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If you are a Google Analytics user (and isn’t everyone these days?) then you have probably seen this thing called “Bounce rate” and wondered either why your bounce rate is so high or maybe so low and whether you should be doing something about it.

Well first let’s explain what it is, how it can be used (and misused) and then suggest some things that it can be useful for.

So what is a bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the percentage of visits that arrive at a page and then do not continue to any other page. Technically speaking, because Google Analytics records a tracking event when someone clicks on a link, then it is a visit that has not resulted in any further tracking event (such as clicking another link) within 30 minutes.

Sometimes you will see this described as having ‘exited’ the site, but people don’t actually click on something that says ‘exit’, they instead tend to hit the back button, type something else into the browser address bar, get up and make a cup of tea, go to bed etc – it is just that they don’t click on anything else on your site for the next 30 minutes, at which time Google assumes they have gone.

Now that there are multiple tabs in most browsers it may be that your website page is open in their browser, but they have gone off on another tack in another browser tab. Whether they return to your website and click on another page will sometimes depend how they get on with that other tab or whether they get distracted in some other way.

Help – my bounce rate is too high!

A high bounce rate could mean several (largely contradictory) things. If a page has a high bounce rate it could mean either:

1. The page is rubbish, it makes people immediately bale out and want to scurry back to Google; or

2. It is a fantastic page that told them everything they needed to know – maybe that’s them on the phone that’s started ringing right now, ready with their order.

To take one typical example, one of your clients wants to call you, so they just Google your company name or go direct to your website, see your phone number and call. That visit is a bounce from the home page – but it is fine. For this reason, if your phone and address is on the home page then you may consider ignoring the home page bounce rate.

Another reason might be because people have genuinely come to the wrong site. We are often confused with another ‘Blue Spark’ that does hospitality recruitment. People will quite often Google ‘blue spark’ and come to our site – and then realise they are in the wrong place. Or maybe they misspelt the domain. If you have a domain that could easily be mistyped like goole.co.uk, then your bounce rate could be very high indeed.

Now my bounce rate has dropped – should I ask for a raise?

Maybe… but be suspicious of an agency that offers to reduce your bounce rate as the key metric.

Simplest way to reduce bounce rate? Remove any useful information like the phone number etc, so the user needs to click onto another page to get almost any useful content or the answer to their question. As long as there is just enough to make them click that once more your bounce rate plummets.

You could even artificially or accidentally ‘fix’ your bounce rate if you add events to your tracking. For example, if you have a video on the page and you add an event to track the video views, and the video starts automatically – this would trigger a tracking event, and would wipe out your bounce rate, since every visit would result in a tracked event.

Someone has commented that a very low bounce rate, like under 5%,  is probably not good – it’s just broken. (Sometimes it can be a simple mistake like having 2 copies of the tracking code on the same page)

OK, so what should my bounce rate be?

It should be fairly consistent.

You would expect the bounce rate to remain fairly consistent unless something dramatic happens. Sometimes that might be site changes or even changes to the tracking like adding new events etc. Remember that when you are looking at, for example, the All pages screen you can choose to look at the whole year, and then add bounce rate to the graph to give yourself a longer view of the trend.

A spread of around 30-50% is quite average, but remember that it changes across different pages and different traffic sources, so you should probably never look at the site wide average as the metric in itself (although many people do). Around 60-70% is still not bad, but maybe 70-80% is getting poor and above 80% probably needs looking at, there may be a reason in the site design or tracking.

Always check to see the real numbers rather than just the percentages as they can be misleading. A very popular page could have a bounce rate of 80%, but if there were only 10 entrances that is only 8 bounces, which is probably not enough to start ripping down the page.

Remember that the page might be popular and successful to other users, it might just be failing when people directly land on it. This could be especially true with a shopping cart or a sequence of pages that tell a story like a slideshow – if someone arrives in the middle it might not make any sense to them.

So, is a bounce rate actually any use?

Yes, there are 5 things it is useful for:

1. It can indicate that a page is attracting the wrong kind of traffic or that things like popups may be stopping people continuing on with your site. Sometimes you should review the page and wonder whether it may need splitting up, or adding a call to action.

2. If you are running pay per click then it can indicate possible problems with the landing pages, especially if your call to action involves a click to a form or different page. Since with PPC you get to choose the landing page (you’re not just using the home page are you?)  then it might indicate that the content of the page is not matching the expectations of the visitor clicking on the advert.

3. Review the bounce rate and compare the averages across the different traffic sources. You would expect them to be fairly even, if a particular source of traffic (especially if it is PPC or maybe a banner or directory listing) has a high bounce rate it could indicate something a bit dodgy going on.

4. Now we are in a mobile world, it is worth remembering that a high bounce rate may indicate a browser or device issue. If you look in ‘Audience, Technology, Browser’ and look at the bounce rate by browser you would expect them to be similar. If not, then you know which browser to test. Now do the same for mobile.

5. Review the bounce rate across the content pages to see if anything stands out. Often the home and contact page will have high bounce rates (maybe people just wanted the address or phone number) so ignore those. Just look at the unusually high bounce rates, but check there is a decent volume of bounces as well.

Some final catches

Worst reasons for a high bounce rate ever? Your tracking code has only been put on the home page, it was missed on all the other pages, so everything is a bounce!

Another catch is if your site still uses frames or iframes because it may be someone arrived at the frame contents without seeing the rest of the site, in which case they are quite likely to bounce because they aren’t seeing the remainder of the page.

If there is an issue with your bounce rate, then it might be worth speaking to a Google Analytics specialist in order to check there is not a technical issue – in which case give us a call!