When a user lands on your website, Google notices if they bounce back to search results, or instead they start browsing through your site.
PhotoShelter’s SEO Guide for Photographers provides a good definition:
Google defines a “bounce” as a visitor who looks at the first page of your site and does not click to any other pages (i.e., exits after seeing that one page and presumably deciding your site’s content does not match their search interests.) Your bounce rate for search traffic should go down if your search terms are effectively driving relevant traffic. In terms of targeting an optimal bounce rate, […] it is widely quoted that an average bounce rate across all websites is 40%, and from our experience with a lot of photographer websites, anything under 50% or so and you are probably doing OK.
But bounce rate can vary depending on the type of photography and the type of traffic you’re generating. For example, celebrity/red carpet photography sites tend to have relatively high search engine-based traffic, but it’s not necessarily qualified buyers who are seeking it. […] A high bounce rate, in this case, isn’t indicative of bad content – it’s merely a symptom of having popular content with a broad (consumer) audience.
While I’ve briefly mentioned bounce rates in my own SEO article (as action #32), I wanted to list all the tips you can use to improve your visitors’ browsing experience (and, in turn, your site’s bounce rate):
1. Have a clean design. A minimalist design/layout is more pleasing on the eyes, whereas a cluttered layout pushes people away. Many times you use a site more just because it’s designed better and the user-experience is great.
2. Don’t overwhelm visitors with too many navigation options. The number of menu items should ideally be kept to 5-7.
3. Place the navigation in a consistent location. Avoid confusion by having the navigation in the same spot throughout your site, including your blog area.
4. Add clear call-to-action buttons at the end of pages. Ask yourself where visitors should browse next.
5. Provide fewer browsing options on the homepage. This is all about optimizing your homepage for first-time visitors: you can’t effectively promote 30 featured galleries at the same time. Less is more.
6. Pay attention to text length and formatting. Long paragraphs/blocks of text are boring to read (this is not prose or journalism), so you should either write in shorter sentences or at least use text formatting to make it easy to skim through: sub-headings, bold, italics, bullet points.
7. Improve your page headlines. They almost always get read, so they’re critical in raising interest and making people read the rest of the page.
8. Use good colors. Background colors that are easy on the eyes, font colors that contrast well with the background to make the text readable.
9. No splash pages. Google “sees” that visitors get to a site and then immediately click away from the first page or leave the site altogether.
10. No auto-playing music. An insight into my own browsing habits: I immediately close 90% of all sites that start playing background music automatically. Why do they assume I’m not listening to music at the same time?
11. Check the site for broken links or functionality. Once something doesn’t work, visitors are much more inclined to leave the site, their trust has been broken. Use broken link checker tools to scan your site and have some friends/family browse your entire site from head to bottom (like a user testing team) and gather feedback.
12. Make your website fast. To prevent people from leaving in frustration, invest some time into speeding up your site. (read more)
14. Write useful & relevant meta-descriptions for search engine users. If users understand what your site is about right from Google’s search results, they already know what to expect when they reach your site, so they’re more inclined to stay and explore your content.
15. Make the search box easy to find, if people need to be able to search for images on your site. Especially important if you have a big archive of stock images.
16. Make external links open in new windows/tabs, so people stay or come back to your site easily. Use this plugin if using WordPress.
17. Update any outdated content on your site. Outdated contact info, old projects you’re still featuring on the homepage, inactive blog pages etc.
18. At the end of blog posts, show related posts. It keeps people on the site longer, reading more. Some good WordPress plugins for that here.
19. Make sure your site’s 404 pages are useful. When visitors get to your site on an invalid/missing page, they see a 404 page. Most of the times, you can customize that page to lead people to the main areas in your site. Google recommends this too.
20. Most importantly, provide quality content. Don’t lose sight of this. All the tips & tricks in the world will not help your site if your content is mediocre.
Hope you found these tips useful.
Which of them can you work on today to improve your photo website?