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What is Bounce Rate?

Today, in marketing, a lack of data usually isn’t the problem. Quite the opposite. Generally there is too much—from reach to viewable impressions, CTR (click-through-rate) to video view rate, cost per click to cost per acquisition. How do you cut through the noise to what really matters? Well, for starters, it’s important to know what metrics are available and to know what they actually mean.

One question we get a lot is “what is bounce rate?” (Quickly followed up by “what is a good bounce rate?”)

This question probably stems from the fact that bounce rate is on the home page of Universal Google Analytics. Google is giving it a prominent position, so it must be important, right? So to help you start weeding through all those metrics, lets talk about bounce rate—what it is, whether it matters, and how to improve it.

What is bounce rate?

A bounce, as defined by Google, is “a single-page session on your site.” In other words, it’s when someone comes to your website, sees only that one initial landing page, and then leaves the site.

For example, let’s say you’re running a Google Ads campaign to get individuals to open a new business checking account at your financial institution. John sees your ad and clicks on it. He’s directed to a special landing page on your site. John lands on that page and eventually clicks the back button.

It does not matter how long John is on that landing page—10 seconds or 10 minutes—or how much of the landing page he sees. In other words, whether he immediately clicks the back button or reads all the way to the bottom and then clicks the back button, it’s a bounce.

Bounce rate is the percentage of times a bounce occurs on your website. You can calculate the bounce rate by dividing all the single-page sessions by all sessions. So if your checking account landing page gets 100 sessions and 10 of those sessions don’t visit any other pages, your bounce rate would be 10%.

Pro tip: A session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. So when someone visits a website they are starting a session and during that time period they may view multiple pages, click on things, or even make a purchase. All of those actions occur during that one session and are grouped together. This Google Analytics help article provides more information.

What is a good bounce rate?

It depends on your website and your business. (Yes, we know, that’s a frustrating non-answer.) Unfortunately, there is no absolute number you can use to judge your website’s bounce rate.

A high bounce rate may indicate something is wrong with the website. Especially if there is a high bounce rate on a specific page while the rest of the site has a low bounce rate.

Going back to our example with John, maybe that landing page does not match the ad he clicked. John clicked an ad for a special new business checking account but the landing page is talking about new business loans. Whoa! He’s in the wrong place … so he leaves.

However, remember, bounce rate is defined as a single-page session. So while we know John only went to one page, what if he took a valuable action while he was on that one page?

Let’s say your landing page is spot on, but the only way someone can open a new business checking account is to call the bank, make an appointment and then visit a location in person. John sees the phone number right there on the landing page, so he calls to make an appointment and then leaves the website.

Google Analytics doesn’t know he made that call. Once he leaves the landing page, it’s a bounce … even though you just got an appointment from your Google Ads campaign. In this instance, you don’t really care that John bounced, right?

Another example of an inflated bounce rate is if you have a login option on your site that directs to a different domain. Let’s say your financial institution has an online banking portal for customers. If someone comes to the homepage, immediately logs in, and is redirected to that online banking portal, they just bounced. This scenario could obviously lead to a lot of bounces every day.

The type of business you have and how your website is set up will factor heavily into what you should be looking for in terms of bounce rate. We recommend that you evaluate bounce rate in conjunction with other metrics (such as conversions). In addition, pay attention to outliers; if there’s one page with a much higher bounce rate than the rest of the site dig in and try to figure out why.

Pro tip: If there are important actions someone can take on your website, such as watching a video, you can set up event tracking. By default, when an event occurs, Google counts that as an interaction and even if the visitor only hits that one page, he or she will not be counted as a bounce. However, if you want to track events but not impact your bounce rate you can tell Google to see it as a non-interaction event. That means even when the event fires the individual must hit more than one page or it is still a bounce.

Does bounce rate matter?

So, wait, there’s no good answer to what is a good bounce rate? Does this mean bounce rate doesn’t matter? Umm, not quite.

As mentioned above, bounce rate can indicate that there is a problem with your website as a whole or a specific page. Maybe something is taking too long to load or doesn’t match the user’s expectations.

Another factor to consider when thinking about bounce rate is SEO (search engine optimization). A lot of people will tell you that bounce rate is part of Google’s algorithm when deciding who shows up where in the search results. For a variety of reasons, this does not technically appear to be true.

What Google does appear to be considering for SERP (search engine results page) rankings is what’s known as “pogo-sticking.”

As we’ve already talked about, a high bounce rate is not inherently an indicator of a bad website. Individuals could be converting on that landing page or moving to a different domain (like the online banking portal). What is an indication of a bad website is when someone leaves the site unsatisfied, goes back to the search results, and clicks on another organic result right away.

Google actually has a patent called “search pogosticking benchmarks,” and according to that patent, the search engine is tracking the number of times search results are selected before a user doesn’t come back to the SERP as well has how many additional results are clicked after your website was selected.

If Google concludes your website is causing pogo-sticking, you may be in trouble from an organic rankings standpoint. While high bounce doesn’t necessarily equal pogo-sticking, it could, so be sure to evaluate pages with high bounce rates to ensure you’re providing an optimal user experience.

How do I improve my bounce rate?

How to improve bounce rate will depend on what’s causing the high bounce rate in the first place. This is where an analytics deep dive is needed. You’ll want to look for answers to questions such as:

  • What is the speed of the site or the page in question? A slow load time could be causing people to flee.
  • Is the bounce rate higher on mobile devices? If so, evaluate the site or page from a mobile device to look for issues.
  • Is the conversion rate on the page in question also high? If so, the bounce rate may not be anything to worry about.

If you need help understanding your bounce rate or any of the metrics related to your site, St. Gregory can help. Our Google Analytics certified digital marketing specialists would love to help you implement a tracking plan that provides the exact data you need. Contact us today for a consultation.