What is 'Bounce Rate' in Google Analytics

Bounce rate is a term you see a lot in Google Analytics reports. It's attached to visitors, sources, landing pages as well as the overall site summaries.

Bounce rate is one of the metrics that does cause confusion. What exactly does it mean? Is having a high bounce rate bad, and a low bounce rate good? What should my bounce rate be?

Bounce rate is a measure of a visit that only looked at a single page on the site.

All the bounce rate can tell you is that they only loaded a single page. It is used as a measure of engagement - how interested the visitors was in the page - but has major limitations due to the way it is calculated.

So is a high bounce rate bad?

The answer is...usually. We know that a bounce rate is someone leaving the site, but on it's own it says nothing of the users intent.  Here's two examples that would show as a 'bounce'.

Visitor one searches for 'blue widgets', and lands on the blue widgets product page, and then leaves. This is a negative bounce - assuming this is an e-commerce site, you want them to add a product to the basket and complete a purchase. A high bounce rate is bad.

Visitor two searches for 'the widget company phone number' and lands on the 'Contact Us' page, and then leaves. In this case, we assume they probably made a call. The visitor found exactly what they were looking for, so there was no need to search around the site - a high bounce rate is good!

E-commerce sites are generally simpler. For visitors looking for products, bounce rates should be low, and for visitors searching for help or customer services, it should be high.  Lead generation sites, on the other hand, may have a harder time determining what is a good bounce rate, so will have to segment their visitors further.

What can I do to get accurate bounce rates?

There are some changes you can make to ensure bounce rates are as accurate as possible.

  • Create thank-you pages for online submission forms, web chat or similar functions. As another page is loaded after they have completed them, it will not show as a bounce.
  • Consider using phone tracking software that simulates a page load when they call, such as Splice Insight, as visitors who make a phone call instead of taking another action will not show as a bounce.
  • You can add a dummy page load in Analytics after a user clicks on a mailto: email link
  • Consider using events and goals to track users who stay on a page for more than a certain time as an alternative to bounce rate for measuring engagement.

What if I use a single page web site?

Your bounce rate is going to be 100%, unless you have a 'thank you' after completing a web form. Instead of bounce rate, you will have to look at other ways of measuring engagement. Google Analytics will not give accurate measures of time on page, but some other Analytics packages do.

What should my bounce rate be?

This is really open to interpretation, but from my experience a 'good' bounce rate would be:

  • Below 30% for an e-commerce site
  • 30 to 40% for a lead generation site, but lower if you are tracking phone calls
  • Up to 50% for a blog site, but this will vary depending on the nature of the blog. Blogs with tightly focused topics will tend to get lower bounce rate, those with very disparate themes will be higher.
Above these numbers, the page is generally not providing the visitor with what they want. Have a look at the page content, and how it compares to what you know of the visitor. Are the terms most visitors search for strongly highlighted on the page using headings, bold text or bullet points? Is the next step the visitors has to take clear enough? Does the page generate trust by looking professional, especially for an e-commerce site? Are you using split testing or other methods to test different page looks and content to identify the most effective versions?

Any comments on this? What is your bounce rate - and what steps have you taken to improve it?

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