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5 Ways to Reduce Bounce Rates On Your Articles

Five simple lessons that we’ve learned from bounce rates on Mequoda.com

Being the analytics junkie that I am, I frequent Mequoda’s Google Analytics dashboard often. Recently, I’ve been on a personal mission to reduce bounce rates on our articles. When someone “bounces” from your site, it means that they came, they didn’t find what they were looking for, and they left quickly.

Google’s algorithm pays close attention to bounce rates on the search results that they list. If someone clicks a link in their results and immediately hits the back button and comes back to the results page to click on another article, they take notice. Too many bounces from your listing can cause Google to drop you deeper and deeper into their results. So it’s very important that when someone clicks on your article in a search engine, that you keep them on your page for a little while.

Without further ado, here are all the ways I’ve been successfully lowering the bounce rate on Mequoda Daily articles:

1. Make sure that every external link opens in a new window: This is a general rule in terms of keeping people on your site, but it’s especially important for keeping your technical bounce rate low. Even if your article delivers exactly what the user wanted, perhaps a link to another website or a resource, your bounce rate will reflect the fact that they landed on your page and immediately left.

By making sure that every link you post (except ones that link within your own website) open in a new window, you will significantly reduce your bounce rate. In fact, if your website never implemented this practice before and started today, I’d bet that your overall website bounce rate would reduce by half.

In HTML terms, this is the difference between a link that will take a user off your site, and one that will open a new page:

  • Wrong: <a href=”http://www.SomeOtherSite.com”>Some Other Site </a>
  • Right: <a href=”http://www.SomeOtherSite.com” target=”_blank”>Some Other Site </a>

2. Check the keywords that people use to find your site: If you get a lot of traffic on a keyword, make sure that you have an article that clearly reflects the keyword. Sometimes we get ranked for keyword phrases that aren’t entirely related to what we’re being listed for. That means that you may be getting great traffic from it, but you’re probably also getting a big bounce rate.

To remedy this, try writing a blog post that does target that keyword. If there’s only one specific article that shows up for that keyword, you might even consider adding more content to the existing article too, to make sure that the user finds what he’s looking for when he shows up. There’s nothing wrong with updating old content, in fact I’m just about to encourage it.

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3. Update old articles that still get tons of traffic: Just the other day, I updated our  11 Best Free Event Listing Websites article. There were originally only eight websites in the list, and it was published in 2008. This article gets about 1,000 unique page views per month and has almost 30 comments. This article is one of our top traffic-generators.

Unfortunately, the article was getting a little too ripe at a practically ancient three years old, and while we still ranked #1 for our keyword, the bounce rate on this article was beginning to increase.

To remedy this, I went in and updated the article with new statistics and additional resources. I changed the date to reflect the recent update and added “2011 Update” to the title as well.

Even though most of the data hadn’t changed, users were still believing that the list must be terribly outdated because of the 2008 stamp on it. After re-writing the article and conducting additional research, it turned out that the resources I’d written about three years ago were still the best ones for the list. I added in a few new sites though, for good measure.

4. List relevant articles: Make sure that your site is set up to move visitors down a path. Most blogs are set up to feature “related articles” below a post, but this area is generally considered a blind spot for many readers. If you can include related articles in your sidebar, even better. In fact, WordPress has a few plugins to make this process even more automated:

  • SEO Smart Links: Automatically links phrases in your articles to the posts or pages of your choice. This would be excellent as a glossary function, where your glossary terms are automatically linked to their respective glossary page (which include links to relevant articles). However, you can also set phrases up to link to relevant articles that use the same phrase.
  • Search Engine Keywords Related Posts Widget: This sidebar widget for WordPress will pull in posts related to the keyword that the user came in on. Say a user came in using the keyword “blueberry streusel”. The related posts widget would feature posts related to blueberry streusel, even if the article is about apple pie. This is great for those times that people find a post that is not technically suited to answer the query that the user typed in Google.

5. Improve load times: This one is simple. If you use a lot of graphics in your articles, make sure they’re optimized for the web so that nobody is waiting for your page to load. Three years ago you may have been able to make your website visitors wait thirty seconds, but today people want their information instantly.

Do you have any tried and true methods that you’ve used on your own site? Share them in the comments and we’ll discuss!

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