Understanding Bounce Rate to Improve It

Bounce rate is a type of web analytics that measures the behavior of visitors to a website or page within the website. It is one of the most important metrics by which to understand how well the website is performing.

Bounce rate analysis is central to the most important data for Google Analytics and can help provide information that can draw in the right visitors for a particular business or platform.

What Is Bounce Rate On A Website?

The definition of bounce rate is a relatively easy one to understand compared to other web analytics concepts. That is not to say that the data is somehow superficial or unimportant, however, as there are many insights that bounce rate analysis can deliver.

Bounce rate provides information on the behavior of a website’s visitors, and in turn how well the website is engaging them. To bounce from a website is to leave it before interacting with the site in some way, such as leaving a comment or to visit another page on the site. In other words, to leave without engaging beyond the initial entering of the website. This is not always a bad thing or a sign that the website is not performing, however. More on that later.

Each visitor to a website can be seen as a drop of rain with the website presenting a surface that is either porous or waterproof. The goal of a website is to be as porous as possible, absorbing each visitor to the site with as relevant and interesting information as possible. Non-porous websites “Bounce” visitors immediately, often indicating that the website is not performing as required and flagging issues that can be addressed with further web analytics.

How Bounce Rate Is Calculated

Bounce rate analysis is a very straightforward formula that can be summed up in a simple equation.

The number of visitors who leave a website after only visiting the landing page (the page that led them to the website) and not interacting in any way, divided by the total number of visitors to the site.

So, for example, if 40 visitors leave without being “Absorbed” into further interaction with a site, and there have been 100 visitors overall, the bounce rate will be 40%.

There are a few main ways in which a visitor may “Bounce”.

  • By clicking on a link to another website
  • By clicking the back arrow that takes them to the previous page
  • By entering a new URL and hitting enter
  • By closing the browser or tab

The other way in which a visitor may be calculated as a bounce is if they stop interacting entirely and the session times out. This is calculated as anything over half an hour of being idle. Any further interaction after this time, even if it occurs within the site, is considered a new session.

Bounce Rate Vs Exit Rate

Bounce rate and exit rate are often thought to be synonyms, or at the very least that they ultimately provide the same data. This is a huge error and can lead to false bounce rate analysis and poor decision making.

The confusion is understandable, as both concepts do measure similar things on the face of it, the behavior of visitors specifically related to how they exit the website. The difference, however, is quite profound and requires an understanding of what both metrics measure.

As previously described, bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors that leave a website before interacting with it in any way. Exit rates provide information on specific pages of the website, measuring the percentage of visitors that left the site after viewing a specific page, no matter how many pages they have visited before in the session. In other words, all bounces are exits, but not all exits are bounces.

bounce rate 1

For example, let’s say a site has three pages, named 1, 2 and 3. From Monday to Friday the interaction might look something like this:

  • Monday – Visits pages 2, 3 and 1
  • Tuesday – Visits page 1
  • Wednesday Visits pages 1, 3 and 2
  • Thursday – Visits page 1
  • Friday – Visits pages 1, 2 and 3

Analysis shows:

  • Page 1 has a bounce rate of 50% and an exit rate of 60%
  • Page 2 has a bounce rate of 0% and an exit rate of 20%
  • Page 3 has a bounce rate of 0% and an exit rate of 20%

High exit rates of some pages can be a good sign. For example, within E-Commerce, leaving a page after completing a purchase is a good sign as it points towards a satisfactory outcome to a transaction.

Define Average Bounce Rates

Defining average bounce rates can be a complex task. This is largely due to the fact that what represents a high bounce rate for some, might be considered low for others. Each case can be highly specific and relate to industry, the purpose of the website or design, and it may even be a good sign if the bounce rate is high in some circumstances. Certainly, bounce rate can only provide some information about a website’s performance and it remains highly important to use other metrics to fully understand visitor behavior.

Industry standard bounce rates consider anything over 50% as high and anything between 20% and 50% as low, but it is essential to go beyond this broad definition of what is an acceptable bounce rate. Anything under 20% is likely an error and should be looked into.

What Is A Healthy Bounce Rate?

Rather than considering a good bounce rate, a better term would be a healthy bounce rate for each specific site and its unique goals. The goal of 20% to 50% is not without merit, but it can be a superficial reading of behavior. What is a good bounce rate for a landing page in E-Commerce, where browsing is encouraged and can lead to further sales, can be very different for information specific sites, such as online dictionaries, where browsing is unlikely and a high bounce rate can be an indication that the visitor is satisfied.

