Stuart Walker is an absolutely fantastic blogger that puts out awesome content. But despite creating epic content he is having serious problems engagement and wants to know how to reduce bounce rate on his website.
As mine is pretty low he has asked me to help him out by creating a plan of action to reduce his bounce rate.
So that is exactly what I have done – I went through his site with a fine tooth comb to show him and the rest of my audience some quick tricks to reduce your website’s bounce rate.
What You Will Learn
- Why bounce rate is a critical metric
- A behind the scenes look at a top bloggers bounce rate problems
- My personal strategies to reduce bounce rate
- How to reduce bounce rate on any website
- Take the bounce rate challenge
Why Bounce Rate Is A Critical Metric
To put it simply a websites bounce rate is the percentage of people that visit a page and then leave without visiting another page.
So if you have a bounce rate of 70% – that means 70% of all traffic that arrives on your site leaves immediately.
A 70% bounce rate means you made a terrible first impression 70 times out of every 100 visitors. Stop and think about what that actually means for a second.
It is easy to emotionally detach from metrics but what that boils down to is if 100 people visited your site, spent time looking at it, absorbed it into their minds and passed judgement – 70 of them had a bad experience.
That not only damages the bottom line profits of your business but can also hurt you over the long term as people click back to search results and click on a competitor.
Your bounce rate plays a critical role in your search rankings along with other user engagement signals as we move into 2015.
Not so long ago Stuart Walker from NicheHacks sent me this email-
Given that he helped me increase my email conversion rate by 469% I decided to take the challenge and help him reduce his bounce rate.
Stuart granted me access to his Analytics and I can see his blog has an average bounce rate of 66% over the past 3 months.
It is important to say that Stuart Walker does provide exceptional content on his blog that is truly engaging with a range of lead magnets as he advised me to do here.
How To Reduce Bounce Rate On Any Website
The first thing you need to do when you are trying to figure out how to reduce bounce rate on any website, is to put yourself in the users shoes.
Open a new browser window, visit the website and just sit back and make observations about your experience.
When I did this with NicheHacks, the problem was immediately apparent. Trying to read the awesome content that Stuart has published was a nightmare experience.
Watch this video to get an idea of the typical new user experience NicheHacks currently delivers-
I think we can all agree that is an absolutely crazy amount of hurdles to jump over just to do something as simple as read an article.
I’m also betting that even Stuart is surprised by this user experience when put in front of him like this. That makes me think I need to do the same for this blog as well!
So let’s break down each problem & how to improve bounce rate step by step.
Put Those Optin Forms On A Leash
One of the biggest problems I see with NicheHacks is the complete onslaught of popups that make it nearly impossible to read a post.
I don’t get any opportunity to learn who Stuart is, what the site is about or even what it offers without getting repeatedly clubbed with optin popups.
How many optin forms can you see in this screenshot below?
There are 5 in total!
Now I know Stuart has spent a lot of time optimising his email optin conversion rate but I believe there is a line where it does more damage than good and that line is crossed.
I think he has optimised for conversion so hard that he is now left with the question of “why is my bounce rate so high?”
There are far too many optin popups and when you close one, you still get slammed with more.
Stuart needs to take control of this and make it so that you only ever see 1 exit popup per visit, this will immediately reduce bounce rate for him.
The problem with exit popups is many of us work in tabs or arrive on a site in a new tab which automatically triggers the exit popup.
In the video you can see when I try to load a blog post I get hit with a popup instantly, then I close it and instantly another popup. That is a hugely damaging user experience.
If you also want to use a random popup have it popup after 80 seconds so people have had time to engage with the site properly. Google Analytics shows an average visit time of 2 minutes 54 seconds so it shouldn’t impact impressions.
It’s easy to tweak these settings in OptinMonster.
Header & Footer Optins
Stuart also makes use of the header and footer optins on the site.
Personally I found these to have a terrible conversion rate, when I ran a footer bar it converted at 0.09%
Now Stuarts might convert better however you have to consider the header and footer bars consume a huge amount of screen real estate on every single page.
Do the conversion rates they offer really warrant committing that level of screen real estate compared to other optin methods?
That is only a question Stuart could answer but I believe that permanent use of screen real estate is better served building a great first impression in my opinion.
