Web traffic checkup – part 1. Bounce Rate explained

November 3, 200826 Comments
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What is the Bounce Rate?

I’ve heard alot of people obsessing over this web metric recently. So just to clarify a few things on what it is and isn’t. The bounce rate is the amount of people who leave your site immediately on first arrival. According to Google – bounce rate is defined as:

“the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. “

A high bounce rate can be indicative of a number of things, but can also be influenced by a number of things.

Here’s a brief break down of a few of those:

1) Your content isn’t what they expected

So you turn up on a search for “bananas” when you are selling “apples”. Nothing much you can do about that, but don’t expect visitors to wait around. You may want to perhaps start growing a potential banana business by providing a page on your site about where they can find them.

2) Your site design isn’t professional

We make judgement calls on people’s appearances within 30 seconds of seeing someone. Unfortunately the same is true online. If we are in “buyer mode” then it is all the more important to make first impressions count. A poorly thought out navigation system, or an ugly site banner, could be enough to put people off.

Personally speaking I’ve been to sites which try to highlight the words that I typed into Google. (a crazy idea from the people behind BlogEngine.NET) – which can sometimes result in the page being a decorative blue underline city. Especially if the query on Google is quite a long string of words.

3) Where you’ve been linked from

If you have been linked to from a highly trusted resource, the chances are your visitors will stay longer than if you get a link from say comments in a blog.

Think of it this way.

If you are stumbling on the web, and are in what I call the “bored browser” mindset, you will be fickle. If you have ever used StumbleUpon – you’ll know what I mean by this. If however you are in the “ready to learn” mindset you examine web pages more carefully, you read around the subject you are researching.

Your browing habits slow down.

4) The speed of your site

If you are running on a slow server, people aren’t going to stick around. Better to invest in a lightning quick hosting package than to have visitors leave because they are waiting for pages to load. You can find a few ways to speed up a slow site here.

5) How your site looks in other browsers

Have you checked your stats to see what section of your visitors are most at ease with your site? Perhaps a rendering bug in Internet Explorer is making people think your site looks unprofessional. It’s always a good idea to check your design across multiple browsers using something like Browsershots.org

6) Audience profile

Lets say for the sake of argument you are a retailer selling shoes. If your traffic is coming from young and hip social networks such as Bebo or Myspace or Facebook – you need to analyse how many of these people are bouncing. Adding additional tracking metrics can help you determine if your online stock is appealing to younger audiences, and can actually help shape your buying decisions. Remember that age can influence how fickle an audience potentially is.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (26)

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  1. Very clear explanation, now I’m beginning to understand my site’s traffic. Thanks!

  2. In numerical terms, what is a “high” bounce rate?

  3. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Scott. Its difficult to say. An e-commerce site will have a lower bounce than a content site. Generally, I’d say anything over 50% was unacceptable.

  4. Angel says:

    Thanks for the explanation.
    Does my bounce rate stadistics include people who click in a link within my website linked to other other site?
    For example, a landing page to distrubute traffic by geographica area.

    Many thanks

  5. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Anglea,

    A landing page which is linked to another web page (specific geo region) on the same website / domain will NOT be counted as a bounce.

    A landing page which is linked to another website entirely will be counted as a bounce.

    Hope that helps,

    Paul

  6. Jim says:

    my sight has links to other sights if thay are clicked within 10-20 seconds dose that show as a bounce?

    Thanks
    Jim

  7. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Jim – if no other pages on your site are clicked first then yes. No necessarily a bad thing – in essence you are providing folks with a resource they need. (via the third party site)

  8. David says:

    so my website has a rather high bounce rate but all the content I want them to see is right on the first page auto loading and playing (it’s demo stuff for animation) is there a time limit or is it just if they don’t click on any other pages on my site?

  9. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi David,

    I’m guessing your content (animation) is flash. There is no way for your analytics program to track clicks within flash, and thats probably why your bounce rate is so high. The time limit is only as long as a session on your site, (typically 20 minutes). So I’d look at the length of stay in this case, rather than the bounce rate to determine if your content is being interacted with.

