Bounce rate refers to the number of times someone lands on your page, and then leaves it without checking another page on your site. It's not the same as time on site: A user can theoretically spend time reading your article and then just click off the external link and bounce without browsing your site any further.
One of many goals for those marketing or growing on the web, whether as a brand with a product or based on content, is to shrink that bounce rate to as little as possible. It is one of the few times seeing a low number in analytics is a good thing.
Social media referral traffic bounce rate has been naturally one of the biggest offenders in this respect: Social media users are usually in a hurry; They click a link in the update, scan though and leave.
If you spend considerable time building up your social media presence, it's quite obvious that you'd like to get more out of the traffic coming from your social media users. Let's see how we make them stay longer and go further into the site.
Your Social Media Networking Should Target Interactions, Not Clicks
(The more people interact with you on social media, the more attention they are going to pay to the content you are sharing!)
It is time to change the way you look at social media bounce rates. To do that, you have to change how you look at social media, full stop. The most common mistake people make is thinking of these platforms as a single-tiered tool for content sharing. They will build their social strategy with the end goal of getting people to their website.
The problem is that click-through is always going to be a little iffy. People are on social media to engage, and converse, and to share. They are not there to go hunting for your links. So while a good headline might manage to snare their attention, an average bounce rate on social media is always going to be lingering around 50%.
Each social media platform provides unique contributions to the social web. They have been developed to offer something unique, so they can better attract a specific kind of audience. For example:
- Twitter is a microblogging platform that connect strangers across the world through linking elements, such as their live search and update feed, and their innovative adoption of the hashtags originally developed for chat tool IRC.
- Facebook is more personal, giving users a wider range of customization, privacy settings, and connecting them with people and businesses they already know. The point has never been openness, but creating closed communities for each user, where they can share more.
- Google Plus is an all-inclusive platform that seeks to integrate as many Google products as possible. While the social structure of their platform has not been as popular as most, their unique features such as live streaming Hangouts has given them a branding focus that is hard to beat.
- Pinterest utilizes its interesting visual platform to allow people to share in a way totally removed from the usual text based content mentality of other sites. It has become the go-to for creating lookbooks for companies, and wishlists for consumers. It is also the first stable social media network that is 100% based on content, rather than any real fostering of community.
This is only a small collection of networks, but you get the picture. They all focus on something different, even if the core concept is the same. What does this tell you about bounce rate? That you should be exploiting those differences, to change the way you think about (and experience) the bounce rate problem.
For Twitter, you can keep sharing links. But you should be improving the way you attract attention, by using methods that have been proven to work. Get away from the standard headlines, and instead take a small quote that is interesting from the article. Tag people who were involved in the content.
You should also take advantage of the social sharing aspect, beyond links. Photos are a great tool for catching the eye, and can be presented with hashtags that show them to the right people. Writing something funny, engaging, or interesting is a must. But most important of all is engagement, so go looking for people to talk to, one-on-one.
For Facebook, take advantage of the higher limit statuses to write messages to your followers that start up a discussion. This is a great kind of social blogging that allows you to share content right there on your page. That makes click-throughs unnecessary, or at least secondary. Plus, it exposes you to their friends list if they do comment on the status.
For Google Plus, you can take this concept a little further. A lot of people have been using their Google Plus pages as a full website, in and of itself. They will blog there, share other content there, and even offer services. Due to the versatility of the platform, and the ability to use other Google services, it is an interesting idea. Plus, it is Google, which means your page is immediately optimized for searches.
Now Optimize Your Site for People to Browse Further
These are some basic steps that will both improve your website usability and encourage people to interact with your content more:
1. Mind the page load time
This is the major problem of so many website. Many social media users are clicking links from their mobile phones: They won't wait for too long for your page to load and obviously they won't keep browsing your site.
I am using this tool to diagnose page elements that prevent my pages from loading faster. And obviously I spend much time choosing my hosting. Site Geek is my go-to tool to select a reliable and affordable hosting company with great uptime stats and reviews.
2. Make sure your page is visually appealing
A cool image can goes a long way when it comes keeping a user on the page. I've done a round-up of free tools you can use to create eye-catching original visuals.
Another point in favor of creating and using cool visuals is that the image will be used as the thumbnail in Facebook and Google Plus shares and may prompt more clicks and positively influence the intent (social media referrals will be more inclined to stay if they see the already-familiar image).
But don't limit yourself to images only. There are lots of other (interactive) media types to grab readers' attention to improve engagement and increase leads.
You can embed Slideshare presentations, widgets, videos, etc to encourage the random user to interact with the page better. DirJournal Local is a good example of a highly interactive page giving the user the way to immediately play with the map.
3. Target external links to open in the new window
This is probably breaking a basic usability rule: "Give the readers the freedom to choose where they want to open a link" but with major social media sites targeting links to the new window, I guess people are used to the fact that clicking a link will prompt a new tab.
Using target="_blank" for external links you'll make sure users are not leaving your site forever and will soon find your page in the open tabs.
4. Let readers see related articles
5. Show readers familiar faces
This is a trick that works especially well for social media traffic. You may have many common connections with people coming to your site from social media, so giving exposure to niche social media influencers on your pages may work well for readers to pay more attention.
It's a nice habit to invite a couple of influencers to provide quotes on whatever you are writing about and then use their headshots to send some trust signals to the reader. MyBlogU is a good tool you can utilize to make things easier for you.
Bonus tip: Don't stress the numbers, focus on the content
Don't get obsessed about your bounce rate: Target real connections and engagement and use the numbers to track your success!