Why You Can’t Ignore Mobile Web Traffic

The Myth of Mobile Optimization Best Practices Debunked

This is a common question, and requires an understanding of the definitions of bounce rate.”

The bounce rate is a bit slippery and requires some examination. The intention of measuring the bounce rate is to figure out how many of your visitors are leaving almost immediately after arriving at your site. This metric provides for a lot of error in interpretation.

“A high bounce rate means you’re site is crappy.”

This is rarely the case. A more accurate explanation is that your site doesn’t look the way your visitors expect it to look. Understanding what your visitors expect is the way to reduce your bounce rate.

Instead, there are usually some more valid reasons for your high bounce rate. Here are the things we examine when confronted with uncomfortably high bounce rates.

You’re measuring it wrong.

How you measure your bounce rate can give you very different insights. For example, blogs often have high bounce rates. Does this mean that visitors don’t like the blog?

Many analytics packages measure a bounce as a visit, or session, that includes only one page. Visitors who take the time to read an entire article would be considered a “bounce” if they then left, even though they are clearly engaged.

We set a timer for our blog traffic, so that any visitor who sticks around for 15 seconds or more is not considered a bounce.

Technical Difficulties

We are fond of saying that you don’t have one website, you have ten or twenty or thirty. Each device, each browser, each screen-size delivers a different experience to the visitor. If your website is broken on one of the more devices popular with your visitors, you will see a bump in overall bounce rate.

If your pages load slowly, especially on mobile devices, you can expect a higher bounce rate.

If your page breaks out in a chorus of Also Sprach Zarathustra when the page loads, you may enjoy a higher bounce rate.

How to diagnose

Your analytics package will track the kind of device your visitors are coming on.

Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?
Is there a problem with this site when viewed with the Safari (in app) browser?

The Google Analytics report Audience > Technology > Browser & OS shows that there may be a technical issue with Safari visitors coming from within an app. This may also reflect visitors coming from mobile ads, and they may simply be lower quality. See below.

With Google Analytics Audience > Mobile > Devices report, we see mobile devices specifically. The Apple iPhone has an above-average bounce rate, and we should probably do some testing there, especially since it’s the bulk of our mobile traffic.

With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.
With an above average bounce rate, visitors on an Apple iPhone may be seeing a technical problem.

Traffic Quality

If you’re getting the wrong visitors, you will have a high bounce rate.

Remember StumbleUpon? Getting your site featured on the internet discovery site often meant a flood of new visitors to your site… and a crash in your conversion rate. Stumble traffic was not qualified, they were just curious.

Your bounce rate is a great measure of the quality of your traffic. Low quality traffic bounces because:

  • The search engine showed them the wrong link. Do you know how many visitors used to come to our site looking for a “conversion rate” for Russian Rubles to Malaysian Ringletts?!
  • The visitors aren’t ready to buy. They were in a different part of the purchase process. Visitors coming from Social Media ads have notoriously low conversion rates. They weren’t looking, they were just surfing.

We take a closer look at the source of traffic to diagnose a traffic quality problem using Google Analytics Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report.

Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.
Display and direct traffic are our biggest traffic sources and bring the most bouncers.

Here we can see that traffic coming from Display ads and those visitors coming “Direct-ly” have a high bounce rate. These two sources also make up 50% of our traffic. Ouch.

In the case of Direct traffic, we expect most of it to come to the home page. With a click, we can see that indeed 50% of Direct visits are to home.

Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.
Filtering for Direct traffic, we see that 50% of it is entering on the home page.

Clearly we need to do more to get visitors on their way into the site. As Tim Ash says, “The job of the home page is to get people off of the home page.” He didn’t mean by bouncing.

With regard to Display ads, we my have a problem with broken promises.

Broken Promises

Do your entry pages consider the source of visits?

If your traffic is clicking on an ad that promises 20% off on a specific propane grill, and they’re directed to your home page, you’ve broken a promise. You might think that they will search your site for the deal. You might even think they’ll search your home page for the deal. You’re wrong. Many will jump.

Every ad, every email invitation, every referral link is a promise you make to your visitor. If they don’t come to a page that lives up to the promise, they are likely to bounce.

  • Does the headline on the page match the offer in the ad?
  • Does the product in the email appear after the click?
  • Are the colors and design consistent across media?
This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.
This Dispaly ad takes the visitors to a page that is almost designed to disappoint.

Looking at your ads on a page-by-page basis is necessary to diagnose and correct this kind of bound-rate problem.

Vague Value Propositions

Ultimately, if you’re not communicating your value proposition to your visitors clearly, you are going to enjoy a monstrous bounce rate.

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Your value proposition typically does not address your company or your products. It should be targeted at your visitor, why they are there, and why they should stick around.

Each page has it’s own value proposition. Your business may have a powerful value proposition, but each page should stand on its own.

A contact page should talk about what will happen after you complete the form. Who will contact you? How long will it take? Will they try to sell you something?

A landing page should clearly state that you are in the right place and provide reasons for you to stay and read on.

This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold.
This landing page delivered a strong value proposition in above the fold. See the full case study and video.

A home page should help you find your way into the site. Most home pages are treated like highway billboards. No wonder people just drive on by.

Ultimately, we don’t want to reduce our bounce rate. We want to improve our conversion rate by bringing the right traffic, to the right page, with the right message, and avoid technical issues that get in the way.

Post Signature

Brian Massey is the Founder and Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences. He is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses were developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker and writer.

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.