Stuart does a great job of weaving optin opportunities throughout his content which is where the readers eye balls should be rather than being distracted with things that reduce bounce rate across the board.
At the top of every single page & post there is a huge feature box asking for your email address.
This pushes all of the other content down which is important when we are trying to make a good first impression to new visitors.
We are essentially trying to f**k on the first date over and over and over and over again.
The problem is these feature boxes do convert well however placement of them does damage the overall user experience for both new and returning visitors.
So it is important to find a balance here and Stuart should not display them on posts and pages. They should only be used on the home page and archive pages like tags/categories.
Be More Personal
Even if Stuart didn’t have all of the crazy distractions above, it is still very hard to build any kind of bond or relationship with him subconsciously.
It is important to make that connection with new visitors as quickly as possible which will help to reduce bounce rate on a website. Luckily -it’s pretty easy to do.
At the moment Stuart has favored an optin box rather than introducing himself.
He should change the order of that and introduce himself first and then place the optin box beneath it.
Ideally you want to lead users to your about page that is often one of the highest converting pages on any blog but this also decreases bounce rate.
One of the other problems Stuart has is he relys on a cartoon portrayal of himself throughout the site.
At no time can you see the real Stuart Walker and it is important that people can see you are a real person.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to faces which not only helps build a much stronger connection but it also helps to keep our attention for longer.
Stuart should update all of his cartoon images to be real pictures of himself.
As Seen On
In my header I display the logos of the awards the blog has picked up to build instant credibility with new visitors.
Not everyone has this advantage so if you don’t have any awards to show off instead you can lend credibility from other websites that have mentioned you.
So if Stuart has being published or mentioned on any authoritative sites in the industry he can introduce an ‘As Seen On’ section into the header using their logos.
Then update his about page with more details and links to those to further build his credibility.
The overall user experience is very cluttered, it is hard to know where to click some times or what to do next.
Removing the clutter should also help fine tune conversion rates while engaging more people.
Change Social Buttons
Stuart is currently using the KingSumo sharing buttons which is something I deployed on this blog.
However I quickly noticed how they overlapped on content and took up valuable screen real estate – they were a user experience nightmare and I removed them.
Instead I opted for the floating social bar which is a much more user friendly integration.
Stuart should also make that change.
Clean Up The Sidebar
The sidebar currently has a total of 3 optin forms – 1 of which follows you down the page.
Stuart should clean up the sidebar to have the following order-
- About me
- Optin form
- Best posts (from that posts category)
- Optin form that follows you down the page
Category Specific Sidebars
If Stuart really wanted to take his sidebars to the next level he could create category specific sidebars that would have different about text, optin forms, lead magnets, best posts relevant to that posts category.
So all of his niche research posts/tutorials would all display the niche research specific sidebar with the niche research specific about text, optin forms, other posts and so forth.
This is a change I’m going to make to this blog shortly that will both improve conversion and engagement rates.
Stuart should beat me to the punch with this one.
Improve The User Experience
There are other things that can be done to improve the user experience of the site.
Some of these problems are easier to fix than others though!
Although NicheHacks loads lightning quick, it doesn’t pass a lot of the pagespeed rules.
It is important to pay attention to those metrics and they are broken down into desktop & mobile.
Stuart has a couple of problems to pay attention to in both the mobile & desktop areas, but fixing render blocking java/css will go a long way to remedying that.
Where this throws us a red herring though is the tool believes Stuarts mobile experience is 99/100.
Improve Mobile User Experience
What Google’s tool says about mobile user experience vs what actually happens are 2 different worlds.
First of all its important to note that 26.17% of Stuarts traffic is using a mobile phone or a tablet to access his site which in turn makes for a high mobile bounce rate.
It is also important to note that Stuarts theme is fully responsive – but how does it actually look?
Well we have a few problems checking things out from my phone-
It is actually 100% impossible to read any content on the site due to how the social share buttons overlap.
Even if you could read the content you still need to get around these popups-
You can’t optin and it’s very difficult to close them.
That all boils down to the fact that the site is entirely unusable for 1 in 4 people that visits NicheHacks.
I also have these kind of problems on the blog right now and am less than 1 week away from introducing a highly upgraded theme to deal with these exact problems.
