Don’t use multiple variations on the same keywords, but rather select from the list of tags you’ve already created whenever applicable. This makes your tag cloud smaller and more easily used.

5. Post Excerpts on the Home Page

Post Excerpts on the Home Page

For those times when visitors do end up directly on your home page, only displaying post excerpts rather than full-length posts almost guarantees click-throughs. Make the first couple of paragraphs of your posts interesting and engaging. Avoid copy that tries too hard or goes for the hard sell. The goal is to get your visitors to click through to more of your content.

I generally use post excerpts that are two to four paragraphs long, depending on the content and the length of each, as well as the overall length of the post.

6. Links at the End of Each Post

Links at the End of Each Post

Since I don’t have a sidebar on the individual post pages, there’s a section at the bottom that lists the categories and keywords that the post is tagged with. (The category is also listed at the top of each post.) This makes it simple for visitors to find related posts.

Keeping the links at the end like this makes sense on a blog, where a lot of readers will be scrolling down to see comments on the post. Internal links also mean that there’s more opportunity for visitors to click through to other pages, rather than clicking their back button.

7. Regular Updates

keep your site regularly updated

This one is vital, especially for lowering your bounce rate when it comes to return visitors. Even if you update your blog on a daily basis, not all of your regular visitors are going to come back every day. So if they know you’re likely to have published more than one post since their last visit, they’ll click through to more pages.

Conclusion

The key thing to realize here is that lowering your bounce rate isn’t difficult. It’s all about creating a better experience for your visitors. At every step of the way, you should be asking yourself if what you’re doing is providing more value to your visitors. If you are, then you’ll likely see a decrease in your bounce rate. If not, then don’t be surprised if it has the opposite effect.

Bounce rate is only one small portion of your website’s overall success, but it is an important one. Lowering your bounce rate can help you get more out of your current visitors, and it makes sense to focus on that before you focus on growing your overall site traffic.

About the Author: Cameron Chapman is a freelance designer, blogger, and the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

  1. honestly, I doubt someone can achieve bounce rate so low, under 10% without generating virtual pageviews. I mean, I can get bounce rate 0 if I want, i just generate on pageload a virtual PageView and that’s it.. problem solved. Indeed, all these tips regarding the design and navigation are good, but I sincerely doubt that’s a real bounce rate, not altered.

  2. Hi Cameron,
    Sorry to burst your bubble, but as Lumidan pointed out, having a bounce rate near 1% is doubtful, especially for a blog.

    I took a look at your website with Firebug running and found that actually Google Analytics is being executed *twice* for the same account (UA-1673712-1)…you can see this because in the activity monitor “GET __utm.gif[...]” takes place twice for every pageview (well, every pageview I tried). This is because the Google Analytics by Yoast For WordPress plugin writes the Google Analytics script in the section of the site, whereas the script lives in it’s previous, non-async version just before the closing tag as well.

    Gotta get that fixed to see the real bounce rate!

    • Even that being the case, I appreciate Cameron’s effort here and personally I consider that the advice is quite useful.

      If put into practice, these tips will definitely help lower the Bounce Rate. Maybe not to 1%, but with 10-20% at least.

      Great job Cameron!

  3. Do you use Event Tracking?

    My Bounce Rate dropped from 75% to 25% and I was really happy, but then I discovered that event tracking is affecting how the Bounce Rate is calculate by Google Analytics.

    That was a bummer for me.

  4. While I don’t think I can ever reach a bounce rate that low, I did pick up quite a few pointers that I immediately implemented on my blog. If I notice the rate start to creep down, I’ll be sure to let you know!

    As for #5, I can’t seem to find out how to manage this in WP. Is that a theme specific setting, or does it require editing of the raw PHP?

    • WordPress excerpts can be a pain. They are often theme-specific, yes. All posts allow you to enter an excerpt when writing them, but it’s up to the theme whether or not to show them on the home page.

