What could a cucumber and cat video have to do with websites and bounce rates? More than you might think. Imagine your website browser is as contented as a cat with its kibble. They’ve entered their search term and the mouse hovers over your website. They click. Your page loads. Then suddenly there it is—the cucumber they didn’t expect. They’re gone.
What made your potential customer leap away as quickly as a jittery cat faced with an unexpected cucumber? There are several things that may send your visitors scurrying away. And unfortunately, unlike the curious cat, they’re not likely to return. You’ve got one chance to engage. So let’s shred that cucumber.
It just took too long.
Just as removing the cucumber before the cat sees it would prevent a reaction, making sure your pages load fast is essential to stopping the impatient bouncer. Aim for two seconds or less.
Speed things up by:
- Prioritizing information for mobile devices
- Ensuring your hosting service has the bandwidth to upload your site to your visitor FAST
- Sizing images so they download quickly
- Keeping total image count per page low
- Avoiding custom fonts users don’t have on their devices
A video began blaring at them.
If you want to see your visitors jump as high as one of these cucumber-fearing cats, just set your video to run automatically. For many, it’s an instant turnoff. Give you visitors a chance to discover that they’ve arrived where they wanted to be. Caption your video to entice the view. Don’t force it upon your visitors!
A popup blocked their first look.
Sharon Hurley Hall of The Daily Egg says, “A well-timed pop-up can increase conversions, getting more people signed up for your mailing list or your products and services.” There’s a major problem though. Most websites are so anxious to capture information they don’t wait for their visitor to grasp the value before their eyes.
It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You’ve barely reached a website, and you’re looking at a popup that’s blocked all the content. If your visitor is one of those people who find this exceptionally irritating, expect a speedy exit. Earn trust before you put a ‘block-up’ before visitors.
They didn’t find what they expected.
Google works hard to not put any cucumbers in their skiddish cat’s paths. You should too. Make sure your ads and meta descriptions aren’t promising a different experience that the one your visitor’s going to find. And consider your domain name. One business discovered that its name kept bouncing people away at Halloween, which impacted search results for several months every year. The URL? Writingasaghost.com.
- Focus content to match carefully crafted meta descriptions and targeted keywords. You want to be sure you’re attracting the right people.
- Write ads that deliver on their promise. For example, if you advertise a service, make sure the page the ad links to is focused on that service.
- Make sure every page focuses on a specific experience and contains content matching that experience. Selling flowers? A page of vases isn’t going to hold your visitor.
- Align your keywords and your ads with the mission of the page you’re sending potential customers to.
It took too long to figure it out.
Just like a cat who sniffs to see if it’s safe, website visitors like to scan content to ensure they’re comfortable with your website. They want to grasp the situation fast. So headlines and subheadings are essential. A few carefully placed pictures help as well.
The ability to evaluate the situation is especially important on mobile devices. Make sure your site is responsive.
Ensure there are calls to action and a shopping cart that’s easy to find. Just be sure you don’t pack too many buttons and links onto a page. It shouldn’t take but a moment to figure out what the right action is.
The site was too egocentric.
Many a cat owner has wondered if their cat cares about anyone but themselves. Don’t wonder about your visitors. Accept their attitude from the moment they click is, “What’s in it for me?” Focus on answering that question. Hall says:
“Remember that your website visitors are searching for outcomes. If your website doesn’t instantly give them the sense that they are moving toward the outcome, they will bounce.
“The navigation, design, content and calls-to-action must all work together to communicate that you offer what they are looking for.
“Instantly communicate your value to your site visitors.” 
The page went on too long without a call to action.
This is a common problem with sales pages. If the content is engaging enough to secure a scroll, then there should be a call to action just below or at the bottom of a computer screen. Mobile users expect to scroll longer.
It’s not as bad as you think.
Unfortunately, Google is not much smarter than the cat when it comes to its bounce-rate cucumber. The Google Analytics script assumes that someone who doesn’t take action on a page has bounced. This means a visitor may read your entire page without making a decision. Did you engage with that visitor? Could they have loved what they found? Yes. Did they truly bounce away? No. They just failed to take further action.
That’s a separate issue—conversion.
Rob Beirne of Moz recommends that bounce rates should be adjusted. He recommends setting up a trigger to tell Google not to count a visitor as a bouncer if they’ve stayed on a page for a certain length of time. “By defining a time limit after which you can consider a user to be ‘engaged,’ that user would no longer count as a bounce, and you’d get a more accurate idea of whether they found what they were looking for.”
If you’ve evaluated your pages for the issues covered in this article and still seem to have too high a bounce rate, consider visiting Moz to get the tweaked Google Analytics code.  It could tell you that you’re not scaring the cats after all. Meanwhile, enjoy a good laugh as you watch the Cucumber and Cat Video.