Google Analytics Bounce Rate Explained

googleanalyticsbouncerateIt’s nearly impossible to read any tutorial on digital marketing without coming across the word ‘bounce rate’. This web analytics metric has been mystifying new users for years since it was first implemented by Google Analytics. This would’ve all been fine if bounce rate wasn’t also intrinsic to determining the quality of a web page.

You can discover the importance of bounce rate in this course on Google Analytics mastery, or read on to get a layman’s explanation of this important metric.

What is Google Analytics Bounce Rate?

Here’s the definition straight from Google itself:

“Bounce rate is the percentage of visits that go to only one page before exiting a site”

Here’s a more in-depth explanation from Google’s Digital Marketing evangelist, Avinash Kaushik:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppgfjo6IIf4

Mathematically, it can be defined by the following equation:

Where:

Rb= Bounce Rate

Tv= Total number of visitors who viewed only one page

Te = Total number of visitors to the web page

Bounce Rate: The Layman’s Definition

It’s okay if the above sounded all Greek to you. Even experienced marketers struggle with bounce rate at times.

Suppose 100 people came to your website. Of these 100, 60 viewed browsed around for a few seconds, found nothing of interest, and hit the browser back button without clicking a single link.

In this case, you would have a bounce rate of 60% – that is, 60% of your visitors left without performing any action.

This is what bounce rate essentially is: the ratio of visitors who left without doing anything, vs. the total number of visitors.

Since the visitors basically “bounced” away without performing an action, we dub this metric “bounce rate”. ‘Action’, in this sense, can include:

  • Social: The visitor interacts with a social element on your website, such as clicking a Facebook Like button, following you on Twitter, pinning a picture on Pinterest, etc.

  • eCommerce: The visitor performs an eCommerce transaction – adding an item to cart, or clicking on an external payment processor like PayPal.

  • PageView: The visitor navigates to another webpage on the website.

  • Events: The visitor performs any other action on the website such as filling a form, signing up, etc. You can define custom events within Google Analytics as well.

What Constitutes a “Bounce”?

As we said before, any visitor who leaves a web page without performing any action contributes to the bounce rate. A visitor may be said to bounce in the five following scenarios:

  • The visitor leaves the site by clicking an external link on the web page.

  • The visitor presses the browser back button.

  • The visitor types in another URL into the web browser.

  • The visitor closes the browser window or tab.

  • The visitor doesn’t interact with the web page for a long time (usually 30 minutes). This is called a ‘session time-out’.

Analytics goes far beyond Google Analytics. This blueprint on web analytics will help you understand it all.

Why is Bounce Rate Important?

You might be wondering: what’s the big deal about bounce rate?

For starters, bounce rate tells you how useful visitors find your website.

Imagine that you’re running a hotel. A customer walks in, stands in the foyer for 30 seconds, sneers, and walks out immediately. Without saying a single word, the customer has told you that he does not like your hotel – maybe the décor was off, maybe the staff was not welcoming enough, or maybe he spotted a giant cobweb right next to the door.

Based on this, you can start investigating and making changes to prevent similar reactions from customers in the future.

This is exactly what bounce rate does for your business: it tells you how useful, entertaining or pertinent your website is to visitors.

Besides pleasing visitors, there are a couple of more reasons why you should aim for a high bounce rate:

  • SEO: Although Google keeps its search algorithm under tight wraps, there is strong evidence to suggest that bounce rate plays a role in determining your webpage ranking. Theoretically, poor quality web pages have high bounce rates. If your website has a very high bounce rate within its cohort, it might be ranked lower than similar competitors.

  • Advertising: Jacking up that bounce rate is a must if you’re in the publishing business. Advertisers equate low bounce rate with higher visitor engagement. Which means they’ll be more likely to pay higher rates for your ad inventory.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

Bounce rates vary widely from industry to industry and web page to web page. Typical bounce rates for different types of pages are:

Type of Web Page

Average Bounce Rate

Landing Page

70-90%

eCommerce Sites

20-40%

Web Portals

10-30%

Business/Services Websites

40-50%

Content Websites (Blogs, News websites, etc.)

40-60%

Is High Bounce Rate Always Bad?

Definitely no! For some web pages (such as landing pages), a high bounce rate is actually desirable. It means that visitors found what they were looking for and left as soon as possible. The same is true for websites with highly specific information (dictionaries, statistics websites, etc.).

A high bounce rate is a cause for alarm for websites which depend on visitor engagement – blogs, news websites, retail sites, web portals. For others, the bounce rate should be read in context. If the purpose of the web page is to get user information as quickly as possible, then a high bounce rate is completely acceptable.

How Can You Improve Bounce Rate?

Improving bounce rate is an altogether different field of study that comes under UI, UX and conversion optimization. You can learn more about it in this crash course on conversion optimization.

For starters, you can do the following:

  • Make sure that your site is clean and easy to navigate.

  • Avoid putting too many ads ‘above the fold’ (i.e. above the viewing screen area).

  • Ensure that your website loads quickly.

  • Keep external links below the fold, or have them open in a new tab/window.

  • Offer highly relevant content.

  • Avoid using pop-up ads.

Understanding bounce rate can be complicated,  but it is essential to mastering Google Analytics. This free course on getting started with Google Analytics will give you all the basic knowledge you need to understand the many different metrics used in GA.

What are your personal favorite tips for improving bounce rate? Share them with us in the comments below!