[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left]At some point everyone who uses their website for promotion or to generate income gets curious about their bounce rate.
Hair stylists, interested in their sites performing better eventually learn that reducing website bounce rate is closely related to online marketing success.
Most articles about website bounce rate are general by necessity. Very few of them are written specifically for the folks “standing behind the chair.” If you’re a stylist and a new website owner it’s easy to come across one of these articles, get worked up, and rush to you keyboard to fix something. Before you do, I’d suggest that you relax and consider that while bounce rate is something you should have a working knowledge of. You should also have a little perspective.
What is this “bounce” of which you speak?
A bounce, is what happens when someone comes to your website, looks around and doesn’t click on anything. They don’t navigate to another page, they don’t watch a video and they don’t interact with your site in any way. Whatever page they land on is the sum total of their journey onto your piece of online real estate.
They’ll either hit backspace to return to where they came from, type some other URL into the address bar, or simply walk away from their computer and just ignore you. However, the do it, the message is the same. “I’m not interested in anything you’ve got here.”
If 100 people come to your website and 55 of them look at your content and decide not to interact with it. 55 bounces out of 100 visits gives you a bounce rate of 55 percent.
55 percent sounds like a pretty high bounce rate. That means that more than half the people who come to your website don’t like what you’ve got to offer.
It’s natural to want to take steps to immediately reduce that number to 20 percent or less. After all, you do want more people to stay on your website. So anything you can do to lower that number must be a good thing, right?
Is My Bounce Rate Too High?
Stylists and salons have different goals for their websites. Some use their sites purely for brand awareness. Others use their sites for customer retention and lead generation. How you use your website will determine what a normal bounce rate should be.
A Little Perspective.
As we’ve said earlier, there’s no shortage of articles on reducing a website’s bounce rate. I’d like to suggest a small caveat as you work your way through them. Bounce rate is a statistic. It’s not a goal. It’s not something that should drive your marketing efforts.
Bounce rate doesn’t put money in your pocket and it doesn’t put cheeks in the seats. That’s the job of your conversion rate, your most important statistic. Bounce rate is something to keep an eye on when you’re trying to hone in on your conversion rate. A website that’s converting well and has a crappy bounce rate, is much more preferable than a site with a healthy bounce rate that converts poorly. A high conversion rate is the goal. Bounce rate is a feeder statistic. It contributes to the party. It’s worth paying attention to. But by itself, means very little.
Many factors affect bounce rate. However, all of those different factors fall into two basic categories. The content on your site, and your site’s structure. The eye wants to see, what the eye wants to see.
CAUSES OF A HIGH BOUNCE RATE
The most common cause of a high bounce rate is that the content is not relevant to what the visitor was searching for. If the visitor did a search for ‘London’ while looking for information on the capital of England and then clicked through to a site about London in Canada, they would quickly bounce.
Other factors that might be repelling visitors and causing a high bounce rate could include:
As you run through all the different recommendations in all the different bounce rate articles, you’ll quickly realize how big of a buffet that is. It may be a bit much to digest for a hair stylist with a new website on her hands. Too much choice isn’t always a good thing.
If you’re like most independent hair stylists, time is at a premium. Cranking away on a website to fix an obscure statistic isn’t the best use of your most valuable resource.
Here are several actions that will go a long way toward bringing down a rogue bounce rate that don’t take much time to put in place.
The eye wants to see, what the eye wants to see. When someone comes to your website from a search engine, their eye wants to see something specific. If it’s not there, you have an SEO problem. What your page is about is different from what the search engines think your page is about.
This is the number one cause of bounces across the net. Luckily it’s easily remedied. Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin on your website.
This plugin has many settings but pay particular attention to Focus Keyword and the meta description. The Focus Keyword will help you be consistent in telling the search engines what your page is about. The meta description, while to as important for pure SEO, affects the words that appear below the link on the search engine results page. This is where you can tell the searcher directly, what your page is about. WordPress SEO by Yoast handles a lot of other on-page SEO factors, but the Focus Keyword and meta description have the most impact on your bounce rate.
