Someone clicking on your website and leaving straight away is never good news.
It’s especially bad news thanks (or rather no thanks) to Google’s RankBrain, an artificial intelligence system operating behind the scenes. In essence, RankBrain uses machine learning to determine what results are most relevant to any Google Search query. The end goal is to provide better search results, as RankBrain learns what users are and aren’t clicking on.
The problem? Google are now paying closer attention if people click to your website from their search results, then immediately click back again. If someone does this, it’s a sign that your website didn’t satisfy them – and it’s likely Google will send it down the rankings as a result.
So why might a curious visitor quickly leave your website soon after they arrive?
1. The design is unappealing or outdated
Looks aren’t everything, but when it comes to your website they count for a lot. People make first impressions incredibly fast online and often decide in a matter of seconds whether to stick around or not. If your website looks unpleasant or just plain old-fashioned, that can be enough for people to leave immediately. Your website needs to look instantly credible and catch their attention – or users will simply leave.
If your website design and/or content is outdated and doesn’t accurately represent the services and expertise of the business, you could be missing out on valuable enquiries and losing new customers.
2. The navigation structure is unclear
Every visitor will arrive on your website with a goal in mind. Whether it’s to find information, buy something or get in touch. If they can’t quickly and easily ‘navigate’ to and find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave dissatisfied.
Good ‘usability’ is crucial to keeping visitors on a website. If it’s hard to use, or they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll quickly go somewhere else. Make sure that the Call To Actions (CTAs) throughout your website are clear, relevant and that contact details are easy to find.
Other common issues that make a website difficult to navigate include:
- The website doesn’t have a search function, making it harder for visitors to find what they want.
- The website has too many instant ‘pop-ups’, creating a ‘barrier’ between the website content and the visitor.
- The website auto plays music or videos, no one wants to accidentally blast music or audio through the office while they’re browsing. Ensure any videos or audio files on your website don’t start playing automatically.
3. The website is slow to load
Waiting for a website to load is nobody’s idea of a good time. If it takes more than a few seconds for your website to load, visitors are more likely to leave before they’ve even had a chance to see it.
Use a ‘speed test’ tool like Pingdom or Google PageSpeed to find out how fast your website loads. It’s worth testing your site at different times of the day and on separate occasions, as a single positive result can be misleading.
If speed test results show your website loads slowly (anything over 3 seconds is likely to frustrate visitors) speak to your web developer and see what can be done to make it load faster.
Code and image optimisation improves website code quality and decreases the size of images by using plugins or a script. This speeds up the website loading time and takes up less server space.
Setting up a Content Distribution Network (CDN) – a network of servers geographically positioned to speed up the delivery of web content – is also a good way to tune up a slow loading website.
If none of this helps it might be time for more serious solutions, such as changing your website host or redeveloping your website completely.
4. Your content isn’t aligned with SEO
Though there are many ways that visitors can come across your website, by far the most common
way is via the method we all use when we want to find the answer to something – typing keywords into a search engine.
We could write an essay on the importance of SEO and Keywords – so we did to explain more.
In the simplest of terms: in order for your website to be found by search engines, you need to have
top quality optimised content that your audience will be able to find, and – once they’ve found it – the content on the page needs to be relevant to what they searched for, otherwise they’ll quickly leave and go elsewhere.
5. The content is difficult to read
There’s nothing more off-putting than a website that’s difficult to read. If the font size of your website copy is too small (or overly large), don’t expect visitors to hang around. It also pays to remember that users may not be viewing your website on nice, large desktop screens; they’re just as likely to use smartphones and tablets.
The contrast between the text colour and the background colour is important for good legibility. Website design has moved away from the traditional black text on a white background for aesthetic reasons, but don’t be tempted to lose website visitors in the name of fashion. Use a tool like Colour Contrast Checker to test whether the colours you plan to use compliment each other, look good, and more importantly pass accessibility guidelines.
6. The website’s not convincing
Visitors to your website need to be quickly convinced about the legitimacy of your business. Customers turn to social proof as evidence that a business is a trustworthy supplier. How many times have you visited a company’s social media pages, or read a few reviews before deciding whether they’re everything they claim to be?
Social proof online comes in many forms, including:
- Reviews of products and/or services
- Ratings from websites such as TrustPilot and TripAdvisor
- Links to social media accounts
- Customer testimonials and client case studies
- Industry awards, corporate memberships or business certifications
7. The website isn’t mobile-friendly
Browsing on mobile devices is more common than desktop browsing, so making sure your website functions on smartphones and tablets is an absolute must.
Check how the website looks on different mobile devices and browsers, and using tools like Google’s Lighthouse will really put your website to the… well, test. The results of the test include a screenshot of how the website looks on a mobile device, and will list any problems it finds.
Common usability issues that can make a website mobile-unfriendly include:
- Incompatible plugins that are not supported by mobile browsers (Adobe Flash Player for example).
- Content that’s wider than the mobile device screen, which leads to horizontal scrolling. This is usually caused by a lack of ‘responsive design’, a feature that automatically adjusts the page layout for different screen sizes.
- Text that’s too small to read, caused by the website lacking the functionality to scale font sizes for mobile devices.
Embrace the mobile device audience and make your website’s responsive interface a priority.