What is a Bounce Rate and Why Do You Care?
The Bounce Rate as recorded by Google is a number that comes up in most website statistics summaries. But like many statistics, this one can be misleading if you don’t know the whole story.
At first glance, the Bounce Rate seems obvious. It’s when people come to your site and then bounce (as in, leave). In English colloquialism, this sounds like teenagers getting to a party, finding it “lame”, and deciding to leave. But don’t worry, your bounce rate isn’t rating your business’s level of “coolness”.
Instead, Bounce Rate is measuring whether people are only visiting one page of your website and then leaving.
Bounce Rate Situations
There are a few ways Google tracks people leaving your site. The visitor:
- clicks the back button
- closes the browser
- types a new URL
- does nothing and the session times out
A high bounce rate can explain both of these very different situations:
- In the first, a visitor goes to your site, doesn’t find what they want and leave.
- Site Visit Length: 5 seconds
- In the second, a visitor goes to your site, finds exactly what they need and leave.
- Site Visit Length: 3 minutes
Both of these are viewed by Google as “bouncing” even though the second visitor had a positive view of your site and spent several minutes reading your article. Google only counts visitors as not bouncing if they go to more than one page on your site.
Google only counts visitors as not bouncing if they go to more than one page on your site.
Obviously, just viewing your bounce rate then won’t give you the entire picture. You’ll want to combine your bounce rate with your Time on Page statistics. Let’s look at two situations below.
Bounce Rate and Time on Page
If visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for and leaving, you’ll want to analyze a few different aspects of that page.
First, does the excerpt for the page accurately reflect what the page is about? In WordPress, the excerpt section is below the editing area for the post. This might also set the excerpt for the blog post on your main blog post page, but it depends on the theme you’re using.
If you’re using Yoast for SEO (the most popular SEO plugin), you can specifically set the Google’s results excerpt in the Yoast SEO box on that post’s edit page. Many times, Google will display the excerpt you add here (which is coded into the header of the page dynamically) directly below the page title in Google search results. Note the excerpts in the page results below:
The first one does not have an excerpt set, so Google’s just pulling text from the page. People might click, but it’s far more likely that they’ll immediately leave because they don’t know how the website relates to their search terms. They’ll end up with a higher Bounce Rate and a lower Time on Page which is not good.
In contrast, take a look at the last one “BounceU”. The excerpt there tells you (along with the title), exactly what they do before you even click the link. You’re not going to visit the page if you don’t want a bounce house for a kid’s birthday party. They’ll most likely end up with a lower Bounce Rate and higher Time on Page which is good!
Second, you’ll want to take a look at what you’re providing vs. what you’re promising. Is the title accurately reflecting what you’re providing? This isn’t about the keywords you set in Meta Keywords (which Google actually ignores). This is about the words that are used frequently in the page in the title, the summary, and tags and categories in posts. If your page promises information about Bounce Rate, but your article is short and doesn’t really provide quality information, visitors will bounce.
If your page promises information about Bounce Rate, but your article is short and doesn’t really provide quality information, visitors will bounce.
Lowering Your Bounce Rate
Even if visitors are finding what they’re looking for on that first page (which is great!), you still want to entice them to read other articles, find out about you, and just generally take a look around your website. The longer they stay and look around, the more exposure they get to your brand and thus the more likely it is that they’ll remember you when they need what you provide.
There are a few things you can do on your site to persuade them to click to another page. First, you can add a section at the bottom of blog posts for “other posts you might like” (see the bottom of this post!). You can also link to other articles within your post. For example, within this paragraph I could link to Other Google Statistics You’re Reading Wrong. Additionally, you can add a Call to Action to your pages with a high level of traffic so that you can monetize that traffic.
Your Site, Bounce Rates, and Time on Page
So now that you understand what Bounce Rate actually is and how it relates to the Time on Page number, let’s take a look at analyzing your site.
First, take a look at your overall Bounce Rate. You can find that in your Google Analytics page, under Behavior -> Overview. Here’s the general levels for Bounce Rate:
- 20% or lower: whoops! There’s something wrong with your Google Analytics implementation
- 21-40%: Excellent
- 41-60%: Average
- 61-80%: High, but depends on the page
- 81% or higher: Really High – there might be a problem (or you don’t have much content on your site)
Under 20%? Are you seeing a Bounce Rate of under 20% on your site? Most likely there’s something wrong with your implementation of Google Analytics on your site. For example, if the Google tracking code is added twice to each page (very common mistake), then it will never look like anyone leaves after one page! Every one page people visit will be counted as a visit to two pages. Obviously not a good thing.
Next, take a look at your individual page Bounce Rates by going to Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages. You’ll see a chart with all your pages and your Bounce Rate for each. If you have a page with an abnormally high bounce rate (above 70%), you’ll either want to add a Call to Action on that page so you can direct those users to whatever you’re selling, or provide additional cross-links to other articles that this specific audience might be interested in. Engage them so they’ll stay!
The Bottom Line for Bounce Rates
Aim for a Bounce Rate between 20% – 40% on major pages on your site, especially your homepage.
The Bounce Rate for your website is important – but make sure you view it specifically with Time on Site. Aim for a Bounce Rate between 20% – 40% on major pages on your site, especially your homepage. Aim for higher Time on Site numbers as well and you’ll know that you’re engaging visitors and providing quality information.
While this article specifically relates to Bounce Rates, keep in mind that any statistic from Google’s analytics should be viewed in conjunction with the rest of the statistics. Viewing and analyzing one might lead to erroneous conclusions and wasted effort.