Bounce Rate – What it Means & How to Use it

Bounce Rate

If you’re a blogger or run a website, then you’ve likely seen or heard of the term ‘Bounce Rate’. Whether you’ve just come across it in conversation, or you see the number in your own website analytics – you need to know what it means. If you’re like me, you’ve seen it for a while in your own back end analytics, but never taken the time to look into what it really means.

With the launch of my new site, and my growing interest into how websites really work, I finally took the time to find out what Bounce Rate means a little while ago, and I’m glad I did, because it’s given me some really useful insights about my blog and my readers.

Bounce Rate

What is Bounce Rate?

In the simplest terms, Bounce Rate is how often people ‘bounce’ away from your site. Technically, it’s the percentage of people that visit one page on your site and then leave without clicking or engaging anywhere else. An 100% bounce rate means that everyone who visits your site leaves after visiting the page they land on. A 0% bounce rate would mean that every single person who lands on your site clicks somewhere to visit another page. So, the lower your bounce rate, the better.

There are four possible actions that a user can take that will be considered a bounce:
1. Clicking the back button
2. Typing in a new URL
3. Clicking a link to an external site
4. Closing the window entirely
5. Doing nothing – because a session times out after 30 inactive seconds

What is a good bounce rate?

Most website experts suggest that you shouldn’t compare your bounce rate to other sites, but instead, you should only try to improve upon your own site’s bounce rate. So, if your bounce rate was 95% in April, you should try to improve on that number in May.

If you’re looking for an ‘average’ number to measure yourself against, the average bounce rate according to Google is 40%. But wait, don’t freak out if your number is higher than this – bounce rates differ by industry and website type, and the average bounce rate for blogs is between 70-98%. Of course, different types of websites have different ‘average’ bounce rates, because we interact with them differently. Clothing retailers have low bounce rates because people usually browse around at least a little before leaving, even if they aren’t going to buy anything. Blogs have typically higher bounce rates because most users are people who only come to read a particular article that peaked their interest.

What causes a high bounce rate?

There are two generally accepted reasons that your website might have a high bounce rate – either it is difficult to use or the user was not able to find the information they were looking for. Both of these things would cause a user to leave your site almost immediately. However, the way I see it, there are many more possibilities. Here are all of them, and they aren’t all necessarily negative.

1. Usability – your site is hard for a reader to use or navigate, so they leave
2. Expectation – users can’t find the information they were expecting or hoping to find, so they leave
3. Satisfaction – users were only looking for a specific piece of information, and they found it on your site, so they leave
4. Engagement – Google analytics measures bounce rate in only one way – if a user clicks on something else on your page. However, it doesn’t take into account how long a user has been on your site. If a user takes ten minutes to read your whole article, bookmarks the page for later, and then leaves, it still counts as a ‘bounce’ because they haven’t clicked and visited another page on your site.
5. Implementation – if your bounce rate is high when you know you have a lot of good traffic, you could have a problem with your google tracking code. You need to make sure it’s implemented correctly on every page for your bounce rate to track every page properly.

How to improve your bounce rate

Work on Expectations – One of the biggest frustrations users encounter on the web is when the information they are looking for is not where it should be. We’ve all encountered this before. We google something, a list of sites come up on Google, and we expect all of those sites to have the answer. If we visit a site and the answer isn’t there, and the content is maybe not even related to our question, it’s very frustrating. To remedy this problem, make sure your advertisements, your keywords, and your metadata is all accurately related to your content. Sure, throwing in a random keyword that you know is popular right now might bring traffic to your site, but it will also annoy users when they realize that keyword isn’t what your content is about. This will also make sure that you are attracting the right kind of user to your site – people who are actually interested in reading what you write.

Improve Usability – You also need to make sure that your site has good usability. This means it loads quickly, text is easy to read, images are clear and attractive, navigation is easy to use, there is a clear call to action, your design is responsive, and information is easy to find. I’ll be writing a post on usability in a little while – because there is so much that you can do to improve upon it.

Analyze your Data – Though your main Google Analytics Dashboard will give you an average Bounce Rate for your entire site, you can view bounce rates for every page on your site, which will help you a great deal. Sign into Google Analytics, then go to Behaviour > Site Content > All pages. This will give you a list of your most popular pages, and a unique bounce rate for each. Look at the pages with the highest bounce rates and think about what is on that pages that could be causing the problem. Compare their content to pages with low bounce rates to learn how to improve.

Create a Call to Action – If your readers have to think about where to go next after landing on your page, the easiest option for them is just going back or closing the window. Don’t let them make this choice – instead, tell them where to go. Create a call to action that let’s them know where you want them to go, and give them a reason to go there. If you do it right, this is a great way to reduce your bounce rate as people will click there without even thinking about it.

Why your bounce rate might be deceptive

One thing to remember though – is that a high bounce rate does not necessarily mean your site sucks. There are a few things that could cause a high bounce rate, but be good for your readership overall. Maybe people are visiting every day, only to read your latest posts and then leave. Maybe people are finding exactly the information they want on your site, and that’s all they need. Maybe people are bookmarking your site for later and then leaving. You need to consider your bounce rate in relation to other analytics to know for sure. The best way to tell is to look at your bounce rate and how long people are staying on your site. If a page has a high bounce rate, but people are staying on it for 5 minutes – you know they’re reading, and probably enjoying, your post, so the bounce rate isn’t as problematic.

Many people, bloggers especially, look at the visitor count on their site and take that number to mean everything – but this is just not the case. Would you rather have 100 visitors and a 90% bounce rate, or 50 visitors with a 30% bounce rate? I know I would rather have the latter. A lower bounce rate means you are attracting the right kind of reader, and that they are actually interested and finding value in what you have to say. On The Crafty Frugaler I had decent visitor numbers, but my bounce rate was high. Now on The White Corner Creative, my visit number is not as high yet, but my bounce rate is great – so I know people are actually finding value in what I write now. I’d choose a low bounce rate over high visit counts, any day of the week.

8 thoughts on “Bounce Rate – What it Means & How to Use it”

  1. Great article! Thank you for this information. It can be so hard to understand all the lingo that goes along with analytics and statistics!

  2. Thanks for explaining this. I’ve heard the term a lot but have never had it broken down this way. It is good to know that I dont have necessarily aim for one particular number, just learn to interpret the information and use it to make my reader’s experience even better. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome Elle! Glad to help. It’s definitely not all about the numbers when it comes to bounce rate – knowing how to use it is vital! Thanks for reading!

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