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Bounce Rate: The Complete Guide For Newbies




Bounce Rate: The Overview

In a nutshell, bounce rate refers to how many percent of users visit a site and leave it without taking any action. You can consider the bounce rate the opposite of time on site.

Overview about bounce rate

Overview about bounce rate

Many think a high bounce rate means negative (not in a medical sense!) for their website, but every coin has two sides. A higher bounce rate just means more users leave the website without further actions, but it says nothing definite about the site quality.

Let’s take an example of a content page with a high bounce rate. There are two scenario:

  • The good one: Users have found the necessary information, and because they have no more needs now, they left. In this case, the page has satisfied the search intent of the users, so a high bounce rate doesn’t raise a flag.
  • The not-so-good one: Users are made to leave the site because it provides no value to them, either by delivering low quality content or by saying one thing on the title and another in the body. Here a high bounce rate is especially detrimental to the site authority, especially when it is a sale landing page.

Bounce Rate: The Definition

A bounce is a single-page session, which means someone visits a page and leaves it. Bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit a page and “bounce back” without triggering any other request to the page, such as clicking on related posts, banners or popups.

If the bounce rate of a website is 87%, it means out of 100 visitors, there are 87 clicking back or closing the browser without any further action.

What is the bounce rate?

What is the bounce rate?

That’s why the natural reflex when seeing a high bounce rate is to reduce it. And with a lower, more acceptable bounce rate comes several benefits.

  • The bounce rate is a real predictor of conversion rate on the site. Think of it as an alarm that reminds SEO practitioners to make timely changes to the site if they want real revenue. In short, the lower the bounce rate, the higher the likelihood of closing more sales.
  • The bounce rate is an important factor for Google to rank websites on their search result pages. The rule is simple: More users bounce on your site, the less reliable you are, the lower ranking you get. Also, when it comes to publishing new content, websites with lower bounce rates are prioritized by Google.
  • The bounce rate can be considered as an optimization gauge. When it drops, it’s time to run an SEO audit and make according changes, maybe to your site interface, content, layout or others.

Bounce Rate: The Formula of Google Analytics

In the Google Analytics tool, bounce rate is calculated as follow:

Bounce Rate = Single-page sessions / All sessions

Note: Bounce rate is measured on the same page and in a certain period of time.

When there is a click through to the website, Google will count it as a request. If the bounce rate stays too high, it may mean the content of this page is no longer relevant, or these are not the target customers of the website.

Bounce Rate: How Much Is Acceptable?

Google has never specified an “ideal” bounce rate. After all, websites of different business sectors will vary in this metric.

What is the ideal bounce rate for a website?

What is the ideal bounce rate for a website?

And as we have mentioned above, a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily spell trouble. It depends on many factors, such as the nature and quality of your content, and the intent of the users. Just make sure you spend time pinpointing the root cause before acting on it, if necessary.

What May Impact Your Bounce Rate?

If the current bounce rate is not up to your liking, the first to solve is the question: “Why did they leave?” Except for those reasons like “accidentally clicking the X”, we have listed here 10 most common reasons leading to a high bounce rate.

User intent

When visiting a page, a user expects it to satisfy their needs for information, products or services. If they leave the page without any further action, at least we are sure that they don’t find any other displayed information (e.g. “related posts”) worth clicking at that point.

It’s then safe to conclude that the page isn’t appealing enough. And if you want the visitor to act, you need to give them what they want, and more. Not all users know exactly what they want to know, but once it’s presented to them, they will click. And your job is to discover their explicit and implicit needs.

Website type

A blog with effective internal linking will keep readers on their premise much longer than they originally intend to. Remember the last time you were lost on Wikipedia and it took a while to remember why you were here in the first place? (Disclaimer: This example may relate better to older generations like the Millennials or Gen X.)

It’s another story for landing pages or e-commerce pages where bounce rates are usually higher.

Landing page type

When a user reaches a landing page, their intent is usually more straightforward. If it is a product introduction page, it’s more likely for them to open other pages of the same site such as “related products”, “current sales” or “delivery options”. In other words, multiple clicks are required to complete a purchase, hence lowering the bounce rate.

Different types of landing pages have different bounce rates

Different types of landing pages have different bounce rates

On the other hand, if the landing page is a contact page with a form to fill, there’s hardly any reason to linger because that’s the end of the process. In this case, the bounce rate is naturally higher.