      There’s an excellent plugin called Excerpt Editor which gives you a bunch of options, and some themes may have nice excerpt settings, but you can always get the same result by hacking the templates a little bit. For the standard Twenty Eleven theme I’ve been (forced into) using, it’s as simple as adding a “or true” to one file (content.php). Similar thing to get the sidebar active on all pages.

  5. Like the other commentators above, I don’t believe the 2% bounce rate.

    Above, you listed the reasons why your bounce rate is so low. Care to undo those one by one, and share with us how the bounce rate changes?

    If Adrian is right about your blog having the google analytics tracking code in there twice, that could explain the extremely low bounce rates. I looked, and I didn’t see that happening, perhaps its already been fixed.

    I’m disappointed that the author of this post has not responded to that comment.

  6. Nice post. Even though your talking about a blog, I like how many of these components work for websites, too. Navigation, exerts on the homepage, updated content, links to other pages. Great elements to keep in mind.

    Oh, and kudos on the 2%. I work with mostly B2B webistes and we’re usually looking to keep bounce rates at 40-70%.

    -Danielle @ Atomicdust

  7. I would also add to the list “Fast Loading Webpage”. If your webpage is loading slow then users is going to leave your website or blog. Make sure you have optimized your webpage. You can try http://tools.pingdom.com/ to test load time.

  8. I was almost ready to feel depressed because the best bounce rate I have of all my blogs is 66%, and I was fairly happy for that. There’s still some interesting ideas shown here, but I’m not sure I’d be able to even get below 50%, which would be nice.

  9. This is great, been looking for some ways to improve my bounce rate and looks like I’ve already found some solution.. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thanks for the tips. I’m curious to get your opinion (or anyone else reading this) on what might be considered a reasonable bounce rate for a website offering software development services. Ours is currently around 59%, and started at around 85%. I’d like to eventually get it down to 25-30%. Any specific tips for us?

    • Stop stressing, econsultancy for example has a high bounce rate (80%) for the blog pages – typically a good blog post and loyal audience will result in a higher bounce rate!

      Think about it from a user perspective, if you visit a really good article from a twitter link, you might share it, follow them on twitter, but you might not visit any other pages … it is better to have regular / repeat engaged with “visitors” than over examining the “visit” metrics

  11. I have recently launched a rental site, using AdWords as advertising and we currently have a bounce rate of 0.87% – its been a month now since launching. Hopefully these figures stick.

    So its very possible, doubtful for a blog though. It seems easier when your selling a product and the user knows exactly what they are in for before coming.

  12. My bounce rate is consistent at around 1% for my blog which although is new, has been driving some pretty decent traffic. Maybe it’s the content and maybe it’s still to early to tell but I’m really amazed it hasn’t changed much at all over the past couple of months!

  13. What about long tail keyword visits? Sometimes visitors (including me) find a web page with some accident keyword that the page contains. See it’s not that they were looking for and bounce..

  14. For those people who are seeing bounce rates lower than 50%, I would say you are not working hard enough on your traffic acquisition efforts. The wider the net you cast for generating traffic, the higher the bounce rate you’ll see. Also, forget about trying to build content or products that appeal to everyone; focus on building stuff for your prime target audience. Doing so will also tend to create higher bounce rates, as you’ll be speaking to a very specific segment of your traffic — those people who are likely to buy!

    • THANK YOU LANCE! I feel so much better after reading your comment because I honestly think some of these bounce rates that people are claiming are nearly impossible to reach.

  15. Thank for the tips.. i will use it for my blog.

  16. I agree, it is possible to achieve this low bounce rate on a blog. i own an educational and tech blog , but interlinking articles has changed my bounce rate from 35% to 5.5% , page views per user is 2.95 and 255 visitors viewed 752 pages, i just want to monitor this when i shoot to 3000 visitors a day and see what will happen. I copied this trick from wikipedia. I do the linking of articles manually and i update the blog on a daily basis. So the tips on this blog are correct.

  17. Thanks for a great post – and I actually learned a lot from the comments, too! It turns out that my bounce rate was artificially low.

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