Bounce Rate – What’s the Problem?

What Bounce Rate Means to Your Online Business

Google Analytics calculates bounce rate based on a user entering a website for a single-page session, and then the visitor leaves.

It’s more complicated than that of course, but it’s an adequate explanation for now. 

What interests an SEO agency and its clients most are how bounce rates affect ranking- if at all.

Typical indicators of a bounce from a site come from;

  • A single page visit and back button use
  • While still on the page, the visitor closes the browser window 
  • No further action for thirty minutes or more (the session times out and is reset)*
  • Outbound link use

*The session timeout is set to 30 minutes by default, but this can be altered to accommodate time spent on article research.

However, the bounce rate is only one of many elements that affect a website’s popularity.

Google’s  CEO, Suchar Pichai, explained at a congressional meeting that there were around two hundred different ranking factors.

Google determines from them whether a website deserves a higher or lower ranking authority.

It’s clear there are millions of combinations,  and only educated guesses can be made as to most of them.

Some factors are more obvious than others, and a websites bounce rate is one.

Bounce rates contribute in some way to ranking authority, whether directly or indirectly.

Judging by the statement on their guide, it’s possible that Google Analytics tracking misinterprets some actions taken on a page, as there are some straightforward reasons why visitors make single-page visits.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Google Analytics is due to phase out its mobile app data in October 2019, though GA360 won’t be affected.

These are typical reasons for a legitimate bounce

  • You’ve answered their entire question or solved their problem on just one of your landing pages. For example, they want to know your address or opening times, or even that they’ve checked the site for someone else.
  • The visitor made a mistake and came to the wrong site or web page.
  • Google misunderstood a search query and visitor wanted another type of site.
  • A price comparison check was carried out.
  • A product check took place, and the search results only required one page to be visited.
  • The visitor was looking at the site for its design, SEO, etc.
  • The purpose of the visit was to take screenshots for a bricks and mortar shop visit.
  • You have a microsite- a branded content site existing outside of the company homepage and/or your brand URL.
  • You rely on a blog post page as opposed to a multi-page website.
  • Perhaps the visitor remembered the answer it needed and left.

Though there’s a chance that these still count as bounces, these types of results are taken into consideration by the major search engines.

Individual pages are expected to have a high bounce rate- customer support, call to action, and checkout pages, for example. If a visitor goes directly to these pages, you shouldn’t be penalised for it.

How is a Bounce Rate Calculated?

Google Analytics makes bounce rate calculations by dividing single-page visit bounces by the overall amount of sessions.

A session is defined as the total number of new and repeat visits to a site.

Divide the number of bounces by the total amount of sessions- the rate is a percentage of this result.

An example;

24 bounces ÷150 sessions = 16% bounce rate

These results mean nothing without proper interpretation.

Before contemplating whether your website’s bounce rate is high or low, it’s vital to know your industry standard.

Altering a site without knowing average bounce rates is likely to cause more harm than good.

Where Bounce Rate Interpretation is Misleading

Anyone coming to your site to read a single page or blog post and leaving straight after will count as a bounce because Google Analytics calculates bounce as a single page visit.

The reader may have been engaged and informed but you’re totally unaware of the value of your post.

Using bounce rate metrics as an interpretation of a website’s value to the visitor needs a complete understanding of the purpose and design of the site.

Bounce rate metrics indicate where the visitor only opted to open or read one page: It doesn’t determine time spent on a page, the user intent, nor where the visitor went afterward.

All you learn is that the visitor leaves after a one-page event.

It’s at this point, online businesses will often use a strategy known as ‘Adjusted Bounce Rate’.

What is Adjusted Bounce Rate?

With Adjusted Bounce Rate, Google Analytics server is instructed that any events where a visit lasts a predetermined amount of time are not to be counted as bounces.

The advantage of adjusted your bounce rate is that a more accurate measure can be made as pages once thought to need alteration were in fact,  engaging and informative.

Use Adjusted Bounce Rate when your website regularly produces new content intended to inform and engage rather than to sell.

What is a Good Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?

Analytical issues are compounded when website owners misinterpret their findings and look to lower bounce rates when there’s no need.  

By correctly understanding how to understand bounce rate, you’ll be in a better position to drive extra revenue to your site.

These are the overall bounce rate expectations for different industries.