Landing page quality

A well-designed landing page that links to relevant products will have a lower bounce rate. It doesn’t fare so well, though, if your landing page is stuffed with popups, ads and has a “unique” way to navigate. Online users have more than enough choices, so if you manage to inconvenience them enough (which doesn’t need much effort), they will just bounce.

To analyze the quality of your landing pages and optimize them accordingly, you need certain UX/UI skills. If you want a quick test, here are some questions to start with:

  • Which landing pages do the traffic come from?
  • Is the website layout optimized for computer and mobile views?
  • Is this the best layout for the landing pages?
  • Is the color appealing enough?
  • What is the front end UI like?

Content type

Usually, the product content type will retain users longer because they need more time to digest the information before making the purchase decision. On the other hand, news content, if can’t meet the user’s search intent, will have a higher bounce rate.

Another scenario is when your content is engaging but requires serious reading and contemplation, users may choose to bookmark it, and leave the site for now. This also causes the bounce rate to increase.

Business type (or sector)

Lower value products have a shorter buyer journey while higher value ones require more consideration.

As a result, the latter has a higher bounce rate, but the deal once closed will achieve more margin.

Traffic quality

Traffic is one of the top factors to evaluate the quality of a website. However, if you are attracting the wrong audience i.e. not your potential customers, there’s no reason why they should stay on your page any longer.

The quality of site traffic does affect your bounce rate

The quality of site traffic does affect your bounce rate

Channel type

There are many communication channels to drive traffic to your site, and each features a different bounce rate. Research has shown that social channels bounce more “energetically” than organic search. One of the reasons is that links on social channels mostly are directed to websites, so users are more likely to click back and open their browser to directly access that site.

Thus, choosing the right communication channels is also one of the important factors to promote SEO results.

Visitor type

Returning visitors are already familiar with the navigation and style of the website, so they will stay longer, causing the bounce rate to decrease. On the other hand, new visitors need some time to get used to how the site works, and if they deem it too troublesome, it’s natural to exit.

To track the data of new visitors, go to Google Analytics, choose Audience → Behavior → New vs. Returning.

Device type

In most cases, the bounce rate on mobile devices will be higher than on computers. One reason is that the desktop view of websites is usually more friendly and internal links are more appealing to click.

To view the bounce rate on mobile and desktop views, go to Google Analytics, choose Audience, go to Mobile → Overview.

Each device type has a different bounce rate

Each device type has a different bounce rate

When A Single-Page Session Is Not Counted As A Bounce

There are four cases when a user visits only one page of a site and exits but it is not counted as a bounce. Why? The short answer is because Google counts 2 or more requests made on that single-page session. Let’s look into more details.

Event Tracking

After visiting a landing page, the user triggers another action on that page. In this case, Google will not consider it a bounce.

For example, when you click Play to view a video on a page and this video is embedded with source code from YouTube. At this point, Google will record that you have sent 2 GIF requests, one to Google Analytics and one to Event Tracking Code. In other words, you have completed another action on the same session, so this is not a bounce, said Google.

Social Interactions Tracking

It’s a common practice to include some social CTAs (e.g. Share to Facebook) in a page. When a user clicks the Share button before leaving the site, Google counts it as two actions in one session.

Two GIF requests in this case are sent to Google Analytics and Social Interactions Tracking.

Use Google Analytics to view the social bounce rate

Use Google Analytics to view the social bounce rate

Automatically executed tracked events

When a page includes a tracked event that automatically executes when certain conditions are fulfilled (e.g. play a video when a user scrolls down to it), Google will make a count. In other words, the user has completed one action on this page besides visiting it.

In this case, two GIF requests are sent to Google Analytics and Event Tracking Code.

Multiple GATCs on the page

GATC or Google Analytics Tracking Code is the tracking code on the website. If you put 2 GATCs on the same page, there will be at least two GIF requests made, which makes it unable to be qualified as a bounce.

Therefore, when analyzing the bounce rate, make sure that your site only has one GATC by checking the header, footer, sidebar, etc.

What Makes Your Bounce Rate Surge?

There are six main reasons for the rise of the bounce rate.

