Bounce rate on google analytics – understanding the data

Bounce rate is an important metric in Google Analytics but how well do you understand the figures? Here is everything you need to know to understand bounce rate.

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The ‘bounce rate’ is a metric that measures how many visitors enter a site and do not progress beyond the landing page before leaving… or more simply put, it is a single-page session. It is measured as a percentage and can be calculated by taking the total number of single page visits to a site (or page) divided by the total number of entrances to a site (or page), multiplied by 100.

 

BOUNCE RATE =  (Total single page visits / Total number of entrances ) x 100

 

Why do site visitors bounce?

Visitors bounce for a whole host of reasons such as:

  • Following an external link off the page
  • Returning to search results
  • Typing something new into the URL or search bar
  • Being inactive for a certain period of time
  • Closing the browser
  • Phone or laptop running out of battery!

Bounce rate by industry

There are however plenty of statistics out there which give a breakdown of average bounce rate by industry.

It’s important not to get hung up on such data, as even when grouped by sector, the benchmarks can be too broad to make any meaningful comparisons. A bounce rate for ‘financial services’ for example, might include everyday personal finance products such as credit cards, mortgages and car insurance, through to stocks and shares and pensions, all of which may vary.

Bounce rate by channel

Bounce rates don’t just differ by industry, they also differ by channel. 

Site entrances from paid adverts tend to have a much higher bounce rate than a visitor who arrives via organic search. Display advertising, in particular, tends to have an extremely high bounce rate – especially when the ad is a pop-up or poorly placed and served to a disinterested audience. A user who has unintentionally clicked on these ads will do everything in their power to quickly get back to the content they were actually intending to view.

Social media often has a fairly high bounce rate too, as the user tends to browse on their platform of choice and sporadically selects other content to view from third parties, but returns to their feed immediately afterwards. This doesn’t mean the user is disinterested but they often don’t venture past the specific content share they saw in the first place. 

It’s for this reason that the bounce rate of a blog post (or the blog as a whole) is often relatively high compared to site averages. It’s a little disparaging for content producers but is a common phenomenon.

The more engaged the audience, the more likely it is that they’ll be interested in the other content that a site has to offer. Therefore customers who have signed up to a newsletter, or a visitor whose long tail search is answered well, are much more likely to engage with other pages and therefore lower the bounce rate, than someone who casually comes across a site for the first time via a Facebook post.

Bounce rate by device

Bounce rate is also affected by device. 

It is fairly obvious that a mobile user is generally more flighty – flipping between apps and tasks with a simple swipe. In general, tasks that are more complicated, or that require in-depth reading or research, are often undertaken on a laptop or desktop PC. Tablets fall somewhere in between.

Bounce rates follow suit here so mobile searches generally have a higher bounce rate, tablets are a little lower and desktop searches are generally lower again.

So how do you go about assessing whether your bounce rate is too high?

When a site owner refers to a bounce rate, they tend to focus on the rate for their whole site but different pages have different purposes and so it can be quite misleading and unhelpful to group all of them together.

Instead, think about the reasons people bounce away from your site or specific page(s). Unfortunately there is no Google Analytics tool for this so it requires common sense and some digging around into other areas of GA. The main reasons tend to be:

  1. There is a problem with the site. This could include the fact that the quality of the content is poor so the user wasn’t interested. Perhaps the page loaded too slowly and the user wouldn’t wait or there may be other more technical errors that cause a problem with the page. 
  2. You didn’t provide sign posts to help the user find other related content. Were there internal links pointing to other areas of the site to help steer visitors to other pages? These need to be supported with additional calls to action and ‘next steps’ to funnel people around. 
  3. You’ve set false expectations. The page might be of high quality but it wasn’t what the visitor was looking for – which could potentially mean you’re attracting the wrong type of traffic.
  4. And finally a good reason for a high bounce rate – users have found what they needed and left. E.g. they may have been looking for your phone number and found it on the landing page. That is a positive engagement and far better than having to trawl through the site trying to find the phone number.

Types of bounce rate

It’s worth bearing in mind that types of bounces will vary. A hard bounce rate can be identified by looking at the time on page stats. If a visitor bounces almost immediately, either something went wrong during the page load or they really can’t see anything that interests them.

A medium bounce rate can be identified as someone who lingers on the site for just a few seconds whilst they find what they need. For example, someone searching for ‘Browser Media address’ would be served with our ‘contact us’ page. The fact that they leave after finding the information they need is not a problem. Job done.

A soft bounce is when a visitor spends more time on the page than in the two scenarios above. They may have engaged with the content by reading some or all of it, as well as clicking on additional features such as product information and customer reviews. 

This is the group that needs investment as they might be potential future customers. Obviously there are a whole range of tactics that can be employed at this point so consider newsletter signups, discount codes, promoting your social media channels, and retargeting, to keep them updated.

In short, a bounce rate is much more nuanced than the calculation itself belies. Don’t get lured in to other people’s benchmarks too much – focus on lowering your own rate by segmenting the pages and deciding which are ripe for improvements.

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