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Using High Bounce Rates to Detect Bigger Website Issues

We’ve covered bounce rate before. That post, however, focused on the fact that a “good” bounce rate depends on the context surrounding your website.

Here, we’re going to show how to use high bounce rates to identify other problems on your site, and how to fix them.

Bounce Rates Can Detect Website Problems

Refresher: Bounce Rate and Why It’s Contextual

Your law firm website’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave after visiting only a single page.

Search engines see a high bounce rate as a bad sign. It means that internet users are clicking on your site in the results page and then returning to the results page without exploring further. When coupled with other reader metrics about their visit to your website – like how long the visitor stayed on the page – bounce rate can tell search engines whether the visitor found your site relevant and important for the given search query.

Of course, different pages serve different purposes online. Landing pages can be designed to satisfy the user’s needs without going anywhere else. Those pages can be working perfectly, even if the bounce rate is much higher than it is for other pages on your site. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that online marketing professionals have made the less-than-helpful proclamation that most bounce rates are between 26% and 70%.

Strangely High Bounce Rates are a Symptom of Other Problems

Bounce rates can be helpful in identifying problems with your website, though.

If you have individual pages on your law firm’s website that are scoring bounce rates in the 80s, 90s, or even at 100%, it can be a sign that something is fundamentally wrong with the page. Checking in on the bounce rates of your site and its pages is something that website owners should be doing periodically.

How to Find the Outliers

You can find the pages on your site with high bounce rates using an analytics program, most commonly Google Analytics. When your law firm’s website attracts a healthy amount of web traffic – enough that a few anomalies are not going to skew your data – you want to look for two things:

  1. Individual pages that have bounce rates above 85%
  2. Sharp and sustained increases in a page’s bounce rate

Especially when they come together, these signs indicate that the page can use some help.

The Most Common Problem: Redirects or 404 Error

A high bounce rate – especially a bounce rate of 100% – is often caused by a redirecting issue. Readers are coming to the page and finding an HTTP error code, like a 404 error or a message saying the page could not be found, and then returning to the SERP.

A Common Site-Wide Problem: Slow Uploading Speed

Your site’s bounce rate can also rise when it has a slow uploading speed, leaving users frustrated and sending them back to the SERP for another source of information for their query.

Typically, a slow upload speed is a site-wide problem: All of your pages suffer from it, rather than just a small sampling. There are exceptions, of course, like if a few of your pages include embedded video or other massive files. However, this does make it slightly more difficult to detect using bounce rates because everything will be high, rather than just a few outlying pages.

Misleading Titles or Meta Descriptions

Using misleading content in the title tags or meta descriptions can attract visitors to your site by enticing them with promises of pertinent information for their search. However, once they see through those promises, they’re going to jump back to the SERP and raise your page’s bounce rates. Providing meaningful titles and meta descriptions can keep this from happening.

User Experience Problems

The high bounce rate can also come from user experience problems. If visitors get bombarded advertisements or (far more common in the legal field) aggressive invitations to join an online chat, they can jump back to the SERP and look elsewhere.