Don’t Let Them Bounce! 5 Things You Can Do to Keep People Engaged on Your Site

Fish Bowl: decrease your bounce rate

Image courtesy of Shuttersock.

I recently took my daughter on a trip to Seaside beach here in Oregon. As 5 year olds do, she randomly became ravaged with hunger as we were walking down to the beach. We walked back up to the street and went in the first sandwich shop we could find. As I walked in, I noticed some broken video games stacked in one corner and a man standing next to a greasy grill with a loaf of store bought white bread next to it. I smiled, nodded and promptly left with my daughter.

In web terms, this is what we call a “bounced visitor.” One of the great pioneers of web analytics, Avinash Kaushik describes website bounce as a visitor who comes to your site, pukes, and then leaves. For a website owner, this is about as bad as it gets. A potential fan or customer lands on your site and then immediately runs the opposite direction. And it’s likely they won’t come back and certainly will not recommend it to others.


Here are 5 Tips to Avoid the Bounce:

1)   Don’t try and cram everything onto the homepage or major landing pages. Ask yourself this question – “If I could only have one button on my homepage what would it do?” That is the most important thing so start there. Maybe it is an email list signup, an upcoming show or a new album you want people to check out. It can’t be all three at once though. Build content around that one item. Once you are done have some friends check it out and see if maybe you can get a second item on the page to focus on. You have less than 10 seconds to catch the visitor’s attention, don’t waste it by overwhelming them with too much stuff. Something has to be number 1.

2)   When a visitor comes to your site does music or video start playing automatically? If so, stop it! Have you ever walked into to a club to see a band you liked, but the mix was way too loud? You don’t know how people have their audio setup so give them a chance to get ready to play the audio or video. Often visitors are also already listening to music or have other media going. Give them a chance to stop the other music and hit play on your audio or video. They will appreciate it and bounce less.

3)   Site load speed is still important! More and more people are visiting from mobile devices which means we went backwards in connectivity a bit. Your site homepage should not be more than 500kb or another way to look at it is how fast it loads. More than 3-5 seconds means you might lose them before you get them in there. If you have too many images or videos on the page that will slow down the load time. Focus on what you want to get in front of your audience and move other stuff to photo galleries and archive pages.

4)   Use images and update them frequently. I know I just said to be careful with load times but you should use great images still. Pinterest and Instagram should be enough evidence that people love images. Keep up to date photos and images on your site rotating old stuff to galleries and audio/video pages. Unless your site is based on the latest neuro-psychology research it should not be a wall of text. Images quickly grab the visitor’s attention and keep them engaged. Don’t use text if you can do it with images.

5)   Time to say goodbye to flash! Sorry but Apple is successfully killing flash. Tens of thousands to hundreds-of-thousands of apple devices are being activated every day in the U.S. and none of them allow flash. Hostbaby just came out with a new audio player to tackle this issue. Use it! Broken items on your site will cause people to leave. Warnings about software that does not work with their browser will make them also not come back. Flash had a good run, but we’re moving on.

Try some of these out and watch your bounce rate. See what works, experiment, and have fun with your site.

What else do you to make your website a pleasant experience for your visitors?

Got questions or want feedback on your site, hit me up and I’ll take a look?

About the author – Chad Dahlstrom is a web analytics geek, marketer, serial entrepreneur, and musician who spent years working with CD Baby and Hostbaby on new web products. Currently he has a new project to help bands promote their shows flyers and band posters online at You can find him on twitter @flyerlizard or email him directly with questions or comments

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40 comments to Don’t Let Them Bounce! 5 Things You Can Do to Keep People Engaged on Your Site

  • Mike Facer

    I always tell people that about automatic music! How the Sam Hill do I make my site look good on those poxy mobile phone screens? Curse the technology!

