What is a Bounce Rate Anyway?

It’s no secret that digital marketing is about growth. Users, page views, goal completions; many of the metrics we use to measure website performance are related to quantity. While we certainly want to strive for growth, it’s just as important to consider the overall quality of website traffic. The most prolific, and likely most misunderstood, quality metric provided in Google Analytics is the bounce rate. But what is a bounce rate anyway?

The most common definition of a bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a site who leave the site after viewing only one page. For the most part, this is a functional definition of a bounce rate, but it’s not entirely accurate. While all bounces are single page sessions, not all single page sessions are bounces. A bounce is any session where only one request to Google Analytics was triggered. Say, for instance, a user lands on your home page from a mobile device and uses the click to call function. If your Google Analytics account is set up to track click to call, this session is not a bounce, even if the user only visited one page. A more accurate definition of a bounce rate is the percentage of sessions where the user did not interact with a website.

What is a “Good” Bounce Rate?

All too often, digital marketers treat a bounce as the online equivalent of walking ten feet into a store, realizing that the store is on fire, and then turning around and walking out. The reality is that no matter how user-friendly or correctly optimized your website is, you’ll always have a significant number of bounces. Generally, an overall website bounce rate of under 20% is considered nearly impossible, anything under 40% is considered excellent, and anything above 70% is cause for concern.

These benchmarks are worth keeping in mind but focusing on your website’s overall bounce rate can be misleading. Instead, evaluating the bounce rate of individual pages in relation to their function is much more powerful. Certain types of websites and web pages are going to have high bounce rates. What is a healthy bounce rate for your website? Well, as with all things digital marketing, it depends. To know whether a bounce rate is healthy or not, you need to understand why users are bouncing.

Why do Users “Bounce”?

There are three main reasons for a user to bounce. First, a user lands on a web page, realizes that the site is not what they are looking for, and immediately leaves. Second, a user arrives on a web page, the page is what they are looking for, but they find it difficult or unpleasant to use. Third, a user lands on a web page, can achieve their goal on the landing page, and leaves satisfied without needing to venture on to another page. This third type of bounce is particularly common for blogs, case studies, news articles, and other information-based pages. Not all bounces are bad. Sometimes a bounce is the result of a job well done.

To illustrate my point, let’s think about Wikipedia. Wikipedia is one of the largest, most popular, and most trusted websites on the planet despite most of its pages having incredibly high bounce rates. Its purpose is to inform, and many people can find what they need on Wikipedia on the first page they view. It’s also worth noting that bounce rate is not a search engine ranking factor. Wikipedia dominates search results pages despite high bounce rates. If your website contains informational content, higher bounce rates on those pages are not usually a cause for concern.

But chances are, you’re not running an online encyclopedia. Your website exists to generate leads and increase sales. If your home page, category pages, or product pages have bounce rates on par with your more informational pages, it’s time for you or your digital marketing specialist to do a little digging. As I mentioned before, there are three core reasons for a user to bounce. These three reasons are the guide to determining the cause of a high bounce rate. Keep an eye out for my next blog post where I’ll discuss my process for improving bounce rates and increasing quality of traffic.

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Written by Brandt Tharp, Digital Marketing Support Specialist at Ecreativeworks


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