Check out my new guide for tips on starting a blog to learn how to go about properly creating your own blog.
Last week I decided to focus more on some specific things that you need to pay attention for SEO. I’ll try to continue that trend for a little while as I know lots of bloggers are looking to improve their SEO. If there is something specific about SEO or blogging you want to know, let me know and I might be able to cover it in an upcoming post.
If you’re new to this series, check out some of the previous blogging tips posts:
- Choosing the Best Blog Web Hosting Sites
- Importance of Link Anchor Text Variation
- Top 10 Common Mistakes I See New Bloggers Making
- 10 Recommended WordPress Plugins For Your Blog
- Google PageRank, Not Just About Links
- Blog Link Building – Not All Links Are Created Equal
- Importance of Blog Networking
- Effectively Using Keywords On Your Blog
- Optimal Blog Keyword Research for SEO
Previously I talked about different stats you should care about when marketing your blog, but I didn’t delve into user metrics enough. By ‘user metrics’ I am referring to the stats associated with how visitors are interacting with your blog. One of the most important user metrics is bounce rate.
Blog Bounce Rates – What Are They and Why Should You Care?
Your blog’s bounce rate is simply the percentage of visitors to your blog who only view a single page on your blog and then leave. A lot of times it reflects that people are not finding what they are looking for on your blog or they aren’t interested in digging further into your blog. The higher the percentage, the more people are leaving your blog without viewing multiple pages.
One catch is that this also includes people who did find what they wanted, but just didn’t want to see more of your blog. The bounces that you should care about from an SEO standpoint are the ones who return to the search engine results to click on another site. This is what’s called the ‘ping pong rate’. This is usually a sign that the person is still looking for what they wanted. Since it’s a statistic that search engines can easily see, it only makes sense that they would consider it in their rankings algorithms. Unfortunately it’s not something that you can see in your traffic analytics. So instead we have to watch bounce rates as it is closely correlated.
In addition to being a SEO factor, you should also care about whether your visitors are satisfied. This is especially true of the first time visitors as it might be your only chance to win them over. Your regular visitors may very well drop by just to read your latest post and be done. If lots of people are bouncing, then you may need to look at improving your overall blog or specific pages.
What You Can Do About Your Blog’s Bounce Rate
To lower your bounce rate, a lot of times it simply comes down to actually improving your blog. Ok maybe not so simple since improving your blog can be difficult. Here are some specific elements you should probably look into further:
- Design First Impressions – Do you feel that your blog design is appealing enough to not scare off visitors? For some niches the design may not matter as much, but an ugly or very unprofessional looking theme could cause first time visitors to lose trust in you, possibly before they even read any of your writing. Ideally your design is as good or better than the other pages showing up in the search results for your target keywords. Consider asking someone you trust as it is easy to be biased about your own blog.
- Writing Quality – Next ask yourself if your writing quality is suitable for what you are talking about. Would the people searching for your target keywords be comfortable with how casual or how polished your writing is? Could bad grammar or spelling be turning people off? Again, ask a trusted friend for their opinion. Unfortunately this can be the toughest thing to improve on your blog.
- Page Formatting – How your actual writing looks at a glance can be important too. You might hate to admit it, but some people will not read every word you write. You’ll naturally get some people who want to get to the meat of a topic and just skim through it. This probably happens a lot with the people leaving very brief comments on your blog. So make it easier for them to skim your content. Make use of headings, bullet lists, bold font, etc. You don’t want to just give readers a big long chunk of text to wade through.
- Distracting Widgets and Plugins – While plugins can be extremely useful, some bloggers get carried away with a very cluttered layout. If you have too many plugins or widgets displayed on your page, it can be too overwhelming for visitors. You can use a lot of plugins or widgets gracefully though. This is more a problem when it is very distracting plugins such as pop ups and animated ads.
- Slow Loading Time – Today’s internet users have less patience than ever as most are now used to very fast internet connections. Cell phone users may be a little more patient, but if your blog loads slowly on a computer, it usually loads slowly on a phone. So your blog’s loading time is quite important. If your blog is too slow due to a lousy web host, unoptimized images, too many plugins or anything else, you risk losing any visitors that have an impatient side.
- Unappealing Post Images – I admit that I am disappointed when I see blogs that don’t use an image at all in their posts. Sure their writing may be great, but it’s nice to have some extra color to liven things up and enhance the first impression. While not having images within posts can be subjective, using low quality images can really harm first impressions. With the amount of free stock photos you have no excuse to not at least use some half decent images.
There are cases where you have all of the above covered quite well, but visitors just don’t dig further into your blog. You don’t just have to accept that this is what visitors do on your blog. Try some of these strategies to get people digging further into your blog:
- Related Posts Plugins – If you look at the bottom of this post, you’ll see obvious links to other related posts on my blog. You might as well make it easy for visitors to find similar content. Some related posts plugins don’t stand out enough and might be a lot less effective. Using one at the end of posts and in your sidebar might increase the chances of deeper interaction.
- Interlink Posts Within Your Content – While writing your posts, there are bound to be other posts on your blog that you can reference right in the middle of your content. Some bloggers directly mention the post while others just link relevant keywords. Also make sure your links use an obvious font that sets it apart from your regular text.
- Popular Posts Plugins – Along the same lines as the related posts, but this allows you to highlight your very best content. Some plugins will let you manually choose posts to highlight while others will automatically select what is popular based on views or comments.
- Using Posts Excerpts On Your Homepage – Some blogs choose to display entire posts on their homepage. While this is actually more user friendly in my opinion, it is also hurting your bounce rates. So go with your gut on that one.
- Calls to Action – Just interlinking specific posts is great, but you can take it to another level. Directly lead visitors to different posts or pages on your blog, especially at the end of posts. Maybe tell them to also check out a certain post. Or try asking them a question about that other post.
Another thing to remember is that your bounce rates can fluctuate a lot from page to page. So dig into your analytics and check the bounce rate for specific pages or maybe even for specific traffic sources. You might find trends with content that is working well or content that seems to be turning off visitors. Maybe your posts are inadvertently targeting keywords which just aren’t relevant for what your post is about. It might be targeting keywords where people are unlikely to be looking for a blog post to read.
There isn’t necessarily a magic bounce rate number that you should be aiming for, but you should make an effort to try to improve this kind of user metric. Search engines are likely looking at ping pong rates compared to other pages ranking for your target keywords. So there is probably a sliding scale where different rates are good or bad depending on your competitors metrics.
Also don’t just look at bounce rates as the only user metric to watch. Time on site and pages per visit can be quite useful too. Using them in conjunction will give you a much better idea how your visitors are interacting with your blog.
Do you actively monitor and try to improve these kinds of metrics on your blog? If so have you had any success with improvement?