High bounce rate culprits: the big 5
High bounce rate culprits: the big 5

By on in Design & Experience, Development

High bounce rate culprits: the big 5

What’s the one thing that will send you running from a website?

For me, it’s being hammered with multiple pop-ups the second I arrive. Maybe you abandon sites with glacial load times. Or perhaps it’s head-scratching copy that scares you off.

No matter what your pet peeve is, we all tend to express our displeasure in the same way: bouncing. When a website does anything other than delight, serve, or intrigue us, we click right off–back to Google or onto another site entirely.

The number of people that bounce from a web page without taking any on-page action is a metric that digital marketers watch closely. A high bounce rate can be a sign of trouble.

Chances are, the page is doing something that irks visitors–and that can be a problem for a brand’s growth prospects. When people leave your website immediately, they are not getting to know your business, and they’re certainly not buying anything from you.

So you can see why bounce rates are a big deal. Perhaps less clear is what constitutes a high one and what you can do to address bounce rate concerns on your site.


Bounce rate benchmarks vary by industry

No surprise here, but what’s considered an okay bounce rate in one industry might raise alarm bells in another. For example, SEMRush’s data shows typical bounce rates range from 65-90% for dictionaries, portals, and blogs, but 20-45% for e-commerce sites.

That makes sense. Most people go to a dictionary to read the definition of one word, then move on. On e-commerce sites, they may browse products across multiple pages.

Often, the best way to identify issues with your bounce rates is to create your own benchmarks. Evaluate your web page stats side-by-side. If one page consistently has bounce rates that are higher than its peers, it’s time to investigate that page.

The same principle applies following any website adjustments. If you make a change and then see your bounce rates spike, you should revisit the new tactic you’re trying. Something about it isn’t working as you’d hoped.


Common drivers of high bounce rates

Generally, a high bounce rate indicates some kind of poor user experience. It’s your job to dig in and uncover exactly what’s turning people off. Here are some of the usual suspects.

1. Slow load time
People are impatient, and most folks will only wait a few seconds for a page to load before they move on. A study from Portent found that sites with a one-second load time enjoy conversion rates that are three times higher than sites that take five seconds to load.

Not sure how your web pages are doing? Run a quick analysis with Google Lighthouse to see your page’s load time.

2. Poor mobile experience
About 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. If your site works perfectly on desktop but is wonky on mobile, you could be driving up your bounce rate.

Google Lighthouse can assist here again; the tool runs tests on the mobile and desktop versions of each page to ensure they’re both working smoothly.

3. Misaligned metadata
You may think of metadata as operating behind the scenes, but that’s not really the case. Each web page’s meta title and description are displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs); this is what your audience reads to understand your on-page content.

If your metadata is keyword-laden nonsense or it misrepresents what’s on your page, people will click the link, see they’ve been misled, and probably bounce.

4. Poor navigation
What presents as an on-page issue might actually be a problem with the larger user experience of your site.

Once someone lands on a web page, they need clear language to understand where to click next. Some businesses try to get clever with the copy on their site, but that can cause confusion.

If your navigation bar is inscrutable, people may feel confused and frustrated, then bounce. Stick to clear, concise wording. “Shop” rather than “Our Swag;” “Contact Us” instead of “Holler at Us” – you get the idea.


When people leave your website immediately, they are not getting to know your business, and they’re certainly not buying anything from you.


5. Wishy-washy pages
Each page on your website should have a clear purpose. You get to define what that is in the context of your desired customer journey.

Perhaps you want your latest blog post to drive to a gated piece of content. This is a natural flow: A blog is introductory information for new prospects, offered without reservation. The gated content asks for a bit more commitment from your reader.

Once you’ve established a page’s purpose, use a call to action (CTA) button or link to drive visitors to take your desired action. This hypothetical blog post might have a CTA that tees up the downloadable content and drives readers to a landing page where they can access it.

Keep it to just one CTA, though. More than that can overwhelm viewers and cause choice paralysis. Site visitors still have the option to go elsewhere via the navigation bar, but your CTA provides them with a clear, logical next step that serves your business goal.

Auditing each page on your site for potential bounce rate drivers takes time, but it’s so worthwhile. The stronger your website’s user experience, the more likely consumers are to stick around and see the positives of engaging with your brand.


Looking for a team to get your website into tip-top shape? We’re here to help.