Why do visitors abandon landing pages?


One of our students recently asked that great question.

Given that different business models can expect different bounce rates (visitors decided to hit the back button or otherwise ignored your Call to Action), what are some of the top reasons visitors abandon landing pages?

Our research has revealed several major causes for high bounce rates, but first I want to share what a recent article by Nikhil Swaminathan on the Scientific American Web site said about how quickly we decide if something—or someone—looks like a winner or not.

Subjects in a Princeton University study were asked to look at images of two politicians. One of the politicians was literally a “winner,” having been duly elected to office. The other was the loser. Without knowing who had actually won the election, the test subjects were asked who appeared more competent.

They were given 250 milliseconds—a quarter of a second—to make their choice. The group as a whole picked who had won the election an average of 64% of the time. In predicting the winner of yet-to-be-held elections, the test group was right 68.6 percent of the time.

“All of the action goes on in the first 250 milliseconds of exposure, and then there’s not much going on,” said one of the co-authors of the study.

I don’t think it’s a great leap to apply the same theory to landing pages: Visitors may decide whether the Value Proposition of your business, your product, your offer, looks competent within a second. And if that study is right, they will be right most of the time.

The causes of site abandonment are inherently site-specific; the result of failure in one or more of the elements—from Motivation to Anxiety—of the MarketingExperiments Web site “Conversion Probability” formula.

If your landing page is Incongruent with what a visitor expects when he or she arrives—if it’s irrelevant to their Motivation—if they say to themselves consciously or even unconsciously, “This isn’t at all what I was looking for,” your bounce rate is probably sky-high.

Lack of Continuity with the source of visitor traffic, such as through a paid search ad, also causes Anxiety in visitors, causing them to bail out. Closely matching search terms with your Landing Page headline and your copy is a great way to mitigate that.

An ineffective Value Proposition, whether the result of poor planning (remember: optimize your product first, then your presentation, then your channels), or poor expression, is the first place to look when trying to determine the reasons your visitors aren’t staying.

Relevance is key. Congruence is critical. First impressions are everything.

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