Nowadays lowering bounce rates and increasing conversion rates are two or rather one (as both are closely tied together) of the main tasks that modern SEO is about.
Image credit: Sean Dreilinger
It’s obvious: Rankings and traffic do not mean much when the website visitors bounce off and you fail to convert them to buyers, subscribers or whatever you desire your visitors to do for you. Some industry insiders even suspect bounce rate to be a ranking factor itself already.
You might argue that improving bounce rate and conversion rate is more about web analytics or overall online marketing but nowadays you can’t pretend that SEO is somehow not part of those disciplines or the other way around both of them not being part of SEO.
When it comes to PPC most people by now take care of bounce rates, landing page optimization and conversion rates. When it comes to SEO for search and beyond many people still don’t.
This post is divided into 5 sections each one of them covering a crucial aspect of improving bounce rate and conversion rate. I present you 30 simple ways of doing that as most of them are not rocket science once you take both rates into account:
- visitor intent
- landing page optimization
- a/b split testing
Without traffic you won’t get any bounce rates or conversion rates to measure. You need to get people to your site, whether via search, social media, bookmarks and direct “type in” way or links from other sites. Nonetheless you don’t want random visitors you want to attract people who will be beneficial for your business.
- Get “targeted” traffic that is people who are potentially interested in your offerings via search
- Optimize for one main keyword or phrase per page but never more than 3 or 4 throughout your site
- Use Twitter to gain a following of like-minded and/or interested individuals
- Participate on niche social sites, forums and blogs to attract your audience, we do participate on Sphinn
- Go where interested visitors already are, like on Q&A sites (Yahoo Answers e.g.) and interact
- Focus on and establish authority in your area, niche or language, age or other demographic
In order not to scare away your visitors in an instant (and let them bounce off) and to convert them to clients, customers, subscribers or whatever you prefer you need to determine the so called user or visitor intent. This might be
- informational – as in “I want to know more about x”
- commercial – as in “I want to buy x”
- social – as in “I want to contact x or socialize with x”
x being a keyword or phrase.
- Identify category of visitor intent (informational, commercial, social) using web analytics
- Split visitors up according to source where they come from, returning visitors get different treatment as search and social media users
- Create a funnel for each user intent, checking the referrer. WordPress bloggers often do that for search visitors by offering several posts (using a plugin) that might match the user intent.
- Offer a menu that contains the most sought after items on all of your pages (contact form and/or phone number, blog and/or forum, shopping cart/call to action).
- Ask people what they want using live chat or simple surveys
- Employ conversion attribution to know who the person and how it ended up on your site
Usability is still frowned upon by some in the SEO industry while others embraced it already several years ago. Without proper usability the best search optimized site does not earn money.
One of the main factors leading to undesirable effects like high bounce rates or low conversion rates is poor usability. While usability experts tend to assume that usability is about clean and simple interface design in SEO we also tend to bring the sheer attractiveness of a page to the table.
When a visitor bounces for a lack of a visual clue or eye catcher a page isn’t really usable is it?
- Use an eye catching image to illustrate a page on top of it, not a random stock photography cliche though
- Declare what the topic/purpose of a page is in the headline and page title
- Add a clearly visible and button-like call to action above the fold/scroll of your page, like “call now toll free”, “subscribe now”, “download free version”
- Make way for your desired outcome by as few clicks as possible while showing the user where s/he is (breadcrumb menus work great for that purpose)
- Let the visitors eyes rest on your page by adding a significant amount of white space
- Hide advanced features at the same time and display them on demand (“onmouseover”)
Landing Page Optimization
What are landing pages? Leading usability and SEO experts consider every page a landing page. On the hand landing pages refer to pages specifically created for a single purpose and/or audience.
In the dark past webmasters relied on the “home page” metaphor for visitors to arrive at the front door. The contrary is the case, your visitors arrive via a myriad of ways through all kinds of pages.
Nowadays deep links are often far more popular than the actual front page of a site. You should anticipate that and create or optimize your landing pages accordingly. Knowing the traffic source and the most likely visitor intent will better your chances to create fitting landing pages.
- Create landing pages for organic traffic, long tail queries and important social media sites like Twitter, not only for PPC and banner ads
- Simplify your landing pages as much as possible but not more than that, you still need to convince your visitors
- Streamline your visitor experience by dividing your page up into steps (beware of huge forms, make them fill in step by step using AJAX)
- Add signs of of trust to your site, like badges from professional organizations, user reviews with real recognizable names, awards
- Do not distract, remove pitfalls, ads and other annoyances unless the purpose of your site is for visitors to click those ads
- Test your landing pages frequently visiting from different sources. I surprisingly often encounter broken landing pages that ether lead to nowhere or stopped working
A/B Split Testing
While the last tip dealt with testing there is a different kind of testing as well necessary to optimize your landing pages , it’s the so called A/B split testing or multivariate testing.
Many people are already familiar with the concept from PPC and are using Google Website Optimizer. The Google Website Optimizer tool is not limited to ads though, you can test whatever pages you want no matter where the traffic comes from
- Test several versions of a landing page using Google Website Optimizer or A/Bingo no matter whether your landing page is just a blog post and the call to action only a “follow me on Twitter” badge.
- Compare different call to action wordings on buttons as well as page copy
- Compare different images depending on the demographic you are seeking to convince (old vs young people, men vs women, casual visitors vs experts)
- Test different colors, font types and text sizes, more or less white space etc.
- Compare anything you’d like or can change. For instance sometimes adding too many badges will outdo your simplification and the other way around. The advantage can sometimes be huge.
- Test during different times of day, week and year to determine temporal and seasonal changes. People before lunch decide differently than those after lunch ;-)
As you see some of these simple ways are quite obvious while others may sound intimidating. On the whole this list just scratches the surface.
You have to dive deep into the metrics and test for yourself.
Most small SEO projects won’t even allow that depth due to budget limitations but you can also attempt to convince the clients you already have to step up their efforts.
A high bounce rate and a low conversion rate is like kicking out your potential customers or scaring away your visitors that ring the door bell.
It’s like changing the visitor intent: Make the people who just wanted to get higher rankings and more traffic improve their bounce rate and conversion rate as well.
In case this list is not enough for you you might want to check these additional resources elsewhere:
- 50 Ways Your Web Site Is Discouraging Conversions — and How to Fix It
- 7 Deadly Sins of Landing Page Optimization (& Other Profitable Considerations)
- Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity
- 10 Tips for Turning Skeptical Visitors into Customers
- When Landing Page Optimization Isn’t Enough
- Landing Page Optimization: Improving Conversion 50-60% by Applying Continuity and Congruence
- Is Conversion Rate Enough? It’s A Good Start, Now Do More!