Some websites are literally a one-page design, so it is impossible to know what a bad bounce rate is when the design itself ensures it remains at 100%. In these circumstances, and those where a lot of information is presented on the landing page, other metrics, such as time spent on a page, can provide a more relevant insight. For example, it is always a bad sign if the visitor leaves within a matter of seconds, but if they remain on the page for multiple minutes, then the bounce rate might not be the best indicator that the site is not performing as desired.

it is usually recommended that a website defines what is considered a high bounce rate at the outset, informed by the site’s purpose, sector average and other metric tools. From here it will be easier to gain the appropriate insight that the data is providing.

How To Check The Bounce Rate Of Your Website

Once you have defined what you consider to be your desired website bounce rate, the next step is to understand where to find the data. Thankfully the data is very easy to find and comprehend in Google Analytics, which also provides other data to help understand how well a website is performing. Not being particularly familiar with Google Analytics should not deter anyone from using it as much of it is fairly self-explanatory once you have a grasp of the terms and purpose of the data.

First sign into the website’s Google Analytics page. Once there, select the “Audience Overview” tab, which also provides a variety of other metrics that can be of great use. From here you will need to choose whether you wish to read the entire website’s bounce rate or its individual pages, information on which is also provided. For the entire website, simply click on the bounce rate metric, which will also provide a graph for the defined time period. The time period can be changed as required by the calendar at the top right of the screen and includes a customizable option.

For individual pages, click “Behavior” followed by “All Pages”, which will then provide a list of your website’s pages and its specific bounce rate. Much like understanding the website’s unique bounce rate context, this is also the case for individual pages.

How To Reduce Website Bounce Rate

Once you have an understanding of the concept of bounce rate, the next question is “Why is my bounce rate so high?” And more importantly, “how do I lower bounce rate?”

There are many methods that can be utilized, including simple things like seeing which page is performing best and implementing some of its elements for those that have higher bounce rates. Some ideas will become self-explanatory, others might require a little trial and error.

Improve Content

One of the simplest ways to decrease the bounce rate of a page or even the entire site is to improve the content itself. In some ways this should be self-explanatory, the more interesting or better written the content, the more likely the reader will stick around and explore what else the site has to offer. If it’s E-Commerce, it can also engender trust, re-enforce the brand or entice further sales.

Relevancy is also key, if the website is primarily about camping, going off at unrelated tangents, such as politics, is likely to be met with disinterest and repel visitors instantly, all of which will undoubtedly lead to a high bounce rate. Content requires some planning and forethought if a site is going to “absorb” visitors. For inspiration, here is a helpful guide for generating content ideas.

Readability

Content isn’t just related to interesting posts or entertaining media, readability is also key. Text-heavy websites might be full of amazing information, but unless the page is formatted in a way that can draw the reader in, the first impression is one of intimidation, not interest.

Be sure to use some mixture of imagery, bullet points, subheadings, and quotes. This, as is always the case with content and design, is a balance so be sure to not over-complicate matters as this may also repel visitors.

Avoid The Use Of Pop-Ups

Nothing cheapens the feel of a site like the dreaded pop-up, and this isn’t just the case for ads. Pop-ups are distracting, appear pushy and ruin the flow of the experience for a user. There is nothing quite as infuriating as having to click away one or several flashing online forms while trying to read something that may be informative or stimulating.

Pop-ups do have their place, and when used at a minimum, they can help grow a subscriber list with a degree of effectiveness, but they are just as likely to send a potential customer running. What’s more, there are more effective measures that are not nearly as intrusive, such as Email campaigns or less pushy banners, that visitors can act upon once they’ve had a chance to engage with the content.

Targeted Keywords

Lowering bounce rate will always require a mixture of tactics, but one of the most reliable is the targeted use of keywords. The key to using keywords is relevancy, so it is not just a matter of throwing as many keywords at the problem as possible. There is nothing more likely to lead to a high bounce rate than keywords that draw in visitors that are not interested in a website’s content.

The best place to begin is the use of high-value traffic keywords, but how do you find out what these are for your site? Well, it isn’t as complex as you might think. Google Keyword Planner is the perfect tool to implement targeted keywords for your site, and it is free to use for Google account holders.

Lowering Bounce Rate With Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are the information that appears under the title of a website in a Google search. They add some depth to the description of a website presence on a search page and are therefore essential in garnering relevant traffic.

Meta descriptions do not rank by keyword but filter out traffic that will likely bounce, while also drawing in those more likely to interact. Remember, however, that meta descriptions only show up to 155 characters, and should, therefore, be concise and targeted to get the right information across.

Robin Nichols

Robin is a Content Marketing Manager at AB Tasty. Interested in the crossroads of technology and culture, her aim is to produce practical, on point content to help marketers of all stripes improve their conversion rates.

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