Some of the questions I get around the time of our monthly client reports are about a website’s bounce rate. What is it, does it affect rankings, etc. When we explain what it is, we are asked how SEO can improve this rate. The answer is simple. SEO gets users to the site. Now what is your site offering to keep them?

Bounce Rate is a common term in internet marketing, referring to the amount of users who land on your site, only to hit the back button and continue searching or moving on to another domain, instead of searching through the website. There are plenty of factors that are common with sites with higher bounce rates.

It comes down to your website’s first impression, which is the home page in most instances. Once a user is staring at a link to your url at the top of the search results page, your SEO has worked. This is the true test of how ready your site is for prime search engine real estate. The searcher clicks on your link, and is taken to your home page. Will they find what they need right away, and is it easy to navigate through your site to find what they are looking for?

This comes down to the golden rule for SEO, which is to optimize your site for the searcher first, and the search engines second. Remember, the end goal of the SEO game is to bring in new customers and more customers. Having a site that looks like perfect bait for the search engines may get you where you need to be in the rankings, but that’s it, and that won’t matter when staring down the barrel of ROI.

Think about your new customers coming to your site for the first time. What do they want to see? What would you want to see? Simple, easy-to-use navigation is a big plus. Relevant photos used within a clean layout helps. You want a good amount of content of course, as this will attract the search engines. But you also want this content to be well written and in a voice that is representative of your business. The main content on your homepage should be your elevator sales pitch. Having a blog on your site also gives you a chance to update content regularly (an SEO plus) which will let users know that you are updating the site often.

Just as search engines take into consideration hundreds of signals when ranking websites, your potential customers also have their own personal signals; red flags, light bulbs, tastes, dislikes, and etc. that will keep them on your site or cause them to bounce right back in the opposite direction. There is nothing wrong with trial and error. If you are unhappy with your bounce rate one month, shake up your home page a bit. Try adding content, adding photos, reducing some of the businesses, etc. Compare the bounce rate from one month to the next until you see improvements.

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