Keeping People Engaged
When you are creating content is important to keep hold of peoples attention so they are engaged throughout.
Stuart has some excellent content that is very practical however with a few tweaks it can be transformed into an attention grabbing machine.
Don’t Lead With An Image
The majority of Stuarts blog posts start with a big image that aren’t usually that engaging-
This is kind of a pet hate for me because those images take up one of the most critical areas of a blog – the point where you need to hook people in.
I will never use an image at the start of a post and that isn’t to say it’s not a good tactic, but if you are going to do it the image needs to be engaging.
You need to add some kind of hook to it so people stick around, even just adding a variation of the title of the post would be great.
Add A What You Will Learn Section
In favour of an image I always open my posts with a very brief introduction and a bullet pointed list of what people will learn.
Not only do I do that in blog posts, I also do it in videos.
This is because I understand that we are all very busy people living in a crazy content filled world. It is so much harder to capture someones attention now than it was 3 years ago.
The what you will learn section is designed purely to hook people in and stick around. It very clearly lays out what they will learn and how it benefits them personally.
Stuart should integrate this approach across all of his blog posts.
Make Headers More Visible & Set Standards
It seems that there isn’t a standard content format used across the blog which means sometimes you find posts that are broken down nicely and easy to read.
But then you find others that aren’t so well formatted and easy to read.
Don’t actually read anything just scroll down casually and you will see what I mean. You can also see the same thing in this post.
Add More Internal Links
It is important that your articles are scattered with internal links to your other content.
Not only does this keep people where you want them (on your site) but those metrics are also part of the Google algorithm now.
I can find a handful of examples where Stuart does a good job of internal linking (although the intro section should be reserved to hook people not distract) but most of them don’t bother.
All posts should be updated with internal links, the main focus of the posts is to either get people to optin or to keep engaging with your content/visiting more pages to be exposed to more optin opportunities.
A lot of images in the blog posts are pointlessly clickable. By that I mean you click on the image and it just takes you to the image directly in the same tab.
This damages engagement rates as it takes people off your blog to a file which has no analytics tracking at all.
Click on any of the images in this post for example and you will see how it completely dead ends the user experience for no benefit.
Open External & Internal Links In New Tabs
I’m going to pick on this article again but what you will notice is all external links open in the same window.
That takes you away from the site, ending your session and distracting your attention from what you were just reading.
Instead all internal & external links should open in a new tab so people stay engaged with you and also improve your engagement metrics in analytics like time on site.
Headline Split Tests
Stuart is very good at writing some pretty sensation headlines and I would encourage him to take full advantage of that skill by split testing them.
He should add the free title experiments plugin to begin split testing headlines on the site.
It’s pretty awesome and I actually deployed it on the blog a few days ago – now every single post/page has 3 headlines assigned. It really sucked setting it all up for 230+ posts.
However once you have created new titles for every post it automatically optimises for you increasing user engagement metrics over time.
I also tried the KingSumo Headlines plugin for this which is pretty expensive. Let me tell you it sucked, doesn’t working with caching systems and adds an annoying query string on your URL’s.
How it tracked the metrics was pretty cool though but I prefer the approach of the 100% free title experiments plugin.
Wrapping It Up
So there we have it – those are the precise steps Stuart Walker should apply to NicheHacks to not only improve his bounce rate but also pages per visit and time on site.
Although some of this changes might reduce his conversion rate upfront, over time they will pay for themselves as people can be much more engaged with him as a person and his epic content.
None of these changes will cost any money to implement – it is just a matter of time and effort. However once complete the improvements will pay dividends every single day.
Let me tell you making changes like this on a big site is soul sucking. Content audits are nothing but very boring, manual, repetitive work.
You won’t have noticed this yet but the past couple of weeks I’ve been tweaking things behind the scenes of the blog to bring it up to modern standards (responsive at last) and to improve engagement rates.
When you have to write 2 new titles for 230 posts and swap out optin forms for other things it really does suck a lot of time & creative energy.
These are tough changes to make – but they are worth the blood, sweat & tears in my experience.
So it’s time to challenge Stuart to take this advice & improve his bounce rate once and for all.
Want to join in with the challenge? Let me know if your site suffers from any of the problems here and if you manage to improve your bounce rate by fixing them. I’ll feature you on the blog!