What Makes Someone Leave Your Website?
Part of having a successful website is attracting visitors. Keeping those visitors on your site, however, is another topic altogether. Of course, once you have the visitor on your site you’ll want to keep them around for a while rather than seeing them quickly leaving to go somewhere else.
In order to do a good job of retaining visitors, increasing pageviews and time on the site, it’s important to think about what could cause visitors to leave. By knowing some of the major reasons that people are leaving your site, you can make adjustments to improve this situation.
Here is a look at 16 common reasons for exiting visitors. If you have other factors in mind that I’ve left off of this list, feel free to leave a comment.
Accessibility obviously is a hot buzzword around the world of designers and developers, and for good reason. If a site is inaccessible to a user, he or she will leave regardless of how great the site may be. If the user can’t access the site, what other option do they have besides leaving? With so many different browsers (and versions of browsers), different internet connections, and different needs from users, creating an accessible website that is still attractive and effective can be a challenge.
If visitors have a hard time navigation through the site to find what they are looking for, many of them will leave. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position of the frustrated visitor. To make things easier, navigation should be given plenty of thought and attention. The pages that are most important or most commonly sought after should be very easy to find, and navigation should be logical and intuitive. Larger sites can use a sitemap and/or a sitewide search to help visitors who want to use them.
Following External Links
Almost every website includes links to other websites, and blogs especially are full of external links. While each link ideally has a purpose and makes your site more valuable and useful for visitors, the truth is some visitors will leave through those links and not return. While that’s not always a bad thing (after all, you’re helping the visitor to find something of interest) it is something that you should consider. For example, sales pages are not going to contain outbound links because you want to keep every visitor on that page until a decision to purchase is made. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t link out , but think about the purpose of your pages and how those external links will improve or detract from the purpose of the page.
Clicking on an Advertisement
Advertisements are a source of income for many websites and blogs, but they obviously cost the site some visitors. The purpose for an advertiser who is paying to have a banner or a text link on your site is to get exposure and generate clicks. This is just something that you have to be willing to live with if you want to sell ads. Otherwise, don’t sell ads and you’ll give your visitors one less excuse to leave.
While ads can lead to lost visitors because of clicks on the ads, the can also chase visitors away is they are too distracting or intrusive. Most visitors now have come to expect ads on websites and blogs, and you shouldn’t lose many visitors on that principal alone. However, if you use accept ads that are overly flashy, have moving parts or changing colors, you could chase some people away.
Everyone that comes to your site will at some point leave. That certainly doesn’t mean that everyone leaves on negative terms. If you’re running an e-commerce site, you could see a large number of visitors exiting the site from a thank you page after purchasing. If you run a blog, you could have a visitor who arrives, finds what he or she is looking for, and moves on to another site.
Not What They Anticipated
Have you ever clicked through a link or done a search only to find that they site you arrive on is not all at what you anticipated? If this is the case, you probably left right away. You only have so much control over what people expect when they are arriving on your site, but you can help avoid this situation by using descriptive and accurate page titles and meta descriptions.
Doesn’t Have What They’re Looking For
Some visitors will come to your website or blog looking for something specific, and they won’t find it. I see this as a slightly different situation that the previous point. In this situation you’re site is what they were expecting, but that specific item or piece of information that they want isn’t on your site. You’ll never be able to provide all of your visitors with everything they are looking for, but it’s important to understand your audience and what they are likely to want from your website so that you can provide it for them.
You can lose visitors if your site looks unprofessional, especially if you’re in an industry where visitors expect to see professionalism. Take for example an attorney. The professionalism of the service provided is critical, so having a website that doesn’t convey that professional image could mean lost visitors and lost business.
Return to What They Were Doing
Some visitors have no real reason for leaving your site other than returning to what they were doing before they arrived. Maybe they clicked on a link from another site, looked at a page or two on your site, and then they leave to go back to the site that sent them your way. Social media traffic is a good example of this. Most visitors that you get from Digg will leave your site in a matter of time and return back to Digg to keep looking at other stories.
Slow Loading Pages
No one likes to sit and wait for pages to load, and if it takes too long visitors simply won’t wait. This is obviously influenced by the connection speed of the user, so some of it is out of your control. However, you can use a stats program like Google Analytics to tell you what percentage of your visitors have different types of internet connections. From this data you can get a good idea about how fast your pages need to load. If most of your visitors are using dial-up, page loads should be as quick as possible. On the other hand, if most of your visitors are on high-speed connections, you can take some more liberty with the design and content.
Audio or Video that Starts Automatically
Although audio and video are very common online today, most visitors prefer to have the option to start it themselves. Visitors that are greeted with a startling sound that they didn’t choose to start will often click the back button and be gone. If you use these elements in your pages, give the visitor the option to start them.
If visitors aren’t able to read the content, or if they have a hard time doing so, they may just leave. This is especially an issue with blogs. Be careful with background colors and images, as well as text color and link color, and also make sure to use adequate whitespace. Things like headings, lists, and short paragraphs can also improve readability.
Maybe a visitor has no other reason to leave except that a page’s content or design is simply boring to them. If the page contains what they are looking for this probably isn’t too common, but it’s important to know that readers will need to be engaged in order to stay.
Have you ever landed on a page that said “last updated 2001″? Depending on what you are looking for, this page may be of no use to you. Things online change so quickly that old information is often irrelevant. When setting up a blog one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to show the post date. Readers often like to see the date just to understand the context of the post and to understand its significance, but showing the date can also cause some lost visitors if they arrive at older posts.
Some websites have so much going on that the visitor just doesn’t want to fight through the distractions to find what they want. Clutter can be a major hindrance for visitors, and as such you should consider removing anything that’s not necessary.
What’s Your Opinion?
What makes you leave a site that you’re visiting? What factors do you take into consideration when you’re designing a site?
Published May 14th, 2008 by Steven Snell