Interpreting Bounce Rate

Interpreting Bounce Rate

What to know about bounce rateWhat is bounce rate? In web terms, a bounce refers to any time a visitor comes to a site and leaves without clicking anything or engaging further with the site. This might be immediately or after a short time, and it's a figure marketers have written countless articles about.

Bounce rate as a percentage

Bounce rate is usually displayed as a percentage, meaning the ratio of visitors that came to the site that bounced versus those that stayed and read more. The natural question business owners and marketers alike ask is what sort of bounce rate is considered good.

We should aim for as close to zero as possible, right?

Ideally, sure. But as a site-wide number that's basically impossible. You might have certain pages or articles in which every reader continues to engage, but software like Google Analytics displays both site-wide bounce rate and page-by-page bounce rates. SEO leaders say that anything less than 70% is good as a site-wide statistic. It varies by industry, and while I agree that staying below this number is a good idea I'd caution readers not to get too hung up on this particular number.

Reasons for high bounce rate

Having a high bounce rate can be an indicator of weak content or a poor web design that simply isn't enticing readers to stay. If there are no calls to action or links prompting readers to continue reading your visitors may be confused about what to do next. It may sound silly; why should you need to tell someone to keep reading, right? But the thing is that visitors are looking for information about specific topics, and search engines can serve up fresh results with a couple clicks. You have to make it easy for them to keep going.

If your site design looks cheap, is too busy looking, or is hard to navigate you've got another big cause of bounces.

But sometimes your bounce rate is a product of the type of site you're running. If you're largely an informational site, for example, your bounce rate may be higher than service-based sites. If someone clicked on a page or article of yours that came up in their search results, they may only be interested in reading about that specific thing. After they find it, there may be no reason (in their mind) to read further, or maybe they want another perspective from elsewhere. There are still things you can do to lower the bounce rate on an informational site, but that's how it tends to roll.

Also, Analytics doesn't take into account the times when someone lands on your site, likes what they see, and calls the phone number they see listed right after. There was no further clicking needed, and that viewer was a conversion and not a bounce in reality. But Analytics may show it as a bounce if they leave, and this can be misleading.

These are some reasons I say not to focus too hard on the actual number. But...

Conclusions from page contrast

Okay, home stretch. Now that you understand all that you can dig into the real value that looking at bounce rate numbers has: how pages contrast with each other. Site-wide percentages give you a very general view point. Comparing one page to another is much more telling.

If one page has a 21% bounce rate but another has an 85%, it's worth proofreading the second one. If readers engaged so well with the first one, why not the second? You might try a stronger hook in the introduction, or work to make the key page information easier and faster to access. Maybe the page needs more images or subheadings to break up the written portions. Dense content is harder to read and looks intimidating, and can be a big factor in losing readers.

Also pay attention to the subject matter of the pages. Sometimes it's not your writing, your design, or your calls to action. Sometimes it's just not a subject your readership really cares about. If you're a service or product-oriented website, this can help you hone in on your top products and even gauge the effectiveness of advertising campaigns you've launched. Did viewership go up for things you promoted, and did that affect bounce rates?

How long were readers on the page? This is an equally important figure to observe. If a reader left a certain page without reading anything further on the site, it's useful to know if they had been reading for 5 minutes first or left immediately.

If they left immediately it's probably a design or content density issue. Maybe it's even poor loading speed. But if they were there for a bit and left it's more likely a call to action issue or the quality of the page itself. Maybe it didn't answer their questions or assure them about taking the next step.

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Brian Watkins

Brian Watkins

Web strategist, tech geek, and music lover. I've been in the marketing and web development industry for since 2007, combining technical and coding skills with creative writing to improve businesses' websites and better communicate their brands to their target customers. Having worked at both ends of this spectrum — the back end coding and the front end presentation, as well as business operations and strategizing with sales teams — I've gained some valuable insights in making all these pieces mesh.

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