    HTH,
    Paul

  10. Patrick says:

    hi, my bounce rate is high, but the stats are showing that the avg time is 2 mins, we deliberatly designed the site for international use, we get a lot of people looking on very slow broad band or even dial up. so the content is restricted where possible to a paragraph or two, would our bounce rate be showing incoretly due to people been on the site get the information they need quickly then leave, we also use and ajax page that just goes to another section so not multiple pages,

  11. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Patrick,

    a URL would help understand this one – but very possibly. If they are obtaining the next “page” via AJAX Analytics has no way of knowing they have navigated to another page, unless you’ve told it during the AJAX request, so that could be messing your figures.

    Regards,
    Paul

  12. So much nonsense, I mean the whole SEO industry and Google in a way.
    Bounce rate could easily be a metric for success meaning that page acted extremely efficient in delivering that one information that user needed and move on.
    This is bad, if say Bounce Rate becomes more and more influential on search engine results. Because that will force BAD webdesigners and SEO’ers to waffle drible and hide that piece of important information to cheat the metrics. So you will need to jump many steps many different pages going uh-ha look at us we are “interesting” .. to get there. No, you are not necessarily interesting, in fact you are frustrating and boring and wasting people’s valuable time. How many of you have felt frustrated you couldn’t find the address? Or that important info?
    I don’t care, I won’t conform. My standard is this – the LEAST amount of time a person spends on a website of mine indicates it’s efficiency.
    Recently I redesign a hospital website. On the page “Clinic Times” the bounce rate is over 60%. So that should be reason for alarm right? When in fact means the website is so extremely efficient, that the data they are after is delivered optimally. Address, phone numbers are on the top page ver yfirst thing. The added benefit to that is streamlining traffic. Highly ideal visitors that end up in high conversions. So funny the SEO industry moves one direction, and I, possibly very alone walk completely against the flow. What I don’t get is how come it works for me? – when I do everything so very different what everyone else does, preach and advocate.

  13. Mike says:

    Really great points Henry.

    So if someone is on your site fishing around looking for something and having to go from page-to-page, that to me would be more annoying then finding exactly what I need on the home page. I would much rather return to a site like that, then one I have to fish around to find things for.

    But like all data, it has to be used in conjunction with all the other data. Time on site, where your traffic is coming from, and the most important has your business increased.

  14. Paul Anthony says:

    Yeah guys, you are absolutely correct. In many cases a blog, for example, will have a high bounce rate, especially when segmenting repeat traffic. New visitors may stick around, whilst repeat visitors hit the home page to see if there is anything new to see. If not, they bounce.

    Paul.

  15. @Mike

    The ONLY metric that matters is : has the business increased.

    Anything else is pretty irrelevant; mere ‘curiosities’.

    For me a website should be just an advert; 10 seconds pitch – a mid stop before the client picks up the phone and/or makes a purchase.

    Any info you add; you ONLY add to guarantee or speed up that process. That is true ‘optimisation’. Note this is applicable mostly to small / medium size business. If it’s a corporation; ok you may want to add fluff etc; because it becomes political – all about image; impression. etc – but even then inverted pyramid approach: the most important sought information comes first, or are very easy to find. Then loads of fluff to feed the hungry minds of followers / fans / business partners / own staff / etc

  16. Paul Anthony says:

    In part, I agree Henry

    - however, Its worth bearing in mind that ,not every webpage out there is a sales pitch. When its not , the context of ‘what matters’ changes somewhat. Brand engagement and awareness also being an integral part of marketing and the sales process. You can’t treat those pages the same when analysing the metrics, because they aren’t designed to convert.

    Paul.

  17. Another item to consider is whether your home page has all the information someone needs to do what they want.
    For example: a searcher looking for a chiropractor clicks to a home page of a web site, watches a video, sees the phone number for the chiropractor and makes a phone call. That would be considered a bounce, but would be a good result for the chiropractor with that web site.

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