  • Mike, for mobile you have a few choices depending on how your site is setup. You can create a full mobile site where you create a whole new design and load only certain content for that “mobile site.” This mobile site can live along side your desktop site. You can build your site in what they call a “responsive” style where it will resize for small screens which requires some good CSS skills. Both of those are definitely a good amount of work but can be worthwhile if you are getting a lot of mobile traffic. To split the difference try using a single column layout so that it looks good across different devices. This will be more minimal as far as widgets and style goes but it gives you a style that will be more compatible with mobile devices that do not deal well with two or three column sites.


  • Helen

    Great list to check my website… maybe I can get the size of my photos down.

  • David Williams

    the truth hurts :)_

  • Good stuff and reminders!

  • CD Baby has some new mobile-friendly tools coming out this year. It’s coming . . .

  • Why not try out HostBaby? We have a free 30 day trial. Unfortunately the HostBaby player only works on HostBaby Site Builder websites.

  • Adobe now has a tool in their Flash Professional that will convert Flash animation to HTML5 output. I am looking forward to testing that out.

  • Thanks for this, you need a reminder of the good way to do things every now and then.

  •  I host my music on ReverbNation, and just embed the links on my regular site.

  • Nick

    Very well written, easy reading for a web-illiterate!!  Thanks I’m going to review my web-site next week 

  • SaraTiemogo

    Sure! I would like feedback on my website! I create great music, but web design isn’t really my forte. I’m willing to consider outsider’s opinions, and am looking to make some changes already.

  • Soundcloud works like a dream
    mike Laatz
    Cape Town

  • Fantastic site and music! Maybe include somewhere on the front page you guys are from Dallas. It kind of anchors the imagination. Mike from New Orleans….heres my 5 day old site…working hard.

  • Mr. Faz - Opera Rock

    Good advices, expeccially #1. I had it in mind when I created my new band’s website: the most important thing for us is our debut album, and the home page shows clearly our logo and the trailer of the upcoming album, “Starborn”.

    Check it out:

  • Yes. The next version of the CD Baby Widget Store will not be in Flash.

  •  Very cool. There’s no call to action though. You should ask people to sign up to your email list and then you can email them when the album comes out.

  •  I’ll take a look this weekend and email you. I got a lot of great email responses and people asking for some feedback so I’m going through them as they come in. Thanks for reading the article. 

  •  Soundcloud is a great suggestion and also check out jplayer which is another free HTML5 player.

  • Your website is pretty cool…there is a lot of headers up top and it is easy to navigate. I think that a bigger CALL TO ACTION would gravitate eyeballs.

  • Definitely agree with Chris B., looking at it from an outside view I noticed that the video is the primary focus. An email sign up list or a Buy Album Here logo would work.

  • hisuwh

    That video is awesome.  I’ve been wanting to do something like that for my band for a while.  How did you do it?  Do you just no what you’re doing with video editing and animation or are there some tools that can help you with that sort of thing.

    Good luck with the album

  •  Sara, you’ve done a lot of good things with your site such as featuring music right away with a clear path to buy the music. It looks like you are using wordpress for the site which is a good sitebuilder. You might consider going from a three column layout to just having a single right sidebar. Right now the “categories” and “Search widget” are taking up some prime real estate and I’m not sure you even need to feature those options? So think about priority of what you want your visitors to see and make sure that is reflected in the top menu and sidebars as those will get a lot of attention. I would recommend also adding an email list so that people can sign up for updates. Looks like you have a good start though and keep experimenting to see  what works for you. If you are thinking of doing a re-design make sure you check out what Hostbaby has here as they have most of this stuff wrapped up in their services which makes it pretty darn easy.


  • NICE.  Check out the RadioHayes Band….

  • I would love to get some feedback on our site.  From what I read I think I know some of the suggestions you may make, but it would be cool to hear it straight from the horses mouth :)

  • Hi,

    I agree with Chris on this one. The video is a great start, but what else can I do? What if I want to hear more music or see live music. I know I keep saying this one but get an email list going. If someone loves the video give them a way to get updates as you expand the site!

