bounce rate in google analytics

Understanding bounce rate
in Google Analytics

Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics

March 16th, 2017 – 19 Comments

“I came, I puked, I left” is a very famous definition of the bounce rate by Avinash Kaushik. But what does it mean exactly? When does a visitor bounce? Is it purely a visitor that hits the back button or is there more to it? And what can you tell by looking at the bounce rate of a webpage? In this post, I want to show you what it is, what it means and how you can improve your bounce rate. 

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

What’s bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of people who land on your website, and do completely nothing on the page they entered. So they don’t click on a menu item, a ‘read more’ link, or any other internal links on the page. This means that the Google Analytics server doesn’t receive a trigger from the visitor. A user bounces when there has been no engagement with the landing page and the visit ends with a single-page visit. You can use bounce rate as a metric that indicates the quality of a webpage and/or the “quality” of your audience. By quality of your audience I mean whether the audience fits the purpose of your site.

How does Google Analytics calculate bounce rate?

According to Google bounce rate is calculated in the following way:

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

In other words, it collects all sessions where a visitor only visited one page and divides it by all sessions.

Having a high bounce rate can mean three things:
1. The quality of the page is low. There’s nothing inviting to engage with.
2. Your audience doesn’t match the purpose of the page, as they won’t engage with your page.
3. Visitors have found the information that they were looking for.

I’ll get back to the meaning of bounce rate further below.

Bounce rate and SEO

In this post, I’m talking about bounce rate in Google Analytics. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor. In my opinion, I can hardly imagine that Google takes Google Analytics’ data as a ranking factor, because if Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly, then the data isn’t reliable. Moreover, you can easily manipulate the bounce rate.

Luckily, several Googlers say the same thing: Google doesn’t use Google Analytics’ data in their search algorithm. But, of course, you need to make sure that when people come from a search engine to your site, they don’t bounce back to the search results, since that kind of bouncing probably is a ranking factor. It might be measured in a different way though, than the bounce rate we see in Google Analytics.

From a holistic SEO perspective, you need to optimize every aspect of your site. So looking closely at your bounce rate, can help you optimize your website even further, which contributes to your SEO.

How to interpret bounce rates?

The height of your bounce rate and whether that’s a good or a bad thing, really depends on the purpose of the page. If the purpose of the page is to purely inform, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing per se. Of course you’d like people to read more articles on your website, subscribe to your newsletter and so on. But when they’ve only visited a page to, for instance, read a post or find an address, then it isn’t surprising that they close the tab after they’re done reading. Mind you, also in this case, there’s no trigger sent to the Google Analytics server, thus it’s a bounce.

A clever thing to do, when you own a blog, is creating a segment that only contains ‘New visitors’. If the bounce rate amongst new visitors is high, think about how you could improve their engagement with your site. Because you do want new visitors to engage with your site.

If the purpose of a page is to actively engage with your site, then a high bounce rate is a bad thing. Let’s say you have a page that has one goal: get visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. If that page has a high bounce rate, then you might need to optimize the page itself. By adding a clear call-to-action, a ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ button, for instance, you could lower that bounce rate.

But there can be other causes for a high bounce rate on a newsletter subscription page. In case you’ve lured visitors in under false pretenses, you shouldn’t be surprised when these visitors don’t engage with your page. They probably expected something else when landing on your subscription page. On the other hand, if you’ve been very clear from the start with what visitors could expect on the subscription page, a low bounce rate could say something about the quality of the visitors – they could be very motivated to get the newsletter – and not per se about the quality of the page.

Bounce rate and conversion

If you look at bounce rate from a conversion perspective, then bounce rate can be used as a metric to measure success. For instance, let’s say you’ve changed the design of your page hoping that it will convert better, then make sure to keep an eye on the bounce rate of that page. If you’re seeing an increase in bounces, the change in design you’ve made might have been the wrong change and it could explain the low conversion rate you have.

You could also check the bounce rate of your most popular pages. Which pages have a low and which pages have a high bounce rate? Compare the two, then learn from the pages with low bounce rates.

Another way of looking at your bounce rate, is from a traffic sources perspective. Which traffic sources lead to a high or a low bounce rate? Your newsletter for instance? Or a referral website that sends a lot of traffic? Can you figure out what causes this bounce rate? And if you’re running an AdWords campaign, you should keep an eye on the bounce rate of that traffic source as well.

Be careful with drawing conclusions though…

We’ve seen loads of clients with a bounce rate that was unnaturally low. All alarm bells should go off, especially if you don’t expect it, as that probably means that Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly. There are several things that influence bounce rate, because they send a trigger to the Google Analytics server and Google Analytics falsely recognizes it as an engagement. Usually, an unnaturally low bounce rate is caused by an event that triggers the Google Analytics server. Think of pop-ups, auto-play of videos or an event you’ve implemented that fires after 1 second.

