Ah, the good old bounce rate. Source of much attention and often much confusion.

What does it mean? What’s an acceptable bounce rate and what should give cause for concern? And, most importantly, how can I make it as low as possible? These are all questions that anyone involved in website management has pondered at one point or another.

Your bounce rate is the metric in Google Analytics that shows the number of people who’ve landed on one page of your website and left again – i.e. they bounced – so they haven’t visited any other pages and haven’t converted in any way. It’s not related to time spent on the site, merely the number of pages visited.

A high bounce rate means one of two things: either your visitors are coming to your site and finding exactly what they want on the first page (which, of course, is very possible) or it’s instantly clear that your site will not meet their needs, and they leave. Bounce rates are generally used to denote how effective a website’s content is – how hard it’s working – so the latter scenario is more often the case. It’s something that needs to be seriously addressed if your website aims to drive purchases, secure personal details through a request for information form or encourage engagement with detailed content.

In short, a high bounce rate is generally a bad thing. Sorry!

What constitutes a high bounce rate varies from site to site. What’s unacceptable for one business is perfectly average for another but, as a rule of thumb, you should focus on anything over 50%.

Thankfully, there are some fairly simple things you can do to increase engagement and lower your bounce rate.

10 tips for reducing your bounce rate

1) Understand your audience – First thing’s first, you need to get to know your audience. Understand who they are, what they want, how old they are, what they search for and why they visit your website. Have you created audience personas for your site? Use them! Once you’ve got this foundation right, it’ll help you work on the points below.

2) Focus on design and layout – Develop a design that works well for your audiences. It’s important that your site engenders trust and confidence that you are able to provide the product, service or information they’re looking for – so your design should clearly mirror your values.

3) Enhance your website navigation – Make life easier for visitors by providing clear, intuitive navigation links throughout your website – whether that’s the top and bottom navigation or deeper sidebar navigation links. Picking the right wording will encourage people to explore.

4) Drive people to relevant landing pages – One of the main reasons people bounce off a site is because it didn’t meet their expectations. Is your marketing making promises your website can’t deliver? You need to make sure your site reflects the information provided one step up the chain, whether that’s in a PPC ad, direct email, a social post or any other piece of activity. If you’re promoting a variety of messages or targeting different audiences, then you need to direct that traffic to specific landing pages that provide focused, relevant content.

5) Review your copy – Visit a page with fresh eyes, as if you were a new visitor, and think about whether there this anything you can do to improve it. Does the title need to be changed? Can visitors scan content easily, if not, could you structure the copy better – say, more headings, or shorter paragraphs? Is there a different format you could use, i.e. video? Think of content and formats that would appeal to your visitors.

6) Get mobile – Only last week a report from Ofcom revealed that smartphones are now the most popular way to browse the internet. With an increasing number people viewing websites on tablets and mobiles, your website needs to be responsive on these devices otherwise your visitors will give up and go elsewhere. Invest in creating a site that’s as accessible and enjoyable to navigate on a mobile as via a desktop or laptop.

7) Add links to other pages on your website – Are there related pages your visitors will want to see? If so, add links within the copy and throughout the template of the page if possible i.e. sidebars and blocks at the bottom of the page.

8) Add a call to action – Give visitors something to do throughout the page, whether that’s getting in touch with you (a ‘Contact us’ link) or visiting other pages (see above).

9) Sort by most viewed pages and highest bounce rate – These are the pages that you need to improve first, as soon as possible. These pages drive people to your site, first of all, but they could also generate visits to other pages.

10) Sort by most viewed pages and lowest bounce rate – These pages are performing well, so you should interrogate them to find out why and use them as templates for enhancing performance across the site and creating new pages that really work.

By following this advice, your bounce rate will begin to fall and your website will start working harder and more effectively, helping to achieve your overall business objectives.