Can Someone Please Explain Bounce Rate?

One of the most common questions we get when looking at Google Analytics data is “What is Bounce Rate?“. Bounce rate is a tricky little metric that can be deceiving at first glance. Let’s go ahead and define a “Bounce” as “when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs. There is no industry standard minimum or maximum time by which a visitor must leave in order for a bounce to occur. Rather, this is determined by the session timeout of the analytics tracking software.” In other words, a bounce is a visitor who goes to one page, doesn’t find what they want, and they leave. “Bounce Rate” is a metric to describe the percentage of people who “bounce” verses the visitors who visit more than one page.

So, bounce rate is really a metric to show how engaging a website is, generally speaking. If most visitors are clicking through multiple pages, your CTR (Click Through Rates) will be pretty good, and your bounce rates will be pretty low. Although this can be an indication of positive click through and user engagement, there are a lot of factors impacting bounce rate that can make this metric difficult to understand and useless when viewed by itself.

With some of our websites, we have created really good landing pages for service oriented businesses. These pages have info about the company, service info, and contact info. Some of these pages even have a quick contact form to capture leads. If a user lands on a landing page, likes the info, and makes a phone call, that is a conversion from the business side of things. On the other hand, this “conversion” (converting a visitor to a lead), can actually register in analytics as a bounce, which is a traditionally negative stat. If lots of people hit good landing pages and make a phone call, the website bounce rate will be higher that expected, and if you don’t understand what is going on with the whole picture, you can start to think you have a website engagement issue.

Another thing we see that can really affect bounce rates negatively is pages within secure areas of the website that don’t have tracking code on them. If a user comes to the home page (where there is tracking code) and immediately logs into a page that does not have tracking code (such as a portal, secure info website, etc), then that visit will also register as a bounce. Some pages that contain sensitive information may not have tracking code for security or privacy reasons, which can throw off the stats.

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In this example, we see that bounce rates were at 84% – a very high number. When you see high bounce rates, the first thing to look at is what pages are being tracked, and where are the points of losing analytics data. Anytime a visitor goes from a page that is tracking them to a page that isn’t is considered an “exit” and if that “exit” is after visiting just one page it is considered a “bounce”. When we worked with this website, we had some exit points on pages that didn’t have tracking code, and we discovered some engagement issues. Putting exit points with engagement issues can create bounce rates as high as this. We worked on the content and increased user engagement significantly, and the result was an almost 40% decrease in bounce rate, even while allowing those “exit points” to remain.

Page views increased by over 400%, and average time on site increased 344%. These metrics, when considered together, show a remarkable increase in user engagement on the website, and consequently, so did the lead generation and sales for the business. Website traffic as a whole increased also due to more relevant content and better on-site SEO.

When we talk about “websites that work” – we don’t just mean working functionally. Yes, we are good at that, but when we talk about putting your website to work, its about generating better results, driving more traffic, and converting more website visitors into leads and sales. The process isn’t magic – but rather it is a strategic approach to better content, better calls to action, better design, better user engagement, and better SEO.

Hopefully that helps make sense of Bounce Rates and how to understand what it actually means. You have to understand the metrics around the bounce rate to see its real value, and understand how your website is tracked and interacts with users.

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