Of course, if you’ve created an event that tracks scrolling counts, then having a low bounce rate is a good thing. It shows that people actually scroll down the page and read your content.

How to lower high bounce rates?

The only way of lowering your bounce rate is by amping up the engagement on your page. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at bounce rate. From a traffic perspective and from a page perspective.

If certain traffic sources have high bounce rates, then you need to look at the expectations of those visitors coming to your site. Let’s say you’re running an ad on another website, and most people coming to your site via that ad bounce, then you’re not making their wish come true. You’re not living up to their expectations. Review the ad you’re running and see if it matches the page you’re showing. If not, make sure the page is a logical follow-up of the ad or vice versa.

If your page lives up to the expectations of your visitors, and the page still has a high bounce rate, then you have to look at the page itself. How’s the usability of the page? Is there a call-to-action above the fold on the page? Do you have internal links that point to related pages or posts? Do you have a menu that’s easy to use? Does the page invite people to look further on your site? These are all things you need to consider when optimizing your page.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

What about exit rate?

The bounce rate is frequently mistaken for the exit rate. Literally, the exit rate is the percentage of pageviews that were last in the session. It says something about users deciding to end their session on your website on that particular page. Google’s support page gives some clear examples of the exit rates and bounce rates which makes the difference very clear. This comes directly from their page:

Monday: Page B > Page A > Page C > Exit
Tuesday: Page B > Exit
Wednesday: Page A > Page C > Page B > Exit
Thursday: Page C > Exit
Friday: Page B > Page C > Page A > Exit

The % Exit and Bounce Rate calculations are:

Exit Rate:
Page A: 33% (3 sessions included Page A, 1 session exited from Page A)
Page B: 50% (4 sessions included Page B, 2 sessions exited from Page B)
Page C: 50% (4 sessions included Page C, 2 sessions exited from Page C)

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0% (one session began with Page A, but that was not a single-page session, so it has no Bounce Rate)
Page B: 33% (Bounce Rate is less than Exit Rate, because 3 sessions started with Page B, with one leading to a bounce)
Page C: 100% (one session started with Page C, and it lead to a bounce)

Conclusion

Bounce rate is a metric you can use to analyze your marketing efforts. You can use it to measure if you’re living up to your visitors’ expectations. And you can use the bounce rate to decide which pages need more attention. Meeting your visitors’ expectations and making your pages more inviting for visitors all leads to creating an awesome website. And we all know that awesome websites rank better!

Read more: ‘Creating segments in Google Analytics’ »


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 Responses to Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics

  1. Annelieke
    By Annelieke on 24 March, 2017

    Thanks for all the nice comments!

  2. pooja Chauhan
    By pooja Chauhan on 21 March, 2017

    Great post, I always find an amazing things and great knowledge from your blog. Thanks a lot for this Helpful article writing tips.

  3. Brutally Honest
    By Brutally Honest on 21 March, 2017

    Had so many questions about the bounce rate, well, that was helpful. Sometimes bots hit my blog madly, will that damage my bounce rate or search engines filter out bot activity?

  4. Vikram
    By Vikram on 20 March, 2017

    i will create segment for the new visitor right now as i have very high bounce rate and i really want to reduce it.

  5. Gaurav Heera
    By Gaurav Heera on 20 March, 2017

    Hello Annelieke,
    Great article to read on bounce rate of website which is very important point to be focused on, Your suggestion in the article will help me and other bloggers to “How to lower the bounce rate?”
    Thanks for sharing your worthy piece of information.

  6. ANI CHUKWUEMEKA HENRY
    By ANI CHUKWUEMEKA HENRY on 20 March, 2017

    I always think that Google analytics is such an unimportant stuff just there for being sake until I came across a nice resource online that drove my attention closer to it. Though I fear bounce rates, but it’s hard to say it’s not gonna happen anymore. Since it’s not a determining factor to SEO I love that part more.

    Thanks for the awesome article. It enlighten me more

  7. Pattipie
    By Pattipie on 18 March, 2017

    Useful! It was a time when I had a very high bounce rate! I don’t even know why!

  8. Jacques Nadeau
    By Jacques Nadeau on 17 March, 2017

    Great article ! with these examples for the first time I understand the difference between the exit rates and bounce rates, big thanks.

    I saw a chart that showed that all websites that are ranked in the top 4 positions on Google had all a bounce rate lower to 75%, is they use Google Analytics data in their search algorithm, maybe.

