Bounce rates: A guide to keep your site bobbing along

Quick, we need to report on some engagement metrics! How about bounce rate? Sure, why not? This post will foray into “what even is bounce rate?” as well as some good ways to analyse it for different aspects of digital marketing.

What is a bounce rate?

For this, we’ll look at Google’s definition of a bounce and bounce rate:

“A bounce is a single-page session on your site. 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.

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.”

There are instances where ‘A Single Request’ on the page would count as an interaction and not a bounce, such as:

Simply put, a bounce is someone who has viewed a page on your site and then had no further interaction with it. Typically, high bounce rate = bad. But that’s not always the case.

How do we analyse bounce rate?

A bounce rate will have different meanings depending on the content on the page. A high bounce rate from a blog suggests that visitors have viewed the page, read the blog, and then exited the site.

You can view bounce rate over time on GA. Just change the dropdown above the graph from ‘sessions’ to ‘bounce rate’.

Bounce rates

In most reports, you’ll see bounce rate listed among the metrics split by whatever report you’re looking at (page, medium, device category, etc.).

If you’re trying to gauge how a page is performing by using bounce rate, compare pages that are similar in function to each other. For example, comparing a blog post to a product page won’t give you any indicator as to how the blog post is performing. A better idea would be to compare all your blog posts (for example via content groupings or manually performing a search within your report) to each other and highlight the best performing ones.

Bounce rate is only one metric, and a single metric can’t tell you the best direction to take your digital marketing.

Does Google care about Bounce Rate?

For all the SEOs in the room wondering: “Yeah, but does bounce rate affect my likelihood of ranking on Google?”

Bounce Rate is one of the most debated ranking factors in the industry. Like conversion rate, Google Analytics bounce rate depends on how you’ve configured your analytics tracking. For example, you can reduce your bounce rate by increasing the amount of events that fire. But don’t do that.

Whatever metric you see in Google Analytics is not a ranking factor as it depends on your analytics configuration. Gary Illyes made that pretty clear:

A better question to ask instead of “is bounce rate a ranking factor?” is “is website engagement a ranking factor?”

The way Google’s algorithm measures engagement is up for speculation, but we can assume that if someone visits your website and immediately returns to their search, it’s a bad signal.

For further reading/watching with regards to Google ranking factors and engagement rate, check out the following:

SEMrush’s Ranking Factor Study

Sistrix’s Google Ranking Factor Videos

Barry Schwartz – Bounce Rate is Not a Good Ranking Signal

AHREFs guide to Dwell Time

Larry Kim – Do Website Engagement Rates Impact Organic Rankings

Should we care about lowering bounce rate?

If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about ‘lowering bounce rate’ as a goal itself. Realistically, you should work on creating a better landing page or website overall to satisfy user intent as well as to gain conversions. To get started:

  • Ask yourself: if users are coming from search engines, what do they expect to be able to do on this page based on the keywords it ranks for?
  • If they have navigated here from another page, what did that other page suggest you could do here?
  • Use bounce rate as one of many metrics to consider how to improve a page. Other metrics might be sessions, document interactive time, time on page, and page value
  • Users may be bouncing because your website isn’t compatible with their device –

Test the page on the most popular devices and fix any errors

  • Fix 404 errors and broken links as these could impede a user’s engagement with your website
  • Optimise your landing page from a CRO and UX perspective
  • Write more engaging landing page copy to increase dwell time
  • Review your SEO and PPC Strategy to target relevant keywords

If you work to add value to your website rather than just decrease bounce rate, this will increase both conversion rate and traffic from search engines, which adds a much greater value to your business.

Bounce rate takeaways:

  • Bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit a page on a site and carry out no further interactions
  • Assess the content of your site, and try to identify the causes of a high bounce rate
  • A high bounce rate isn’t always bad news, some pages are designed to be consumed quickly
  • Bounce rate by itself is not a Google ranking factor
  • Optimising bounce rate should be secondary to optimising other on-site user experience

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