7 Ways to Lower Your Home Page Bounce Rate

Ian Lurie

If you take the time to build a web site, you’d like most folks to stay on it for a while. Visitors who show up and leave 3 seconds later aren’t generally helpful.
You want to lower your bounce rate. Here are a few tips for doing just that.

What’s Bounce Rate, Anyway?

Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who visit a page on your site and then leave without looking at any other pages. It’s a good way to tell if that page is keeping visitors’ attention or not.

The bounce rate on your home page is particularly telling. Your home page should be pretty compelling for the folks who go there. Many of them just typed in your web address; others came from branded keyword searches; and still others may have found your address in an article or other literature. They’re the most-interested or at least potentially most-interested visitors.

The bounce rate on Conversation Marketing home page is a fairly ghastly 64%:

bounce rate


Reducing Home Page Bounce Rate

But enough about me! Here are 7 tips I’ve found can reduce bounce rate. They really do work, unless you’re an overworked blogger who’s running an agency, writing a book and has 2 kids under the age of 10:

  1. Answer questions. When someone comes to your site, they’re probably not thinking “Gee, I wonder what their office looks like.” Instead, they’re asking, “Do you have the mountain bike I really want”? Which question do you answer? Answer the latter and you’ll keep more visitors. (Inspired by Specialized.com)
  2. Simplify. Believe it or not, every person in your company does not get to contribute one link to your home page. The average person is most comfortable processing 5-7 choices at a time. Don’t overwhelm them. Simplify by removing options or at least grouping and prioritizing them. How many links does Google have on their home page? How about Apple? Look at your traffic reports, find out what visitors really want, and then link to that and only that. If anyone in your office whines, blame me.
  3. Remove autoplay videos. My first reflex if a video starts playing and music that sounds like a bad 70’s porn flick comes streaming out of my speakers is to hit the back button. I’m willing to bet most people feel the same way. Remove the video altogether, or at least have it paused.
  4. Improve pageload time. If your home page takes more than 8 seconds to look intelligible, you’re probably shedding visitors. Note I said ‘look intelligible’, not ‘load completely’. If there’s a huge image or a video that takes longer, that’s OK, as long as it doesn’t prevent the rest of the page from loading. Trim 2-3 seconds off your pageload time and watch the bounce rate drop. Proof? When I first relaunched my blog, a bug in the code led to 10-15 second load times. Once we fixed it, the bounce rate dropped by 30%.
  5. Write a better headline. A punchy, take-action headline will keep visitors. Instead of “Enterprise Security Solutions for A Web 2.0 Workplace”, try “Protect Your Network” (I made this example up).
  6. Move the important stuff up. If you have a store, show products near the top of the page. If you’re promoting a candidate, put that message at the top. Always put your call to action up high, front-and-center. If you’re uncomfortable doing that, you may have the wrong call to action.
  7. Dump the popup. I shouldn’t even have to say this any more, but if you have a popup or other annoyance on your home page, get rid of it. You’re losing a lot more than you’re gaining, plus you’re making me hate you.
Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. “When I first relaunched my blog, a bug in the code led to 10-15 second load times. Once we fixed it, the bounce rate dropped by 30%.”
    So you’re saying you used to have a 94% bounce rate???? Just kidding!
    The hard part is getting the rest of the company okay with having FEWER options. I hear, “We’ve got contracts that say this link must be there” and “But how will our users know about insert-stupid-waste-of-time-feature-here.”
    It’s hard to do – I’m doing a better job convincing people these days, but it’s still hard.
    Great post!

  2. Ian, true that yo. I despise auto play on videos or music, I never visit Myspace and there may be a direct correlation. From the data that I have seen in my short life you are right.
    On my actual business site I ask a question “Is X right for you?” I imagine my site visitor thinking “is it? I don’t know let me see” I follow up the question with an answer to create trust.
    I’ve played around with a few different lines and the bounce rate can decrease 10-20 points one day to the next.

  3. @KermitFan There’s no standard number. For some sites, a 60% bounce rate is fantastic. What’s more important: The quality of the visitors you’re keeping. You want to lower your bounce rate to the point where you’re keeping every possible quality potential customer.
    But you don’t want to go past that point. You can lower bounce rate too far by making your home page appeal to folks who, in the end, won’t make good customers.
    Hope that helps…

  4. In order to convince my creative guys that web sites are more than beauty pageants (not an easy task, I might add), I need more emperical data such as home page bounce rates. But I haven’t even signed up for Google Analytics yet. Do I have to be an IT expert to do this? I am one of those who would read “Internet Marketing for Dummies.”

  5. @melinda
    Its really easy to sign up for Google Analytics. Just go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and sign in with your google account info or sign up for one if you don’t have one.
    You’ll just need your IT guys to drop a piece of code on each page you want tracked. 🙂

  6. Some great tips there, some i knew, some i didn’t. However, i think some things are easier said than done. When you are trying to optimize your website you tend to use keyword headings etc. So the point about “Write a better headline” for example is difficult if you are using h1 and h2 tags for keywords to gain a better position in the SE’s because eliminating your tagline / keywords means possibly losing out to your competition.

  7. We lowered our bounce rate considerably by moving a collection of photos to the very top of our page. If you scroll down our page you can see what previously came up first, single, larger photos with more text. The heavy use of text on the home page was for SEO optimization. The new page needs some more work visually and we are currently in the process of cleaning up some design elements that were upended with the the new photos. Thanks for the information in the post. Art

  8. Great advice. It’s a hard balance to achieve but when you do it’ll be worth the investment. Marrying design, functionality, security, content and load time will take effort but will be worth it in the end.

  9. Good insight. I am curious, though, about how ‘new tab’ browsers like myself may or may not affect bounce rates. When I visit a site, I tend to open most of the interesting links in new tabs, then as I read the pages, I will close them one by one. Are the analytics tools out there smart enough to know to not treat these as true bounces, or are they deceived into recording the pages that are opened then closed as bounces?

  10. @Kris Good question, and I’m not sure. It depends on the behavior. A ‘bounce’ is when someone lands on one page of a site and then leaves the site right away. If you use tabs but didn’t come from a different referring domain (ie you’re opening tabs to view different pages on the same site) then it shouldn’t count as a bounce.

  11. I wonder if bounce rate is even really that important? I don’t think it’s a truly adequate interpretation of how well your page is put together.
    I know that I visit many pages.. read their blog entry quickly, leave a comment – and leave. There isn’t much to a blog than to do that.

  12. We reduced our bounce rate by giving people one of 3 options and placing all the other web design links we had at the bottom of the page. The e-commerce tip of putting you products near to the top is vital, so many websites have a ridiculous header images which pushes the actual products below the fold.

  13. I have an animated auto video on my homepage, the video demonstrates the difference between our product and our compeditors. I also have an actual video that also is auto start, this too serves the same purpose and is on a page on its own for the purpose of the video and you can only see it via a link. My bounce rate is in the high 50% however most of this is coming from a facebook ad I have and its mostly people just clicking and may not be from our industry or location, they just got nothing better to do than surf. Many thanks for your help.

  14. @Leon I’d turn off the auto-start. I know if I’m in the office, the last thing I want is a video that starts playing the moment I land on the home page.

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