You’ve got great ranking in Google and people are coming to your site in droves. Congratulations!
But I’ve got a question for you: Are they staying?
High page views don’t mean a lot if you also have a high bounce rate.
And if people are leaving your site quickly, that means they’re not converting either.
But you don’t understand. You have great content and amazing products. Why aren’t people staying?
It could be your user experience.
The way people approach your site and how they navigate it has a lot to do with whether they stay or not. If your site is confusing, complicated, or messy, people aren’t going to stay.
This article will cover some common user experience problems and how to fix them. But first, let’s talk about bounce rate and exactly what that means.
A lot of people think that when someone comes to your site and leaves quickly, it counts as a bounce, but that’s only partially true.
Google considers single-page visits, where a visitor does nothing else but leave, as a bounce. Time on page registers as zero seconds because the visitor has taken no other action that would send a signal to Google’s bots to help it record a time.
Bounce rate for your page (or your entire site) is the total single-page visits divided by all visits.
Let’s say a particular landing page of yours was visited 200 times in a day. Of those 200 visits, 50 took another action on your site. They clicked on your CTA, played a video, signed up for a newsletter, or clicked on something in your navbar.
That means the other 150 left without doing anything, which leaves you with a bounce rate of 75 percent.
Depending on your industry and the purpose of your site, that could be a pretty high bounce rate, or it could be about average.
Like I said, a good bounce rate means different things to different companies. It also depends on what you want to get out of your site, or a particular page.
Check out the average bounce rates for some typical pages below:
Brafton studied 181 companies over a one-year period to establish benchmarks for bounce rates. Here’s how average bounce rates broke down by industry.
When it comes to people sticking around your site, user experience can have a lot to do with it.
Think about it: If visitors to your site are unsure what they should do, can’t find what they’re looking for, or are distracted by too many other things, they’re very likely to leave and seek their answers elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at some of the UX issues that make people bounce, or navigate away from your page too early.
Giant blocks of text, tiny text, video or carousel text that scrolls too fast, unconventional or ugly fonts (I’m looking at you, comic sans), cutesy gifs and emojis — all of these make text hard to read.
Text should be broken up into small paragraphs of no more than two or three sentences. Wix recommends using no more than three sans serif fonts throughout a site (but not Comic Sans), and don’t make them any smaller that 16 pts.
Website visitors frequently find landing pages through SEO or paid advertising services like Google Adwords.
Whether they move past the landing page to the rest of your site, or click the Back button depends on how well the page is designed and how obvious your call to action is.
The best way to get people to stay on your site and convert using your landing pages is to get rid of distractions.
Take a look at Netflix’s homepage.
In this case, their homepage serves as a landing page.
Because Netflix has universal brand recognition, people are typing Netflix directly into Google rather than searching for streaming content services. And their homepage is set up to move people into the rest of their site by signing up for a free trial.
In fact, that’s pretty much all they have on the page:
The button to sign up for a free trial, and a reassurance that you can cancel anytime.
There is no text boasting about their services or listing their pricing plans. There’s nothing to distract visitors at all.
In 2013, Facebook started pushing autoplay videos in feeds, and other sites followed suit. Sure, video views skyrocketed, but so did users’ ire.
By 2017, publications like Digiday were declaring the death of autoplay, citing a Brandwatch survey that found 74 percent of respondents had a negative view of it.
Autoplaying video or audio doesn’t make for a good user experience. It leaves your visitors scrambling for the mute button, or worse, the X on their browser tab.
The more links you have to external pages, the more likely it is your visitors are going to click away. You’re basically giving your audience away to another site.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have any external links. They can be really important in establishing the authority and trustworthiness parts of Google’s EAT benchmark.
Particularly, if you’re talking about health-related solutions, car repair, or other information that could be detrimental to someone’s health and well-being, links to reputable sources are going to be pretty important.
Google calls this their Your Money or Your Life (YMOYL) benchmark. Basically, if you deal in that kind of information, you better be right, or Google will push you down in the ranks.
That said, keeping your external links to a minimum, removing them from pages that don’t really need them, and even pushing them down below the fold can help keep people on your site long enough to convert.
Another option is to have external links open in a new tab or window. That way, visitors still have your site open while they check out what you’ve linked to.
Nearly half of site visitors expect pages to load within two seconds. Most of them will abandon your site if it takes longer than three.
And that’s just on desktop.
Google researched load time on mobile, too. They found that the average mobile page loads in 15 seconds.
But around 53 percent of visitors will leave a mobile site if it doesn’t load in three seconds. Keep in mind: the longer your page takes to load, the more people you lose.
Having an up-to-date design does more than make you look good. It makes you trustworthy. It’s a solid indicator that you are offering relevant information.
It also helps visitors navigate your site.
A few years ago, I walked into my local Target, expecting to see the same departments in the same places. Then I discovered they had rearranged everything. I was like Alice down the rabbit hole, completely disoriented and confused.
I almost left.
When you’re used to a particular layout, and you stumble upon something else, it can be jarring and off-putting.
Web design is much the same.
