Master the Skill of Proper Bounce Rate Interpretation and Make the Right Moves

| Google Analytics

Interpreting bounce rate is not as easy as it looks.  Novices have a hard time understanding this metric that sometimes leads to misinterpretations, leading to wrong business decisions.

That’s not what we want. We want to accurately and properly interpret bounce rate for us to make the right business decisions. But before we arrive with a proper interpretation, we must first understand what bounce rate is.

Bounce Rate defined by Google

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions or the percentage of all sessions in your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

Bounce is the single-page session on your site. It is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exists without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.

To put it more simply…

Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of visitors who land on your website and do nothing at all on the page they entered. They entered the site and then left (“bounced” off) rather than continue using it—a user bounces when there has been no engagement with the landing page and the visit ends with a single page visit.

Specific ways how a user may bounce

A visitor may bounce by:

  • Clicking the “Back” button to leave the site
  • Typing a new URL
  • Closing an open window or tab
  • Clicking on a link to a page on a different website
  • Session timeout

Bounce rate is for what?

Bounce rate can be used to help determine the effectiveness or the performance of a landing page on piquing the interest of visitors.  It can indicate the quality of a webpage and/or the quality of your visitors. Quality of visitors means whether they fit the purpose of your website and business. Are they reading? Signing up? Buying?

How to interpret Bounce Rate

First, understand that interpretation of the bounce rate measure should be relevant to the website’s business goals and purpose. The height of bounce rate and whether that’s good or bad really depends on the purpose of the page. This means that having a high bounce rate is NOT ALWAYS a sign of poor performance. Bounce rate should be interpreted with the website’s (or webpage) objectives in mind.

Websites sharing specific knowledge on a particular subject (dictionary entry, recipes) might have an objective that can be met without viewing more than one page. Making the bounce rate may not be as meaningful for determining good performance.

If the purpose of the page is 100% to inform, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing at all. Yes, we want them to read more articles, subscribe to the newsletter and so on. But if their goal why they visited a page is just to read a post or to find an address, or meaning of a particular word, then it is not surprising that they leave the page after they’re done reading. Take note that even in this case, Google Analytics treats the legitimate visit as a bounce.

Examples:

A visitor is looking for a synonym or definition of a particular word. He typed it in the search bar and–poof!—websites relevant to the query shows up. He enters an online dictionary site on that word’s definition or list of synonyms. After he finds the meaning or list of synonyms, he left the website by closing the tab or typing a new URL in the address bar.

Similarly, a visitor might want to read about a specific news article so he enters a news website covering that story. After reading, he might leave the website by closing the tab, etc.

If a visitor is looking for a simple snack recipe and he enters an online recipe website, after getting the procedure, ingredients and other things needed, he closes the browser and starts cooking.

These examples might have a bounce rate above 80%. However, they may still be considered successful.

How can we consider a high bounce rate a success?

There are cases that the users will GET EVERYTHING they are looking for from the page of your site (like on the above examples), especially if your website is strongly optimized for relevant keywords (SEO) and provides unique and quality content that really answers their query, enticing them to stay for minutes. Or perhaps you have a landing page that only requires the user to complete a short lead form.

Again, Bounce rate should be interpreted with the website’s (or web pages) purposes in mind.

To determine if the high bounce rate is nothing to worry about, you’ll want to check the TIME SPENT on PAGE and AVERAGE SESSION DURATION metrics in Google Analytics.

If the visitor is spending a couple of minutes or more on the page, then that’s a positive sign. Though they bounce and do nothing else on your website, they stayed there for the necessary amount of time. They browsed your content and found it relevant to their search. This also sends a good signal to Google that the users found your webpage highly relevant to the specific query the user searched for.

If you still want to lower the bounce rate somehow, then consider enticing the reader to read some of your related blog posts, check other services or products by showing related posts or featured services and products (at the bottom or sidebar of the page) after filling out the form or reading a post.

However!

If the purpose of a page is to engage visitors to browse through your site, then a high bounce rate is really a bad thing. A page, for example, has a goal to get visitors to subscribe to the newsletter. If that page has a high bounce rate, then you might need to optimize the page itself. Make sure to add a clear call-to-action, a catchy phrase like ‘Subscribe and Thrive!” button as these could lower the bounce rate.

My website’s purpose is to Convert

If your website’s purpose is to convert then bounce rate can be used as a metric to measure success. Let’s say you modified a particular page, change its design, added a call to action button, etc. with the hope that it will convert better, then make sure to watch the bounce rate of that page. If the bounce rate is increasing, then the modification done might be wrong and it could explain the low conversion rate you have.

Check the bounce rate of your MOST POPULAR pages. Which pages have a high bounce rate? Which pages have it low? Do a comparison. See what the pages with low bounce rate have that the high pages do not. Apply the necessary changes and see monitor the progress.

For an e-commerce website, the bounce rate should be interpreted in correlation with the purchase conversion rate, providing that the bounces are the visits where no purchases were made. This means that the higher the bounce rate, the lower the conversion.  Typically, an average bounce rate for e-commerce is around 60% with top performers at a 35% average.

WAIT! Be careful when drawing conclusions

We have seen a lot of websites with a bounce rate that is abnormally low. Ring the alarm bells especially if you do not expect this low rate of bounce. This probably means that Google Analytics is not correctly implemented. Usually, an abnormal bounce rate might be caused by an event that triggers the Google Analytics Server. Think of pop-ups, videos auto-playing, or an event you have implemented that fires after 1 second. Also, check where you put in the Google Analytics code. The snippet should be pasted before the closing </head> tag into your website template page.

A quick way to verify your setup of Google Analytics code is by using the Google Tag Assistant.  It is a free Chrome browser extension that shows us whether Google Analytics tags or the tracking codes are firing correctly. Just look for it on the Chrome Store then install.

Here is an example of kids of errors Google Tag Assistant may reveal:

Before you Bounce

Remember that Bounce rate is a metric you can use to analyze your marketing efforts. You can also use it to measure if the website is living up to your visitor’s expectation and meeting its sole purpose (to inform, to sell, etc). But Bounce rate should be interpreted properly, for a high bounce rate is not automatically a bad indicator. Again, we should interpret bounce rate with the website’s purpose in mind. As we have seen, visitors bouncing from a website does not necessarily mean a bad thing but nevertheless, you want people to properly to engage with your site. So, you can use the Bounce rate to decide which pages need more attention and make the right business decisions.

Meeting your visitor’s expectations and making your pages more enticing all leads to creating a profitable website and that’s what we want.

With the right interpretation of bounce rate, right decisions follow. Master the properly interpreting bounce rate today and enjoy making the right decisions tomorrow.