Understanding Bounce Rate

Published in Online Marketing.

We love web analytics. They are the best tool to know if we are improving or not. Today we are going to focus on one of the most forgotten ones: the bounce rate . Despite being less known than other vanity metrics such as the number of visits, it is an important metric to take into account. In fact, the bounce rate is key within the pyramid of web optimization .

If you want to know what the bounce rate is and why it is important, keep reading .

The Bounce Rate in Detail

According to Google , the bounce rate of your website is calculated as the amount of sessions that only visit a single page of your website divided by the total number of sessions . In other words, a bounce occurs when you receive a visit to your website and the visitor leaves without visiting any other page .

If someone visits a page on your website and then leaves without interacting or visiting any other page, we will say that this visit has bounced.

Scooby Doo Hello GIF by Boomerang Official - Find & Share on GIPHY
Someone access your website, takes a quick look and leaves.

As an example, if half of your visitors only visit a page of your website and then leave, your bounce rate will be 50%. Therefore, to improve the engagement of the website we are interested in reducing this bounce rate.

How to Know The Bounce Rate of a Page?

To know what the bounce rate of our website is, what we need is a web analytics tool, such as Google Analytics .

Log in to your Google Analytics account and go to the Behaviour menu, then to Site content and finally to All Pages . There you will find different information about your pages, including the bounce rate.

Screenshot showing the bounce rate of a particular page on our site in Google Analytics.
Screenshot showing the bounce rate of a particular page on our site in Google Analytics.

It’s that easy to see the bounce rate of your pages with Google Analytics. If you use a different tool, surely they will provide this metric because it is quite common.

What is an Optimal Bounce Rate?

This is the million-dollar question. And the thing is that it depends on the type of website you have and the traffic that reaches it.

For example, if you have a blog where you purely write content, it is usual to have a high bounce rate (as you could see in the previous screenshot where one of our posts was shown) since many readers go directly to read the content (they come from social networks or Google) and then leave.

On the other hand, if you are analyzing a landing page of your website, it is more usual that its bounce rate is lower, since the main task of this type of pages is to direct you to another one by doing some action (visit the pricing page, fill a form, etc).

And if you want specific numbers, there are many websites out there who comment that bounce rates between 26% and 40% are excellent, that the average is between 41% and 55%, and that 56% to 70% are above the average . They also indicate that with a bounce rate above 70% you have a problem unless you are a blog or a news page (pure content, as I explained before).

Even though this analysis seems a bit simplistic, I leave the numbers and then you decide whether you believe them or not.

The Bounce Rate And The Exit or Abandonment Rate

When looking at your web analytics tool, be careful not to confuse the metric of the bounce rate with the exit or abandonment rate. They are not the same. Both measure similar concepts related to the exit of a visitor from a specific page of your website. But, I repeat, they are not the same.

As I said before, the bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who land on a page and leave it before interacting with it . On the other hand, the exit or abandonment rate measures the percentage of visitors that leave the website after having visited a certain page, but they may have come from another page of the same website. Therefore, all bounces involve page exits, but not all exits are bounces.

On What Occasions Can a Bounce Not be a Bounce?

There are many reasons why a visitor can generate a bounce. These are some of the most common:

  • Click on the back button of the browser to return to a previous web.
  • Enter a new URL in the browser.
  • Close the browser or the current tab.
  • The session expires after a certain time (usually after 60 minutes of inactivity).

However, there are moments when our web analytics tool may be tracking bounced visits wrongly.

Google Analytics puts in the same bag a visitor that access your page and runs away; the one who enters your page, spends a while reading the content, and eventually ends up leaving thanks to a link that you have included there; and the one that arrives at your page, reads all its content in detail, and then, once satisfied, goes away.

For Google Analytics, all these cases generate a bounce of equal conditions, but it is clear that what is really happening is not the same. Also, if we look at it from a SEO perspective, would it be fair if Google positions all the pages in the previous scenarios with the same score? Surely your answer is no.

Well, don’t worry because in addition to the bounce rate, Google also takes into account the average time spent on the page to decide how good it is and position it according to it. That is why despite having a very high bounce rate, the page that we have shown you in the screenshot of our Google Analytics has a good positioning. The average time of stay of visitors in it is more than 5 minutes. Not bad at all!

Adapt Google Analytics to “Better” Measure The Bounce Rate

If it bothers you that Google Analytics counts as a bounce the visitors that spent some time in your page (which might indicate they have read its content), I have good news: it is possible to modify Google Analytics so that it avoids counting as a bounce those sessions that have a minimum duration. To do this you only have to send an event to Google Analytics after the time you decide (for example, 30 seconds).

Assuming that in your website you use the Google Analytics script by default, which defines the JavaScript object ga, what you have to do is put the following line after including the tracking code:

setTimeout( ga( 'send','event','Fix the bounce rate', 'Minimum session time of 30 secs.'), 30000 );

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a hack, but you decide whether or not to apply it to your analytics. After doing this you will see that your bounce rate starts to drop, since you will stop marking as a bounce those visitors to your website who only come to read content and then leave.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t apply this hack to our website because we like to see the complete data, even when that implies that in blog posts we have high bounce rates.

How to Reduce The Bounce Rate of a Page?

As I said, once you have applied the previous modification to better adjust the way to track your visitors with Google Analytics, your bounce rate should decrease, showing the pages that really have a bounce problem.

In those pages you should carefully analyze what is happening and try to understand why your visitors leave without further interaction. We leave you a couple of tips so you can work on those pages and improve them.

Improve Content And Its Link Structure

Think about the visitors and put yourself on their shoes. Only then you can get to understand why they leave your pages. Are you providing value to them? Do you solve a problem?

One of the best ways to see a decrease in the bounce rate is to improve the content of the page. And when we talk about the content, I also include links or calls to action. It is possible that the visitor does not interact with the page because he does not know or does not understand the options he has.

And if you’re selling something on that page, remember to review the highest level of the optimization pyramid, of which I spoke earlier in this blog. You will have to persuade the visitor to end up becoming a client: show testimonials, give him confidence, tell him how good you are and how much your product fits his needs…

A/B Test Everything

It will be of little use if you make changes in the content or design of your pages to try to improve their usefulness and thus reduce the bounce rate in them if you do not compare the changes made and the current version in the same conditions and following an appropriate method.

Search an A / B testing tool with which you can try the different modifications on your website. At the end of the tests, you will see if your modifications have improved or worsened your bounce rate, and the best thing is that you will make decisions based on scientific data and not opinions.

Summary

The bounce rate is a useful metric to measure the level of satisfaction of your users, along with the average time on page. If someone enters your page and leaves it without clicking on a second page, that’s a bounce.

You should not worry about SEO if you have a high bounce rate but the average time spent on the page is also high. The search engines will take into account the combination of these factors to position.

But if you have high bounce rates with low average times on page, you should keep an eye on your pages. Surely something is happening that is causing your visitors to run away from your website. In this case, propose improvements in your content and structure and validate them with A/B testing.

Featured image by Sammie Vasquez via Unsplash.

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