Take a look at the two examples below. The first is how Nike.com appeared in 2000.
This is a bit of an extreme example, from a time when online retail was still in its infancy. But it gives you a good sense of how an out-of-date design can confuse and repel a visitor.
There’s no obvious search functionality, and it’s not clear what the images along the top are for.
Now, here is Nike’s current home page layout.
Much better, right?
It follows a pretty standard design template. The navbar at the top immediately directs you to one of four retail categories. There is a search field in the top right, where you expect it.
A large hero image with a bold CTA is exactly what you expect, too.
This type of design is echoed by thousands of sites across the web. For a visitor to see anything else would be jarring, like walking into that Target.
First of all, you need to know that before visitors even find you, your mobile site is being ranked by Google before your desktop site.
Why? Because by October 2018, there were nearly 4 billion unique mobile users globally, a number that will increase 46 percent by 2022.
No wonder Google is prioritizing mobile.
If you’ve ever been to a site that isn’t optimized for mobile, you know how frustrating it can be; cut-off text, elements that appear off the screen, and slow load times.
In fact, Google says if visitors aren’t able to find what they’re looking for on your mobile site, 61 percent of them will leave, probably within the first five seconds.
As you’re looking at user experience on your website, keep these tips in mind:
Making sure your navigation is simple and intuitive, and placing it where people expect it to be will help visitors find what they’re looking for.
You’ll notice a lot of sites, particularly retail sites use the same layout, for the most part.
Polar seltzer water is a good example:
They’ve put their navbar where you’d expect it: running along the top, under their logo. And they’ve kept their browsing options simple.
That’s not to say you can’t tinker with your navigation to meet the needs of your audience. Education.com is a great example.
I’ve worked in the ed tech space and talked to a lot of teachers. I can tell you the number one thing teachers search for online is printable worksheets.
Education.com knows that, too, and has placed worksheets in a place of honor: top left, in the nav bar. It’s followed by online games and lesson plans, two other very popular categories.
Rather than give teachers a list of subjects or grades in their nav bar, which would be pretty standard, they’ve broken out their most popular categories to save teachers time clicking through categories and subcategories.
No matter how intuitive your navigation is, you’re still going to get a few people who can’t find what they’re looking for that way. If you don’t want to lose those visitors:
- Make sure your search functionality is prominent on all your pages
- It’s easy to use
- It gives your visitors the most relevant results possible
I used Digiday to do some research for this article. Their search is right in that sweet spot again, the top left. It features the very simple, but very standard, magnifying glass icon, and it appears in the same place on every page.
Pro Tip: I really love it when a site’s blog has a separate search functionality, so I can comb through their blog for relevant content easily.
If your pages don’t load quickly, there are a number of things you can do to speed them up.
For instance, take a look at the images you’re uploading to your site. Hi-res images and large files slow down your load time.
Image resolution for web is usually about 72 ppi, and image size runs between 800 and 1200 pixels.
You can also reduce load time by minimizing the number of elements per page. The more elements (images, gifs, videos, etc.) the more http requests your site has to make, which slows down your pages.
For a full list of actions you can take to speed up load time, check out this blog post.
Look back at the Netflix page. Notice their call to action is big, red, and centered. It doesn’t say “click here” or “go” or even “start your free trial.” It tells you exactly what you’re going to do: watch Netflix for free for 30 days.
If people know exactly what you want them to do, they are more likely to stay on your site.
Here are some tips on how to create an effective call to action button.
These are all great suggestions on lowering your bounce rate through UX. But how do you know where your website visitors are getting stuck, and how to fix it?
There are tools to help you do that.
A heatmap will show you where your visitors are clicking most. Red indicates areas clicked frequently, while blue indicates elements that are clicked on very rarely.
You can find out at a glance whether elements like a hello bar, email collection popup, or signup form are getting engagement.
Another great thing about a heatmap is that it will even show you if static elements are receiving clicks.
Take a look at a page that has a high bounce rate. Where are people clicking?
If your navbar is blue, people may be confused by the categories, or they may not even realize it’s a nav bar in the first place.
If they’re clicking on static elements, it may time to get rid of them, or add a link so that people can continue exploring your website and learning more about your product.
A scrollmap will show you where people are paying the most attention on a page, and where they’re losing interest.
Having this insight is extremely valuable when you want to find out whether your CTA is in the right place, or if people are seeing something important like an email collection form.
Website session recordings will let you dig deeper into user behavior. You can watch how an actual visitor navigates an individual page or your entire site. You can see where people are going before they leave a particular page, or the site as a whole.
That will help you pinpoint the places that are confusing or frustrating visitors before they bounce.
Once you’re ready to make some changes to your site to improve its UX, you can use an A/B testing tool to run a new version of a page against the old page.
You’ll be able to see if the new page is performing better, worse, or about the same as the old page at helping people achieve your most important business goals (like a signup, or a purchase).
For visitors to stay on your site, they have to know how it works. If they’re confused, lost, or can’t find what they need, they’re going to leave.
Check your site for these common issues and see if some small improvements can lower your bounce rate.