What Is Bounce Rate and How to Fix It

Original painting for LinkWithin articleHigh bounce rate on your blog got you down?

Feeling odd and a little gloomy because readers bounce off your site like so many ping pong balls? 

A “bounce” occurs when a visitor leaves your site without clicking on anything.

Seeing bounces has always left me feeling bewildered.  Did the visitor read any of my fine article before bouncing off?  How much?  Or was the visit just a mistake?

A bounce does not mean the reader didn’t read some or all of your article

Now, in your dreams, a bounce may show the reader’s complete satisfaction with the content. Having found exactly what they needed, your readers leave on their merry way.  

A high “bounce rate” implies readers aren’t even reading your posts, which may well be the case.  

Visitors coming in using search engines typically seek very specific information.  

If your post doesn’t fill the bill; they move on . Hey, that’s life in the “organic search” big city.

But if a reader clicks on something — anything — on your site, you don’t get a bounce.  Yippee! Using Google Analytics, you can see exactly how long they spent on an article.  It may be a few seconds or a couple of minutes.  Average time on site over a couple of minutes is quite good. If someone actually spent time looking at a specific article, Google Analytics can tell you that, too, but not when they bounce.

Since “bounces” leave you with zero information about how long a reader read, it’s your job to get them to click on something, anything. 

We are not dealing with ordinary readers but scanners, with the attention spans of kangaroos.  I know.  I’m one, too.

What bounces really mean is that you offered readers no obvious options to click.  I know because I’ve lowered my bounce rate.  Here are some ideas:

One way to reduce bounces:  Offer a link to a external site with a great resource.  Here’s an example:  

You want to learn about bounce rate from an amazing blogging pro?  Click here on Bounce Rate from Ana Hoffman’s perspective.

 I’ve written articles based completely around discoveries on valuable external sites.

Another place for readers to click are embedded links to your own articles.  

In the paragraphs below you will see examples of both an external link and and internal link, both of which have the potential to keep a reader from bouncing.

Best bounce stopper:  Content

Not that long ago a buddy of mine, Harrison Li at Social Hooks suggested that I had enough content to install a Related Posts widget.  Related Posts offer an automatic linking mechanism to your other articles, whose compelling titles should be worded to tantalize a reader to keep clicking.

I looked around in WordPress Add New plugin search and found the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) which is free.  Basic instructions on How to install a plugin can be found at the bottom of this article on plugins.

You can see YARPP in action at the bottom of this post as a text list of stories.

Then, while reading this hilarious article on why you should never pay more than $5 for an article on the Clear Copywriter blog, I saw an photo version of Related Posts!  It was just like YARPP but with photos.  I wanted it!

The photo-studded related posts plugin is called LinkedWithin.  

It’s free but doesn’t appear when you search  Add New plugin in WordPress.  You get the plugin at the Linked Within website.  Download the zip file onto you local computer, then use the Upload function in New Plugin to find it in your computer’s downloads folder and pull in the .zip file.  After that, it’s a snap in install.

You can see LinkedWithin at the bottom of this post, just above the YARPP titles.  It’s the one with all the pretty pictures.

The two algorithms differ in how they define “related.”  YARPP gives you some control over why posts should be considered related – Titles, Body text, Tags, Category.  LinkedWithin seems to be more hard wired, letting you set the number of posts to display at the site, but not much else.  (Or maybe I haven’t found the settings.)

I like them both and may keep them both for awhile.

What do you think?

TimThumb WordPress Vulnerability

Today, 8/26/2011 my hosting service sent me chilling notification that my WordPress blog was vulnerable to attacks via timthumb.php files.

“This is a courtesy notice that we have found exploitable timthumb.php file(s) on your account.”

“The timthumb.php file is a script commonly used in WordPress’s (and other software’s) themes and plugins to resize images. The exploit allows an attacker to arbitrarily upload and create files and/or folders on your account, which can then be used for a number of malicious tasks, including but not limited to defacement, browser high-jacking and infection, data harvesting and more.  After a site has been exploited, it may lead to becoming labeled a ‘Malicious Website’ by Google or other security authorities.”

Fortunately, I’m a BlueHost customer and (full disclosure) an affiliate advertiser.  I called BlueHost.  This post is an enthusiastic recommendation for their excellent service.  

The fix was painless.  I learned that it was likely that my site had been compromised, which was why they sent the notice.  Also learned that deleting plugins would not solve the problem if backdoors had been constructed in wp-includes files.  There’s a potential quip here about closing the barn door after the backdoor has been installed, but will leave that as an exercise for the reader.  

Bottom line:  The BlueHost service representative asked me if I could delete a particular plugin, then replaced my wp-includes files and told me I could stop worrying.

The TimThumb vulnerability is serious and Google has blocked hacked sites according to this alarming article by WordPress guru Mark Maunder who originally discovered the TimThum threat.  Maunder offers other articles on how the vulnerability is being addressed.  Here’s another chilling article from RedLeg.   

The take-home news from Mark Maunder, “To prevent your site being listed as malware, clean it as fast as possible.”

For me, a non-coder, the technical cleaning solutions were like telling a caveman to build a 747.  Thank goodness that the team at BlueHost had my back and helped me clean my site of the TimThumb threat in a few minutes.


Google is Working for Your Blog

Google is working to supply tools to improve your blog, use Google search to check your blog, see page descriptions, increase traffic. Google’s mission is to help good blogs

Google works for blogs like a dairy farmer works for the cowsGoogle is working to improve your blog

Google supplies free tools for search engine optimization.  It’s in Google’s self interest.

Why does Google care about blogs?  Google is in the business of serving up meaningful web searches and ads.  

Google works for blogs the way a dairy farmer works for cows.  Better, healthier, well structured blogs result in better searches, an orderly web,  and more satisfied users. Advertising, a mainstay of Google, works better when blogs connect with the right users. Am I comparing your blog to a dairy cow?  Well, yes!  And Google wants to skim the cream for searchers. 

Google’s stated mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This excellent article, Google’s Mission Statement: the Key to SEO Success, explains the deeper implications of Google’s mission for on-line businesses.

I have written in the past about cool sites that grade your blog  and “diagnose” how fast your page loads, how it ranks, and whether it is being seen.  And, of course, Google works for your blog in other ways with webmaster tools, a must-have tool suite for any blogger. 

But the focus of this little article:  the Google search engine itself can show you how your blog is seen by the search giant and how it is displayed to human searchers.

 Simply go to Google and type in “info:YourSiteName.com”

In my case, I type in info:blogsnewsreviews.com

Up comes this message:

Google can show you the following information for this URL:

Google search on “info:yoursite” offers valuable information:

  • In “cache” you will see how long it has been since the Google search robots have crawled your site and how it appears (well, appeared then)
  • Similar web pages (in my case there aren’t any and I *hope* that isn’t a bad thing)
  • Sites linking back to yours (very important for ranking)
  • How individual pages in your blog come up in a search.  Holds up a mirror to show how humans see a search result.  Would you click on this?
You work hard to produce original content.  Google is working to deliver the cream of the web.  Use their free tools to stand out from the rest of the herd!

Credit for this tip goes to Traffic Generation Cafea fantastic site for understanding web traffic, and where I found How to Use Google Search Query Terms to Learn More About Any Site.  

BTW  here’s a chance to win!

There is a great giveaway going on at the Traffic Generation Cafe Blog where you can win your own copy of Thesis Theme, as well as a 30-minute consultation with Ana Hoffman. Participating is very easy! Visit Thesis Theme giveaway page for more information.