Bounce rate, is it really that important?

by | Mar 15, 2017 | Google Analytics | 0 comments

When you look into your analytics one of the first metrics you probably look at is your bounce rate right?

It’s probably one of the most common start points when trying to work out what going on with our website. But is really all that useful?

Let’s start with understanding what bounce rate means.

The definition of bounce rate is “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.” 

So if you see a bounce rate of 80% that means 80% of visitors to that page left without moving on to another page in your site.  So you need to ask the question “Why are people leaving so quickly?“.

Perhaps the page they landed on gave them everything they needed. Maybe it gave them nothing at all. Maybe your content was so boring they couldn’t wait to leave.

But, unless they come to your website just for your phone number the chances are you want them to hang around, you want them look through your content. After all, the longer they stay on your site, the more they get to know which builds trust and and helps you become the go to place for information – and that’s just got to be good for business, right?

Here comes the first problem with bounce rate.

When you look at yours from your dashboard, you are looking at average bounce rate. It’s the bounce rate of all your pages. There is nothing you can do with that data really. I think you are wasting your time if you are using average bounce rate as an indication of any problems on your website.

Some of your pages ARE going to have a high bounce rate, and when you the bounce rate of these pages with the bounce rate of the pages you really want to know about, you get a misleading figure. You need to assess the goal of each page and ask yourself “What action do I want people to take after visiting this page?” You answer should be one of the following;

You want them to stay on your website or

You want them to leave.

If you want them to stay then you want a bounce rate as low as possible.

If you want them to leave, you want a bounce that is high.

Here are some examples of where you would like to see a high bounce rate.

On your contact page. If the goal of the page is to get someone to call you and they did, then you wouldn’t expect them to continue browsing your site.

On a page with a form that doesn’t redirect to a separate thank you page after form submission. 

If the goal of your page is to direct people off your site to a third party site. This could be because you have a lot of adverts on your page, or you have another blog, or you have a shop on E-bay. There could be many reasons why the goal is to get people to leave your site. You need to be aware of the pages that are designed to take people away from your site.

If you are getting a low bounce rate for these pages that means you are not doing a good job of encouraging people to take the action you want them to take, they are overlooking the action and continuing browsing your site.

Here are some examples of where you would like to see a low bounce rate.

On any pages that make up your sales funnel. You want people to take the next step on the next page. A high bounce rate on these pages indicates people are not being persuaded to take that next step.

On any blog posts. Your blog posts are your way of showing your expertise and how you can help. You want people to find your content useful and engaging and having a low bounce rate on those pages is an indication of that.

Your home page. This is probably the most important page to check. A high bounce rate indicates that your visitors are just not engaging with your message and they don’t find anything useful on your home page. Your home page will get most of your traffic so this an important page to get right.

How to check your bounce rate correctly

First: Check the bounce rate of your individual pages

Go to Behaviour -> Site Content -> All pages

Bounce rate and content

You are only interested in the pages that get most views. (By aiming to improve the pages that get the most views you make bigger gains in your business – we are working smarter, not harder).

What you are looking for is the performance of your home page. You want the bounce rate to be below 50%. Aim for 30% if possible. Next look at your blog content. My post “3 reasons why your business needs google analytics” got a few views but the bounce rate was really high.  My goal would be to improve this post to reduce that bounce rate so I get more engagement from my visitors.

This is a perfect example of where I can learn about my audience to help me create better engaging content in the future. I am going to create some experiments around this blog post to see how I can reduce the bounce rate. I could randomly change things in the hope that something sticks but that wont tell me much about my audience. So, watch this space for the upcoming case study where I will show you how to implement simple tests to reduce the bounce rate.

Once you understand the bounce rate for your top pages, look at the bounce rate for your traffic streams. People coming from Facebook may respond differently to people coming from Instagram. So if you want more engaged visitors on your site, you know where to go and find them.

To find your traffic source with the lowest bounce rate follow these instructions.

Go to Acquisition -> Overview.

I can see that social has the lowest bounce rate.

Social Traffic Bounce Rate

If I investigate my social traffic a bit further I find that most of my traffic is form Facebook but all channels are equally engaged. I could do with more traffic but LinkedIn and Twitter but that traffic was the result of one post I wrote, I am not that active on those channels.

To dig deeper I just clicked on the link ‘Social’ in the overview.

Social engagement

Identifying technical problems using your bounce rate

Poorly performing websites can really affect your websites ability to generate leads and sales. With so many devices and browsers it’s a real pain to test your site on everything. Any good designer will test your website across the most popular browsers and devices but there is nothing like REAL data to tell you if your website works.

This is an easy check to do. Go to Audience -> Mobile -> Overview and look at the bounce rates for the various technologies. You are looking for an unusually high bounce rate in one or more device.  This indicates people are having a hard time with your site for that device.

Bounce rate per device

My bounce rate is similar for all device categories so I am not worried here. Well, I am worried that it’s high in general but thats not down to the technology.




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About Karen Weider

I have been building strategic, marketing websites since 2011. I have supported many business as they get online and grow their business and I firmly believe that planning is crucial to online success.

I help women who are action takers and want to build their own website and I support established who are looking for a long term website strategic & technical partner.

I love working with change makers who are following their heart and have been called to share their message and make a huge impact in the world.

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