When a visitor lands on your website, you have just a few seconds to capture their attention. If your website loads slowly, if the front page does not look good or if it is not immediately clear what your website is about when someone lands on it, you are most likely going to lose visitors.
This is especially true in the mobile space. Smartphones are almost ubiquitous, and in June 2014 mobile web traffic exceeded desktop traffic for the first time in history. This means that mobile users are a demographic that is too large to ignore. Unfortunately, mobile users are incredibly demanding and impatient. If your website does not load within eight to ten seconds, then you are at risk of the user hitting the back button. In most cases, users that back out of your website without browsing never return.
Google keeps track of bounce rates (visitors that land on a page and leave quickly without going to any other pages on the same site), and if it notices that your website has a high bounce rate, then it will de-value your site in the SERPs. This will have a serious knock-on effect on your traffic.
More Than Just Loading Times
Another important aspect of visitor retention is the general design of your website. One of the most important aspects of web design is creating appealing and attractive sites that are easy to navigate. If your site uses garish colours, is hard to navigate or does not provide the information that the user wants above the fold, then you are going to lose visitors.
Are You Driving Visitors Away?
Some of the most common mistakes made by website owners include having audio files that auto-play on page loading or videos that auto-play. This is even worse if the video is located below the fold or is hidden away in a sidebar so that the user has to hunt for the video to stop it. Many people are using the web at work or at home while their spouse or their children are sleeping in a nearby room. An auto-playing video could be a massive inconvenience for them.
Another common mistake is having interstitials or pop-ups that get in the way of the user accessing the content that they want to see. While interstitials are incredibly common these days, that does not mean they are a good idea. Think for a moment about how annoyed and frustrated you get when you are forced to wait 10 seconds to dismiss an ad before you view a page. How many times have you just given up and gone elsewhere for the information you were after? How can you be certain that your visitors will not do the same thing?
From Click to Sale
Even if you do manage to get the visitor to stay on your website after those initial few seconds, you face another challenge: getting the visitor to do whatever it is the page is intended for. Your goal may be to get a visitor to subscribe to your RSS feed or your mailing list, follow you on social media, register as a member of the website or make a purchase.
The most common mistake in this regard is failing to use strong calls to action and failing to make the calls to action prominent enough. If your visitors are not reminded about what it is that you want them to do, there is a high chance that they will look at your content, think “Oh, that’s nice” and then move on to something else. They might get distracted by a Facebook Messenger pop-up, see an external link on your page and move on to that or just decide that they’ll buy later instead of getting their credit card out now.
Make some of the calls to action that you choose relatively low-friction ones. You may not be able to get your visitors to buy on first contact, but if you can get them to subscribe to your mailing list, it will be easier to engage with them in the long term and bring them back to your website at a later date when they may be more willing to open their wallets.
A good call to action will serve as the nudge that the user needs to take action immediately. You should use calls to action at the top of the page and at the bottom too. Give people a reason to act now instead of later. You will be amazed at how open to simple reminders and suggestions most web users are.
If you have concerns about how your website is performing, talk to your web designer about them and ask them to look at your loading times, your design, and your copy. Slow-loading pages, errors, browser compatibility issues and poorly written copy can all drive users away. It is well worth investing in a website audit today so that you can grow your audience and start getting your website to perform the way that it should.
Set up your analytics software so that it tracks bounce rates and conversions. Aim to get your bounce rate as low as possible. Take some time to test your website on several different computers and using as many different browsers (including mobile ones) as possible. Investing in visitor retention will pay off in the long run.
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