Google has no idea where your front door is. Searchers coming to your site will show up on every page of your site. It takes visitors to your site less than three seconds to decide whether or not what they’re looking for exists on your site. A quick glance of your menu will let them know how easy navigating your site will be. Web surfers are a pretty lazy, and somewhat spoiled bunch. If wandering around your website looks like work, they quickly back out and find an easier site to play with.
Make your menu easy to find and easy to understand. This isn’t the best place to try out your creativity. Use terms and include pages that surfers expect.
Web surfers aren’t into “homework.” The worst thing you can possibly do to is to hit them with a wall of text when they get to your web page. They’re not going to look at it. Ask yourself, how often do you take the time to work your way through a wall of text on the internet? Not too terribly often would be my guess. Do yourself and your visitors a favor and break up your content.
Anything that makes someone leave immediately after getting to your site is a bad thing. By that definition, 404 errors are most certainly “a bad thing.”
On a brand new, pristine website, 404 errors generally aren’t a problem. But as your site grows and you begin revising your content they will. You invite 404 errors whenever you delete or change the URL of a page or post after Google has indexed it. Until Google gets the memo that something has changed it’ll continue to send people to the old URL.
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Web surfers are notoriously quick at hitting the backspace button. If they navigate to a page and the only thing there is a 404 error message, they’ll end up bouncing back to Google.
404 To Start uses a catch-all approach to 404 errors, while Redirection uses a more specific method.
When someone surfs to a page that no longer exists, 404 To Start automatically redirects them to a page of your choosing. That can be any page on your site including a custom page designed to get them to look at something else on your website.
The Redirection plugin does exactly what it says and allows you to to redirect any link within your website, perfect for addressing phantom pages that are generating 404 errors. While it’s not as automatic as 404 To Start, it does log 404 error. This is the plugin I use here on the site. I like the ability to send surfers to the page they intended to land on.
I know I shouldn’t, but I have been known to change the URL of a post or page to better optimize it for Google. Redirection allows me to create a permanent redirect of the old URL to the new URL. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak. I want my visitors to go, where I want my visitors to go.
We’ve been beating this drum for a very long time here at I Help Salons. You never know how someone will choose to surf to your website. When they’re on a mobile device, they want to see a site that’s optimized for a mobile device. Pinching and zooming were cool years ago. Now, mobile surfers aren’t very willing to exert that much effort.
The simplest solution is to use a responsive theme that adjust itself based on the device that’s viewing it. If you don’t have a responsive theme and can’t switch from your current theme, WPtouch 3 is a plugin that can easily render a mobile version of your website. The free version of this plugin is available within your WordPress dashboard for easy installation.
The eye wants to see what the eye wants to see. On a mobile device, that means a website that is easy to navigate, with pages that are easy to consume.
Responsive themes to adjust content on the page to fit different tablet and smartphone screen sizes but sometimes they need a little help. When I’m building a website and the content looks awkward on tiny smartphone screens, I create smartphone specific pages and set WPTouch3 to take over when visitors are browsing on a smart phone.
It’s a neat little trick, and anything that improves a site’s browsing experience is a good thing.
A certain amount of bounce comes with the territory. The web’s just like that. While obsessing over your bounce rate isn’t recommended, staying at the low end of the normal range would be nice.
At the end of the day, that will always come back to what’s on your site and how you present it. Good on-page SEO will go a long way to keeping the wrong people from wandering onto your site. After that, the formula is relatively simple.
Content and site structure. “Give me what I came here to see, and don’t piss me off.”
Have you given much thought to your bounce rate yet? If you’ve run into bounce rate issues with your site, leave me a note in the comments section and let me know what your roadblocks were. Did you get them fixed or are you still working through them? Let me know. I Help Salons is dedicated to helping hair stylists, estheticians and other independent contractors get the most out of this thing called the internet.