Just notice a sudden jump in your bounce rate?
A broken page. Make sure the page still loads. Make sure it can be viewed on an iPad or other viewing tool that more and more of your intended visitors might be using. Are you requiring visitors to download something, like another application, that they just aren’t interested in doing?
Irrelevant, unexpected, or insulting content. Did you re-write the content? Add a new graphic to the page? You may have made vast improvements to a page but changed the look enough that your frequent visitors assume they’ve gone to the wrong site. Or you may have added content most viewers find distracting from their goal and so they leave your site.
I suspect that Abercrombie’s push-up bikini top for tween girls controversy caused traffic and bounce rate spike for their site. People weren’t going to the site to shop, but to see what the controversy was about.
Try rewriting the page or reorganizing the content. Try shortening it. Try a different visual. See what keywords are being used by searchers to discover that page and punch up related content. Look at what pages most visitors saw before the page in question and let that guide your edits.
Misdirected searchers. Look at your traffic sources by keywords. Do you see an unusual spike?
That might mean that you added a great timely news page, but it could also mean that people are being misdirected to that page. Look through your keywords sorted by bounce rate. Is there an unfamiliar keyword listed or did your intern’s name, which appears on a single page, suddenly show up with tons of visitors? Run your own search for the poorly performing keyword. You may discover that someone with the same name as your intern just got named to the Olympic Team or a news story surfaced about someone finding a rat tail in a sandwich that has a name similar to one of your products. Weird stuff like this happens. People come to your page searching for one thing and find something else and leave. That’s an appropriate action and no cause for worry. The bounce rate for that page should go back to normal in time.
If your ad copy promises something not evident on your landing page, visitors will feel mislead and misdirected and leave. So if you promise free shipping in your ad, you don’t want a big button or paragraph about comparing shipping charges on your landing page. An ad for mountain bikes should lead to a page listing road, racing, BMX, and mountain bikes mixed together.
Misdirecting external link. Check to see where the traffic to your high bounce rate page is coming from. Did a few bloggers just add a link to your site as a gag? Or, on a positive note, perhaps people are linking to your graphic as an excellent example of information design and the readers just want to see that graphic.
Is your bounce rate consistently low?
If you have a blog, recipe, or news site, that might not be a problem. Readers could be coming to your site daily, reading your latest post, and then moving on. Take a look at time on site and returning visitor numbers. These might make you feel better about that bounce rate.
Usability problems. Watch someone else use your site and have them talk aloud as they do so. Or better yet, have someone else do this and tell you what he heard and saw. If visitors can’t immediately determine what your site or page is about and what they can expect to accomplish there, they are likely to leave. If the site is cluttered and confusing and full of competing calls to action, a visitor might be overwhelmed and leave.
Navigation problems. If a visitor comes to your site and can’t figure out how to get around it, she is likely to leave.
Content problem. Your content can have too verbose, too short, too complex, too simplistic, or too confusing to read. It can also read as a dead-end. If your page exists to tell people how to properly remove an obstruction from a snow blower, you can expect a high bounce rate. You hope that they go out and get back to clearing their driveway before they come back and explore more of your site. But if you page exists to inform people of how easy your snow blower is to use, you want them to move to the next step of looking at size options or pricing. If that page has a high bounce rate, then your copy might be the problem.
Misdirected searches. If your site’s content is about something with a commonly used or commonly misspelled term, then you might see a higher bounce rate. Let’s say you sell confections in all sorts of shapes, including a horse bridle. Someone searching for “bridle confection” might find you when they wanted treats for their wedding instead. Writing good titles and meta descriptions for the page should help considerably. Let people know what the page is really about and eliminate that confusion.
Design problem. I have left sites just because they did not look professional. You don’t want your site to immediately cause a lost of trust because the design doesn’t match the tone of your brand and your message.
The good news is that a high bounce rate is a problem that can be solved.