Today we're talking about one of the most dreaded aspects of website management -- your bounce rate. If you've never managed a website before or taken a deep dive into Google Analytics, then you may be shocked when you first see your bounce rate. Fortunately, we have strategies for keeping visitors on your website for longer.
Your website is more than just your calling card -- it acts as the portal through which potential customers get to know you, purchase goods or services from you, and contact you as needed. It should be a one-stop-shop and a well-oiled digital machine.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad websites out there -- you've probably seen countless examples yourself. You click on a link, hoping that a website will provide the answers you need. Instead, you're greeted by an unattractive, obtrusive, or unhelpful page that makes you immediately click the "back" button on your browser. Even more irksome, you may have to wait five seconds or more as you wait for the page to load.
Whether you realize it or not, other internet users could be having the exact same experience with your website. If they are, the consequences could be dire. Having a high bounce rate could act as a red flag to Google, tanking your ratings because neither Google's bots nor the average web user thinks very highly of your online presence. After that, your sales could drop and viable leads dwindle. That all spells disaster for your business.
To avoid these undesirable outcomes, you need to be able to recognize the areas in which your site and user experience can be improved -- and take action when your site is driving new customers away. Here are five reasons web visitors will immediately abandon your website (and what you can do to make them stay instead).
1. Outdated Web Design Features
The design of your website matters -- a lot. Web visitors will judge a book by its cover. If there's something they notice straight away that turns them off, they're probably going to retreat. When we land on a new website, we instantly and unconsciously make judgments based on visual cues such as photo quality, color scheme, and white space (or lack thereof).
One study found that 94% of people who said they distrusted a website answered that way because of the website's design. Even if you have the best web content and you’re a highly reputable business in your community, you may not be able to capture new customers online if your site looks antiquated or unattractive. In fact, Forbes reports that 38% of internet users will stop interacting with a site if its layout is unappealing.
It's extremely hard to recover from a bad first impression. If in 2018, you're still relying on the plugins, graphics, Flash features, or other technological fads you used on your old site, your potential customers won't be enthused about the prospect of working with you. If you’re concerned that your current website may not be made with newer preferences in mind, hire some experienced website designers to revamp it ASAP.
2. Too Many Ads
No one wants to be bombarded with advertising or promotional windows from the moment they enter your site. While some website owners make a bulk of their income from ads, there's no excuse to have an overly cluttered page. It'll make your site look messy, confusing, and even spammy.
What you might not realize is that most consumers will trust every form of advertising except for digital banner ads. The only lower-rated form of digital advertising is mobile text messaging -- which should tell you something about how annoying people think those website banner ads are.
People might even make certain assumptions about you or your business because of your ad placements. You need to consider the message you're sending by having a multitude of advertisements on your site. They disrupt the user experience, which can make customers feel like you don't care. Worse, if ads aren't in line with your niche, web users may feel like you don't even know who your customer is.
If you're dealing with an old site that operates on an ad-driven model, you may want to explore some alternative web development services. Creating a new website from the ground up may not have been in your plans, particularly if you rely on advertising revenue to keep your business afloat. However, you'll at least want to rethink how those ads are displayed and assess whether there might be a more user-friendly alternative. As you do, watch closely how your ads impact page loading time, which is a major factor in high bounce rates.
And as a side note: please don't use autoplay video ads (or other media). They're obnoxious and outdated, and no one wants to work with a company with those qualities. There are much more effective ways to display moving media on your website that won't frighten the living daylights out of someone who has their volume turned up to full blast.
3. Difficult Navigation
Interacting with your website should be relatively simple and obvious upon first glance. If your site looks cool but is difficult for visitors to navigate, you aren't serving their needs. They ultimately aren't going to care about how your website looks if it doesn't actually function.
This isn't to say that your website should be predictable and boring, but it does need to be user-friendly. If you're purposely ignoring the preferences and natural tendencies of your customers, what does that say about your business? Instead of trying to adapt to your way of thinking, most users will simply opt out and find a business that doesn't have a condescending attitude and confusing website design.
Keep in mind that you have a very short amount of time to capture the attention of a web user. In general, it shouldn't take more than three clicks for a customer to find what they're looking for. If your site's navigation isn't immediately clear, they'll probably give up.
Poor site usability won't attract new customers, nor will it help your SEO. Google isn't going to reward websites that force customers through an endless maze of pages to find what they need. If you're making it hard for customers to get where they want to go, why would they (or Google) trust you?
4. Non-Responsive Design
In 2018, it's not enough to have a website that looks great on a desktop or a laptop computer. It also needs to provide a consistent experience for those web users who navigate to your site on mobile.
Google made major changes to its algorithm recently, so it's going to start indexing the mobile version of your site's pages first. If your site is drastically different on devices other than a computer, you will be in big trouble with the almighty Google. Ideally, your site should be responsive -- meaning that your site should automatically adapt and provide a comparable experience no matter how it's being viewed. Having a separate mobile version of your site isn't such a great thing these days, but it's better than not having a mobile experience at all.
Prioritizing mobile isn't just for Google, either. More and more customers are choosing to shop on their smartphones, tablets, and other devices rather than on the computer. If you aren't appealing to those customers, you're leaving money on the table. Mobile is how people browse the internet in 2018. When you ignore those users' needs, the outcome isn't going to be pretty for your traffic, your bounce rate, or your sales.
5. Slow Loading Speed
Slow page load speed is often thought of like the kiss of death for a website. In the early days of dial-up internet, people might have waited around for a few minutes for an old site to load. Now, most people won't wait more than a few seconds. You might chalk that up to a lack of attention span and dismiss those kinds of customers... but the truth is that this statistic applies to almost everyone in the digital age. When you're waiting for a web page to load, seconds feel like minutes.
In fact, 47% of customers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. If a website takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of customers will abandon the site. Even a one-second delay in loading time will decrease your overall customer satisfaction by nearly 16%! As the old saying goes, time is money.
Slow page loading times can be attributed to several different causes, but media (graphics, advertisements, videos, etc.) and low bandwidth are often to blame. Compressing your images or changing web hosts can help, but you may also need to redo your old site to prioritize what web users (and Google) value most.
Need to fix up your old site to attract new customers? You're definitely not alone. There are a lot of businesses out there that believe their old sites work just fine, while in reality, they might be alienating their customers and causing their rankings to plummet.
Fortunately, there's a solution. By making a concerted effort to improve your website design and your SEO, you can appeal to both consumers and search engines while amping up your brand awareness.