Slow loading speed

Do you know that 3 seconds of waiting for a site to load is the upper limit of modern human tolerance? Some high quality pages suffer from skyrocketing bounce rates because they are too optimistic about online users’ patience.

To know whether your site speed exceeds this limit, use the PageSpeed Insights tool. And remember to do it for both your mobile and desktop versions.

Low quality content

No matter how you like it, Google is increasingly smart in assessing the quality of content on websites. In most of the recent updates, Google has focused on improving user experience through providing quality content.

High quality content helps decreasing bounce rate

High quality content helps decreasing bounce rate

Put yourself in the shoes of the users. If you spend your previous time visiting a site and is presented with low quality content, quietly clicking back is considered civilized enough.

Suboptimal user experience

You have invested a lot on content and keywords for your site to rank top on Google SERPs. Some users make a search, see your site, click and visit it. Then they bounce. Because the confusing layout and sloppy fonts hurt their eyes (and their trust). The only sign to know they have visited your site is visible on your elevated bounce rate.

The title and description don’t match the content

The title and description are what users see on the search result pages, which directly affect their decision to click through. But if the content turns out to be different from the previous “promises”, why should they stay?

Therefore, besides inserting the right keywords in the title and description, make sure they reflect the main content on your page.

No internal linking

When done well, internal linking is a good way to keep users engaged on your website for longer because relevant content just keeps showing up and piquing their interests. Once they click on an internal link to read another content, your bounce rate is safeguarded.

Technical errors

Make sure your website doesn’t have a 404 page. If there is, remove that URL and stop Google from indexing it. Alternatively, you can use 301 redirects to divert invalid URLs to the desired destination.

No 404 page is a good page (or site)

No 404 page is a good page (or site)

You can use the Ahrefs tool to detect invalid URLs or internal links and take proper actions.

How to Pull The Bounce Rate Down to a Healthy Level

In most cases, the lower the bounce rate, the higher the conversion rate. It’s because when users spend more time on a site, they are more likely to make a purchase decision. Therefore, reaching an “ideal” bounce rate is always on the to-do list of SEO practitioners. The good news is it is doable. You just need to follow these following steps.

Speed up the site

Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to know what makes your site slow and take actions. Maybe it’s about resizing some images which you can do it yourself, but maybe it takes more time and technical skills to remove some redundant codes. In the latter, ask for help from programmers to optimize your page speed.

Online users are increasingly demanding (and impatient!). Don’t give them an excuse to run away before seeing your good effort. In short, make sure your website loads fast on any device.

Match the content with the intent

Your goal is to provide users with valuable and easy to digest information. Stop keyword stuffing (if you are) just to get to the top of Google SERPs, because what really matters happens after they click through.

To retain visitors, your page should exude the look and feel and content of a guru in the industry. Provide them with food for thought instead of plain rice that every other kiosk sells. Lastly, do your homework thoroughly to make sure your content matches with the search intent of the users.

Conduct internal linking

Internal linking refers to the action of linking one page to another page on the same site. This is supposed to increase the time on site as users are continuously fed with relevant (and interesting) content. When a user stays longer, it’s more likely they will convert.

One way to conduct effective internal linking is to create topic clusters i.e. broad topics with smaller pieces of content addressing specific aspects. Then you can link these articles with one another without risking relevancy. Another way is to install some plugins about “related posts” in the footer to increase the internal link density and the probability of user clicking.

Utilize internal linking to curb your bounce rate

Utilize internal linking to curb your bounce rate

Optimize user experience

This falls into the category of UX/UI. In short, make sure the design of your site is neat, engaging and easy to navigate. Besides, pay more attention to the CTAs (Call To Actions) on landing pages to keep users stay longer and visit the pages you want them to.

Related insights: Creating engaging 404 pages can play a tremendous role in reducing bounce rates.

Final Thoughts

Bounce rate is a website metric that can be measured by Google Analytics, giving you the insights into the next actions for improving CTA and CRO.

A high bounce rate is not necessarily bad news, and what you need to do is focusing on optimizing the user experience and delivering the best quality content. We hope this article has provided you with valuable information about this interesting metric and how to take action to optimize your results.

To sate your appetite for the latest information on digital marketing, pay a visit to our blog. Or contact us today for dedicated consultancy on SEO solutions you are looking for.

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