20% – 45% for eCommerce websites

20% – 45% for retail websites

25% – 55% for B2B websites

30% – 55% for lead generation websites

35% – 60% for content websites

60% – 90% for landing pages

65% – 90% for dictionaries, portals, blogs and websites that revolve around news and events

If you find your site average is dramatically different, chances are, there’s a problem.

Why High Bounce Rates Occur

It helps to understand why you might get high bounce rates, and below are some reasons why bad bounce rates happen.

  • Suppose your business sells local produce and only delivers within a thirty-mile radius.

Your site doesn’t explain either detail adequately in the title tags or meta descriptions.

The site will experience higher than average bounce rates as the information will draw the wrong visitors from outside of the delivery parameters.

  • You’ve paid for a hosting site that can’t cope with the number of websites it hosts.

As a result, the loading speed for the site is over four seconds: Studies show that most will leave after three. 

Free tools like pingdom.com will instantly give you actionable information about site speed, or for alternatives, try alternativeto.net.

  • Large Images on your site take too long to load, or there’s too many.
  • The web design is confusing, not user-friendly, or unprofessionally created, with poor spelling or grammar.
  • The information promoting the site (for example, Google Ad) doesn’t correspond with the landing page.
  • The information a visitor was led to believe was on the page is not there, or challeging to find.
  • The wrong strategies missed the target audience.
  • The content is ambiguous- you’re not making your message clear to your target market.
  • The hierarchy of your page is unclear, and the visitor doesn’t know where to go next.
  • Too much is expected of the visitor (whether form filling, accepting cookies, completing surveys etc).
  • The site isn’t user-friendly for mobile traffic. 

These sites will experience higher than average bounce rates.

It’s crucial to understand user intent when determining bounce rate metrics in Google Analytics.

User engagement improves conversion rates.

By learning which areas of site content website visitors are most attracted by, you’ll be able to strategise a more successful sales funnel.

Where the highest percentage of visitors enter, the time spent on particular pages,  and where they leave the site is key to understanding user engagement.

Google Analytics tracking provides detailed reports to assist with adjusting your bounce rate.

The emphasis is on  ‘adjust’ rather than ‘lower’ your bounce rate as it could already be unusually low and that’s the problem.

Is a Low Bounce Rate Good?

To clarify something first- high bounce rates aren’t always bad.

As mentioned, some pages (such as for lead generation or landing pages) will inevitably lead to high bounce rate: The crucial question is ‘Is my return on investment healthy?’ 

Low bounce rates of say, 10% on the other hand, are almost always caused by technical problems.

Duplicated Google Analytics tracking code is often the cause.

WordPress sites are especially prone to this issue as code may be inserted in both the template and an SEO plug-in, or the header and footer.

How to Improve Your Bounce Rate

Reducing the bounce rate of your website should only be attempted if it’s known that something is wrong.

It’s important to note that some changes will involve downtime for a website.

With that in mind, we’ll go through some that may not cause too much of a disruption.

Target The Right Customers!

Targeting the right customers sounds obvious, yet many companies don’t research this correctly.

The purpose is to improve your bounce rate, so take time to draw the right traffic to your website.

  • Make a comprehensive list of customers you’re looking to sell to, including all the relevant demographics.
  • Take a look at social media forums for information that’s relevant to your industry and use this to build a further list.
  • Brainstorm how you can target the audience you find: Think about customer needs and wants.
  • Look at the unique value propositions of your product or service and how you can adapt these to draw in the right customers.
  • Make a point of indicating the value of your product or service to justify its costs better.
  • Offer promotions that are cost-effective for your company.
  • Customer Research Management CRM software is available that takes most of the guesswork out of targeting customer strategies. This software from workwisellc.com is well worth a look. 

Make Content More Readable

Though it’s expected for content to be clumped together in a book, the same can’t be said of a website. Long paragraphs look messy and put people off reading.

  • Most users will speedread a website and prominently displaying subheaders direct visitors landing on your website to areas that are of interest to them.
  • Reduce bounce by choosing the right font for the subject. This post from forbes.com offers ten easily read font styles for websites.
  • Graphics, videos, images and quotes break up a monotonous article.
  • When you’ve finished your post, summarise your findings. A summary allows the reader to skip to the point of the subject.
  • Bullet points provide orderly lists.
  • Adding questions prompt visitors to contemplate upon their own opinions rather than bombarding them with your conclusions.
  • Use websites such as grammarly.com or readable.com to check the readability of your content.