  •  Hi,

    Great site you have there! Both twitter and Facebook really pop out when I arrive. Do you want me to get right into that? I think your site actually has more to offer than those social media outlets. You’ve got a bunch of great music which is what I wanted to get into. I would consider making the social stuff secondary and your music primary on the page. I also did not see an email list signup right away. For me I prefer to try and get people on the email list before Facebook and Twitter as we are still seeing that email is more effective for announcements. It really is a great site though!

  • Steven Cravis

    You bring up great points, including how flash cannot be accessed by (millions) of Apple mobile device users. Is there any html or java script code that we can put at the home page that can identify whether people are on 1. Apple mobile device or not, 2. mobile or computer, etc.. and then can redirect them to the appropriate starting page?

  •  Good site and solid calls to action. I like it that you are asking people to say hello! I think you have the basics in place and should now try experimenting to see what gets a reaction. Are you getting plays on the video? If not try audio maybe? Or a different start frame. A lot of people judge video by the start frame right off. I also love it that it is easy to get on the email list. Good stuff and keep at it!

  •  That is possible as mobile devices will identify themselves. It’s not perfect but you can use Javascript to detect the browser and device and then conditionally display different items. Google “javascript browser detection” and you will find all sorts of options.That concept is generally called graceful degradation where a site accommodates different sometimes older technologies. It’s not perfect as not all devices identify themselves correctly but it’s pretty darn good!

  •  you’ve got a lot going on with your homepage. I would recommend trying to focus it on what is most important to your project. Maybe experiment with different items on the homepage but try to focus it a little more and see if you start getting more interactions. It’s always an experiment to figure out what works best for your visitors and you have plenty of content. Hope this helps and thanks for the blessings!

  •  I would stop the auto play as that is slowing down the load time and as I had mentioned in the article I think that can be a turn off for people. I love it that you have music and dates right there so I can dig right in and start hearing what you are all about. The homepage is pretty busy though so maybe slim it down some and try putting different things up front. That will also improve your load time as there is a lot of media on the homepage. See what works for your fans and do more of that.

  •  First off cool project! However I had to read a lot to figure out when I could hear the show and how. You’ve got a lot of information right on the homepage. I would suggest trying to lay out some bullet points. Tell me the really important stuff without making me read too much and link to the full descriptions within the site. Maybe don’t link off your site right away to the performance space as you don’t want them to read to that point and click the link only to get distracted. Great start though and good information. Experiment with trying to make it jump out at your visitor with as little effort on that part as possible. Visitors are lazy!

  •  Ok you have a great start but I think the homepage is trying to do too much here. I love that you have the soundcloud player right off which by the way also works on apple devices so bonus points there! Also the navigation might be better right at the top, feels a little awkward sitting in the middle there. Slim down the homepage to the really important and new stuff to get the load time down and not give the user too much to take in at once. You’ve got a lot of great material so you have plenty to experiment with!

  •  First off looks like you have some solid fans so that’s great. The site starts off with what we call a “splash page” which I have mixed feelings about. If most of your visitors are new I think that might be fine however it looks like you have a good amount of fans. Do they need to see that everytime they come back? Good calls to action and some great graphics in there. I like that you have the social media stuff available too. I’m also mixed on how important that is. It’s in a prominent place so do you want to send people right off to those? Maybe you do which is fine but i not they might better suited in a sidebar where they don’t get such prime real estate. It all depends on your goals. Nice work though!

  •  So same thing as the last one. I see your social icons before your navigation. Do you want to send people to those channels before your site? Again that might be the goal but if not don’t let those take up prime space. Otherwise you are keeping it simple and clear paths through the content which is great.

  •  I got your email too and replied to that over the weekend! Thanks for saying hello!

  •  You are very welcome, thanks for reading!

  • Hi Chad, we’d love you to critique our website: – I just redid it taking into consideration some the ideas above. I’d love to get a grade on how I did. It is a music site for our band, Inner Gypsy. I’m not at all expert at web design, and we are using one of the templates we found on the server. It’s a compromise, but the best we could find.

  • Thanks for the review, I’ve only just found it to read. Yes, we stopped the autoplay as we noticed it slowed things down a lot. Thanks!

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