A few months ago, I published a post outlining the different metrics found in Google Analytics. I also promised that in the future I would offer some additional details in terms of what those metrics actually mean.
One such term included in that post was bounce rate. And although I covered what is bounce rate, I did not elaborate contextually in terms of:
- Why it matters
- What it should be
- How to lower it
The purpose of this post is to offer a brief answer to each of those questions.
What Is Bounce Rate?
To review, bounce rate is the percentage of your visitors – referred to as Sessions in Google Analytics – that visit just one single page on your website before leaving.
For example, if your website got 100 visitors today, and 87 of them saw just one page without clicking to another, your bounce rate would be 87 percent.
Generally speaking, the lower the bounce rate, the better.
Why Does Bounce Rate Matter?
On the surface, it may appear that bounce rate is a strong indicator of how engaging your website is. And while that may be true to some extent, it may also indicate that visitors are able to easily find the answers they want without needing to click anywhere else.
Where bounce rate can really start to matter is when it comes to how search engines perceive the relevance of your page.
To quote SEO Hermit,
Imagine a site that Google ranks on the first page of Google for a keyword search. Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google. Now, let’s imagine that this site ranking on the first page of Google gets a lot of traffic, but most of the traffic leaves the site in 5 seconds or less. A reasonable conclusion would be that the site isn’t a very good site because thousands of people click on the site and 95% of those people leave in 5 seconds or less. What could they possibly have gained in 5 seconds or less? Google tracks this and monitors the traffic of a site and how users react to the site. If those users are leaving immediately, Google isn’t going to leave that search result on the first page for long because Google’s goal is to provide the top 10 search results for every possible interpretation of a keyword search.
You can begin to see why bounce rate matters.
To search engines, it is a factor in determining how helpful your content actually is.
Please note that it is one factor out of many, and it is certainly not the most important factor when considering how search engines rank your page.
What Is a Good Bounce Rate?
What is considered a good bounce rate will vary based upon website, niche, and audience. In fact, there is no direct answer to this question.
To quote Lexie Bond,
The average speed of a vehicle in the United States is 32 mph. This is obviously a really worthless statistic and you’re probably mad that you just wasted precious time reading it when you could have been reading the latest BuzzFeed article, which probably has a title like “50 Photos of Bill Clinton’s Forehead.”
The reason I bring it up, however, is because my coworker and third favorite Perini, Zack, used the statistic as an analogy for site wide bounce rate—without context, they’re both equally useless.
Without context, bounce rate is neither good nor bad.
For instance, let’s say a customer wants to call you. He or she searches for your business, finds it on Google, clicks to your website, and finds your phone number on the first page. He or she then closes the browser containing your website and calls you.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing?
A good thing. A customer called you, presumably to give you business. And your website quickly gave that visitor the information he or she wanted.
But according to Google Analytics, that visitor bounced without visiting a second page on your website.
Now, let’s say a user searches on Google for a new toothbrush and finds one on Amazon that he or she would like to purchase. That visitor decides to not to buy now, and then closes the page.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing?
A bad thing. So far as Amazon is concerned, multiple pageviews are necessary in order to complete a purchase. A visitor that bounces is a missed opportunity to complete a transaction.
UPDATE / Mar-19-2015 / As one commenter has pointed out, there are other situations in which a high bounce rate can be a good thing. To quote Dan R Morris of Blogging Concentrated,
Many bloggers (deal bloggers, coupon bloggers, affiliate marketers) build great communities on social media and within their email lists. Theses communities then feed the site traffic when posts are shared, discussed or teased.
For bloggers who monetize this way, the #1 goal is the click. If they can write an adequate review, write up or tease they can get the reader to click the link (deal, coupon or affiliate) effectively leaving the site. This would be considered a 100% bounce rate for that visitor. For posts written with this goal, anything less than a 100% bounce rate is some degree of failure.
This is why bounce rates cannot be considered good or bad without first considering context.
If, however, you are trying to establish some general guidelines, these are considered fair benchmarks according to The Rocket Blog:
< 40% Excellent
40 – 55% Good
56 – 70% Fair
> 70% Poor
It is worth noting that these metrics may not be true for all websites. For example, according to Sam Kusinitz, a typical bounce rate for a blog may be anywhere between 70 and 98 percent.
How to Lower Bounce Rate
As reviewed, you may or may not need to lower bounce rate.
In fact, I would argue that there are far more important metrics to focus on, especially if your website is relatively new. Would you rather have…
- A website that gets 600,000 visits monthly with a 65 percent bounce rate, or
- A website that gets 6000 visits monthly with a 40 percent bounce rate?
If you still feel that you would like to lower your bounce rate, here are a five strategies that have been known to work well:
1. Open External Links in a New Tab
Set external links – those linking to content on another website – to open in a new tab or window. This prevents visitors from bouncing simply by clicking a link contained in your content.
2. Use a Responsive Design
If your website is powered by WordPress, consider choosing any number of themes with a fully responsive – mobile-friendly – design. Bounce rates tend to be highest from mobile visitors, so ensure your content is easy to access from any type of device.
3. Improve Navigational Access
Review your menus, sidebars, footer, sliders, and anywhere else you link to internal content. Is additional information simple to find? Visitors are not likely to scour your website to find what they are looking for. Make sure locating additional relevant content is not a difficult task.
4. Link to Related, Recent & Past Content
The easiest way to decrease your bounce rate is by linking to other content on your website. Consider posting links to recent and related blog posts. You may also wish to link to older blog posts on a related topic, just as I did at the onset of this article.
5. Keep Your Content Focused
Choosing a niche topic for your blog is important. If a visitor finds your blog by searching on Google for hiking, do not expect him or her to click a link in that post to another about modern art. In other words, your content should all be written on similar topics, such that a new visitor would find more of your content useful.
Did You Lower Your Bounce Rate?
- Have you had success lowering your bounce rate?
- What did you do?
- What type of website do you have?
- By how much did you lower your bounce rate?
I would be curious to learn what has worked well for others. Please share any helpful hints you may have in a comment below.