Consider Your Use of Pop-ups

  • Only use pop-ups if they relate to something of real value for your visitor. If pop-ups are more for effect than benefit, website bounce will likely increase.

Pop-ups should give a consistent and responsive message without detracting from the focus of the page.

This website from webdesign.tutsplus.com gives a professional perception of the use of pop-ups.

Your Call-To-Action Needs to Be Persuasive

  • Engaging CTAs help with reducing bounce rate.
  • As with pop-ups, offer something of value without commitment (free e-books and discounts for example)
  • If your business is selling software as a service, free trials work well.
  • If you have more than one CTA design created and unsure which to choose, try a/b testing to check the effect of each.
  • For inspiration, take a look at these thirty-one CTAs from a blog by hubspot.com.

Other Necessary Bounce Rate Changes 

  • Ensure outbound links open in a separate page or risk losing traffic and increasing your bounce rate.
  • Confirm that your site displays correctly on mobile phones. Mobile phone bounce rates are a significant issue for older websites due to the need for modernisation.

Bounce Rate Isn’t Exit Rate

Exit rates are often confused with bounce rates and vice versa.

In order to determine an exit rate,  the percentage of visitors who leave from any page on your site is calculated.

Digital marketing consultants use exit rates as one of many SEO tools for discovering why and where potential customers leave before buying.

Web designers and developers use exit rate information to make a/b test changes to increase conversions.

From any issues highlighted from exit rates, a digital marketing agency will carry out an audience overview for elements such as;

  •  User behaviour (time period spent on a page)
  • What specific pages entice visitors into coming to your site 
  • The geographical location of the main visitors
  • Traffic sources
  • The type of page from which most exits occur

How is an Exit Rate Calculated?

Below is the exit rate for Page One as an example (slightly altered for extra clarity from Google’s explanation).

Calculate the exit rate by the total amount of exits, divided by the total pages viewed

Monday: Page Two > Page One > Page Three➔

Tuesday: Page Two ➔

Wednesday: Page One > Page Three > Page Two➔

Thursday: Page Three ➔

Friday: Page Two> Page Three> Page One

(‘➔’ signifies where  exit occurs)

With this example, the exit rate for Page One is  1/3 =33%

The exit from page one is only on Friday, and total visits for page one are three – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The exit rates for page two and three are;

Page Two: 50% (4 sessions included Page Two,  two sessions exited from Page Two)

Page Three: 50% (4 sessions included Page Three,  two sessions exited from Page Three)

The difference in bounce rate from the exit rate.

Bounce Rate

Monday: Page Two > Page One> Page Three➔

Tuesday:  Page Two➔

Wednesday:  Page One> Page Three> Page Two➔

Thursday:  Page Three ➔

Friday: Page Two > Page Three> Page One ➔

(‘➔’ signifies where  exit occurs)

Page One: 0% bounce rate.

(One session began with page one, but it wasn’t a single-page session so has no bounce rate)

Page Two: 33% 

(Three sessions start with page two, with one session leading to a bounce on Tuesday)

Page Three: 100%

 (one session started with page three and led to a bounce on Thursday)

Conclusion

 The answer is ‘everything and nothing’.

Before giving an accurate reply, your industry’s average bounce rates need scrutinising.

You’ll know if action is necessary by using Google Analytics event tracking (or other web analytics alternatives as the standard mobile analytics server is phased out).

Correctly interpreted rates in Google Analytics will indicate if action is required and if it does, you need to understand why bounces occur and where.

If issues are found, considered conversion rate optimisation will improve a websites bounce rate as they are inextricably linked.

Because of the undeniable connection, a positively adjusted bounce rate in Google must enhance a website’s ranking.

Bounce rate is not exit rate, so don’t confuse them as both indicate areas where a website needs tweaking.

About the Author

Jim writes on topics related to E-Commerce and digital marketing. His work has been featured by Cognitive SEO, Neil Patel and a number of leading brands across the US and UK.  He has over 17 years experience in helping Saas & E-commerce companies grow online. 

Jim Miller

SEO Director, Salesbloom

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