If you’re launching an online business and doing your homework on best practices, you might have come across the term “bounce rate.” People want to know what it is, how they can optimize it, and how they can measure it.
This makes sense. Bounce rates are important. Your website’s bounce rate can tell you a lot about your business, and can be an excellent metric that you can use to test both new and preexisting pages—if you know what to look for.
What is a bounce rate, and why should I care about it?
Put simply, your bounce rate is the number of people that come to your website and leave without clicking to any other pages besides the one they first landed on. In other words, they “bounce” away from your site almost immediately.
As mentioned, your bounce rate matters. Analytics company SEMrush ranked it as the fourth most important search ranking factor behind direct web visits, time spent on the site, and how many pages users viewed per session.
Making your website sticky
In marketing terms, sites should be “sticky.” When a new lead is funneled to your site or finds it on their own, they should want to stick around. The longer they stay on your site, and the more they explore, the more likely they are to buy something.
Google looks at your bounce rate when deciding who sees your page. When somebody spends the time to click through to multiple pages on your site, that indicates that they found your content interesting and useful.
According to Neil Patel, Google doesn’t directly take the bounce rate of your website into account when deciding how to rank it. However, Google’s RankBrain algorithm does factor in bounce rate when filtering websites by relevance. The algorithm assumes that if someone isn’t spending a lot of time on your site, it must not be relevant to them, and therefore ranks it lower when displaying to people searching with similar intent.
Here’s Google’s definition of bounce rate from its Analytics page:
“In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”
Google’s analytics system calculates your bounce rate by dividing the total of single-page sessions divided by total page visits. To check this stat, go into the Analytics audience menu and click the “Overview” option. This will give you the bounce rate for your entire site. You can also track individual pages and segments.
How bad is a high bounce rate?
The answer depends on the kind of content you offer.
If your goal is for users to browse multiple pages of your website, then a high bounce rate indicates a problem. Maybe there’s a broken link in the navigation menu, or your page load time is dragging and people aren’t sticking around to wait. Maybe your content isn’t relevant to your site visitors.
If you have a site where people only need to visit one page, then a high bounce rate could be perfectly normal. If most users visit your site to do one thing, like leave a product review or send you a message, then it makes sense for them to click away after completing that action.
So what’s a good bounce rate? It depends. Different pages will have different bounce rates depending on their intended function, which is why looking at your site-wide bounce rate may not be the best indicator of what’s actually going on. To find out the truth, you may have to dig deeper.
Measuring your site’s bounce rate
In order to understand where and how people are engaging with your site, it may be best to segment your measurements into separate sections.
For example, measuring your blog’s bounce rate separately from your landing page’s bounce rate will provide a more accurate percentage than an overall ranking. A high bounce rate on a blog page wouldn't be unusual. The function of your landing page, though, is to guide users onto other pages of your site, and its rate should be lower.
The bounce rate of a single page can be a good tool for A/B testing new page designs. If you launch two different versions of a landing page and one has a significantly higher bounce rate than the other, you’ve got a better idea of which design you should proceed with.
Bounce rates are not to be confused with your exit rate. An exit rate is the percentage of people who leave your site from a certain page, and a high exit rate isn’t always cause for alarm.
For instance, a “thank you” page displayed after a customer makes a purchase would be expected to have a high exit rate. If that page had a high bounce rate, it would mean people were somehow getting there without having visited any other pages on your site or actually having bought anything.
What influences your bounce rate?
When measuring your bounce rate, first define what area of your site you want to look at. Is it the landing page? Product pages? Newsletter signup? Once you’ve figured out what area you need to examine, you can then determine a target percentage for your bounce rate and measure against it.
A number of factors can influence the bounce rate of your site or page, including:
- Your industry
- Your geographic location
- What device users are visiting your site on
Rates vary widely across industries. As of 2017, the auto industry had the lowest bounce rate at 46.34% while news sites had the highest at 65.35%, according to analytics site Digishuffle’s benchmark measurements for that year.
Finding your target bounce rate
You can find the average bounce rate for your industry with the Google Analytics program. Just go into your account settings and click the check box to enable benchmarking. Google will generate an estimate for your industry.
Once you have the average, you can look back at your site and see if it’s coming in under, over, or about par. To drill down into bounce rates for different sections of your site in Analytics, just go to the Behavior section, then click “Landing Pages” under the Site Content heading.
Your site-wide bounce rate pops up here. You can click each section to get specific details or click into the “Advanced Features” menu in the upper right-hand corner of the menu. And you can drill down even further than that, comparing industry averages by time frame and vertical.
When it comes to your site data, you can segment it by demographics like age, gender, and location to figure out which groups are staying the longest on your site. Viewing the data this way can shed light on whether your site favors a certain gender or is doing well with your target age demographic, and you can tweak your pages accordingly.
How to improve your bounce rate
There are no hard and fast rules for improving your site’s bounce rate, but there are a few common strategies that you can try.
If the root cause of your high bounce rate comes from a software problem—like an unusually long load time—you can solve it fairly easily with technical fix, like hiring a developer to optimize your site or by purchasing more server space.
Your site should be easily usable and navigable from mobile platforms, since more people now than ever are using their phones to browse the web. Long videos sometimes take a long time to load on mobile, for example. Featuring shorter videos on the mobile version of your site can prevent the kind of lag that makes people abandon a page.
The mobile version of your site should be clean and concise, giving users the information that they need quickly and easily.
Entry points and user intent
It’s important to keep track of where users are coming from when they visit your site.
Are they coming through your email newsletter? Organic search? Paid ads on social? If the bounce rate is especially high for one of these sources, it could mean that something at the source—like your ad copy—needs to be tweaked to better convey your message. If that Facebook ad doesn’t prepare people for what they’ll actually see on your page, they’ll probably end up leaving.
Do your best to eliminate all of the aspects of your site that might distract or annoy your users.
If someone gets hit with a chatbot, a full-screen popup ad for your newsletter, and a popup coupon offer in quick succession, they’ll probably run. Be mindful of the popups and ads you use, and incorporate them seamlessly into your site instead of throwing them in the user’s face.
Also make sure you examine your site’s keywords and how they rank. Are you using the right keywords for your industry to bring in the right people at the right time?
If you’re selling marketing automation software, you want people coming to your site who already know what that is and can better understand the benefits your product offers. You don’t want to draw in someone who’s just discovering the concept. If that person finds you and clicks through to your site, they might become overwhelmed and leave very quickly, which will affect your site’s overall bounce rate.
In short, make sure your page is ranking for keywords that reflect its content. Try grouping your site’s pages by subject and seeing what topics they fit into, then making sure they’re attracting the right users.
It’s all about the data
Here, as in most other aspects of digital marketing, you need to keep an eye on your data—which means you need to put measures in place that let you effectively collect and analyze it. You can’t optimize your bounce rate unless you have all the information you need at your disposal.
When taking all of this data into account, patterns will emerge that can help you solve the problem of high bounce rates where there shouldn’t be. The more practiced you become at investigating your metrics and working with the data, the easier these patterns will be to recognize.