  9. ScholarshipJamaica
    By ScholarshipJamaica on 17 March, 2017

    Very simple and precise article. I have been put more attention to my bounce rate. However, the page of interest is usually the home page, which jade bounce rates in the 33% region. How would I be able to check the rates on other pages? Thank you.

    • Annelieke van den Berg
      By Annelieke van den Berg on 17 March, 2017

      Thanks for the compliment! You can find the bounce rate of your pages in the ‘Behavior’ section of Google Analytics. Click on behavior, then site content and click on all pages. In the table you’ll see a column named ‘bounce rate’ that shows the bounce rate per page. Good luck!

  10. Nicole Chardenet
    By Nicole Chardenet on 17 March, 2017

    All that and not a single word about the main reason why *I* bounce so much – and I’ll bet plenty of others do to. And that’s “interstitial” or ‘pop-up’ ads. Unless I really, really want to see your content I’ll just bounce instead of clicking to remove the offending ad. I can’t even tell you what the CTA is on any of them. I can’t imagine why anyone ever thought these things were a good idea, at least not the ones that block the content within moments of hitting the landing page. “BUY MY STUFF! SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER! TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF OUR WEBSITE!” (Once or twice I answered the question…”IT SUCKS!!! I HATED IT THE MOMENT THIS STUPID AD POPPED UP AND I’M NEVER COMING BACK!!!”) If you’re getting bounces of just a few seconds, geez, maybe it’s your annoying pop-ups.

  11. ZUM Vozila
    By ZUM Vozila on 17 March, 2017

    That’s great, I have just recently started to pay attention to Google Analytics as my traffic begins to increase

  12. Jen Hoo
    By Jen Hoo on 17 March, 2017

    Nice article. Thank for sharing!!

  13. Bill Freedman
    By Bill Freedman on 16 March, 2017

    Google Analytics’ bounce rate is a frustrating metric. I’d like it to mean what Avinash claims, “I came, I puked, I left.” But with most web sites I’ve worked on, bounce rate is that and a whole lot more. For example, consider a session sourced by a high ranking search term that lands on a authoritative blog post. The visitor then spends 5 minutes reading that single page and then exits. Is that “I came, I puked, I left?” No way. Does Google analytics count that as a bounce? Most likely yes. Same with someone who spends a few minutes scrolling up and down your home page or checks your contact us page for office address or hours.

    Lumping all of these meaningful visits into “bounces” is just plain wrong. And trying to “manage” a bounce rate that is a composite of all of this is even worse.

    Fortunately, for organizations that use a Tag Manager (Google Tag Manager for example), it’s fairly easy to add a timer event that makes bounce rate more precise. If your home page or a single blog post holds someone’s attention for > 45 seconds, for example, generate an event. The combination of pageview and event will push the session out of the “bounce” category without altering your pageview or session data.

    If the Yoast team is interested, I can share the details of how I created timer events in Google Analytics to address bounce rate. Perhaps it could be a guest blog post. Let me know if you’re interested.

  14. Brad Marcus
    By Brad Marcus on 16 March, 2017

    Excellent article! A very valid point that sometimes your “bounce” can really be a satisfied visitor. Like all analytics, you have to look a bit deeper than the surface.

  15. Mitch Rezman
    By Mitch Rezman on 16 March, 2017

    we use GA and Clicky who calculates bounce differently
    Bounce rate

    from clicky

    The bounce rate tells you how engaged your visitors are with your site, on a general level.

    Clicky’s bounce rate is much different from any other service – in a good way. All other services define a bounce as simply any visitor who viewed only a single page. With Clicky, though, our tracking code will continue to ping our servers while a visitor sits on a single page. This gives us a much more accurate picture of how long the visitor was actually on your site.

    Our bounce rate takes this into account. A visitor will only count as a bounce on Clicky if they only view a single page and they were on your web site for less than 30 seconds. We figure, if someone is there for at least 30 seconds, they were at least mildly engaged and should not count as a bounce.

  16. Bill Treloar
    By Bill Treloar on 16 March, 2017

    What about spam visits from bots that inflate my Referral Visits count? Do they count toward my bounce rate?

    • Annelieke van den Berg
      By Annelieke van den Berg on 17 March, 2017

      Google is pretty good at filtering out these spam bots. But of course, it happens that one passes the Google Analytics filter. If that’s the case, and the spam bot runs javascript and views one page, then that has an influence on your bounce rate.

    • Bill Freedman
      By Bill Freedman on 16 March, 2017

      Automated referral spam, in most cases, just adds a referral listing, but doesn’t increase session or pageview counts. It still is annoying, but doesn’t typically impact bounce rate. There are a bunch of helpful articles listing the long standing referral spam culprits and how to filter them out of your Google Analytics data. Search for “referral spam” “google analytics filter”


Check out our must read articles about Analytics