Demystifying Bounce Rate in Google Analytics
Demystifying Bounce Rate in Google Analytics
The FieldTest Team · August 21st 2019
If you are at all familiar with Google Analytics, you are probably familiar with the term “bounce rate” as a key metric in your site’s performance data. Even though it may seem like a pretty straightforward metric (for some), this is one aspect of Google Analytics that’s often the most misunderstood and miscalculated by digital advertisers and marketers.
For those of you that understand SEO, you have most likely made a few assumptions about the importance of bounce rate and what exactly these metrics are telling you and your team. On a surface level, they certainly provide valuable insight into your site visitors and their habits. Unfortunately, these metrics can also be a little deceiving. So we want to dive a bit deeper to help you better understand the meaning of bounce rate and how there’s often much more than meets the eye when it comes to these numbers.
What is bounce rate in google analytics?
To calculate bounce rate for your page, Google Analytics takes the number of sessions that exit a single page without visiting another page on the site. They then divide that by the total number of sessions the page receives.
Here’s a closer look:
(Bounces) / (Total Sessions) = Bounce Rate
Or, to be more clear:
(10 bounces) / (50 sessions) = 20% bounce rate
Think of it this way, a “bounce” is when a visitor checks out a page on a website and their next click takes them away from the website. A “bounce” can also happen when someone falls asleep or walks away from their computer, as Google Metrics automatically records a bounce when any visit lasts 30 minutes or longer.
In other words: bounce rate is simple to understand…until it isn’t.
What is a good bounce rate?
When it comes to bounce rate, “good” is a pretty relative term – especially depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with your page. And your metrics can often fluctuate in ways you didn’t expect, especially at the top of the sales journey (funnel).
One such example is the back button. Many customers are often attracted to an ad and they click on it (win!). But once they get a quick sense of the product and its features they hit the back button and continue with their regular browsing. While these actions can impact bounce rate metrics, it’s important for advertisers to expect and plan for a large number of window shoppers vs. actual buyers. Remember: up at the top of the sales funnel, window shopping is a great thing - even if it looks like customers are bouncing.
So every click is good?
All too often, advertisers see bounces as a failure because customers aren’t moving through the funnel and making actual purchases. But guess what, every click on an ad that drives to your website actually helps you build your retargeting audience. Every click is like a seed that plants your brand and product into the heads of customers, and it’s a success even if they hit that back button.
Think of how often you’ve purchased something on your first site visit. Almost never, right? In order to turn the corner and click the buy button, most users will make numerous site visits to compare prices, learn more about the products, and possibly read a blog post or two.
Does a high bounce rate mean my site isn’t performing well?
Despite what many “experts” say, a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean that your website is not performing well.
A wise marketing guru once defined bounce rate as the following: “I came, I puked, I left.”
This simply isn’t true, as a visitor could have landed on your page, got all the info they wanted, and then left totally satisfied. Better yet, they could’ve shared the link on social and maybe passed along to a friend via email. Even though Google Analytics sees this as a bounce, many advertisers should see this as a victory.
High bounce rate and display advertising
Many of our clients see higher-than-expected bounce rate metrics on their Google Analytics. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as most advertising landing pages experience high bounce rates. In fact, a high bounce rate should be expected for single-page websites and conversion pages.
While bounce rates will vary according to the type of website, ad landing pages should expect an industry-standard bounce rate of around 75-90%.
If you’re wondering how other types of sites perform, here’s a closer look at the metrics from a recent study* on different types of websites and landing pages:
Content Heavy Websites 36% - 60%
Blog Websites 65% - 90%
Retail Websites 17.5% - 37.5%
Service Industry Websites 10% - 25%
Ad Landing Pages 75% - 90%
Lead Generation Websites 25% - 55%
*Google Analytics Benchmark Averages
As you can see, high bounce rates shouldn’t necessarily concern you and your campaign - especially when you take into consideration the type and style of the website. We know high bounce rates can trigger concern and make you think your ads aren’t targeted correctly. But don’t let those high numbers get you down, because comparison shopping is one of the main factors for ad landing pages.
Always keep in mind that if the customer had a positive experience on their visit, the bounce rate doesn’t really matter.
If they bounce, does that mean they didn’t act?
It’s definitely possible a site visitor did nothing. On the other hand, just because a site visitor only viewed one page and left, doesn’t mean they didn’t take any action.
Here’s a few potential actions that a visitor could perform before bouncing:
· Follow website on social
· Share website on social
· Recommend the website online and offline
· Bookmark the site
· Watch a video
· Make a comment
· Download media
· Click a link to a different site
If you’re still new to Google Analytics, you can go in and make adjustments to a range of tracking methods that will help reduce your bounce rate and provide better insights into customer behavior.
Does a high bounce rate influence SEO?
This might be one of the most talked about myths when it comes to bounce rate.
The short answer: yes and no.
Many believe that a high bounce rate negatively affects your rankings. This, unfortunately, is often based on the notion that the visitor hasn’t found what they’re looking for and they left without clicking through to another page on your site.
But as we discussed above, there are many reasons for a visitor to bounce and still be completely satisfied with their experience.
It’s worth mentioning here that Google has stated they don’t use analytics data as part of their algorithm. Instead, they use a metric called “Dwell Time” in which they measure the amount of time a user spends on a page before going back to search results. In a nutshell, one could consider this as bounce rate, even if Google doesn’t explicitly say they use bounce rate as a ranking factory.
Google has also stated that “bounce backs” are not considered by their search algorithm. So bounces where someone hits the back button have no part of your search rank.
Final thoughts before you bounce
Don’t forget that Google Analytics is a free service, and that lack of cost can often include lack of clarity. We’re not saying you should burn your ad budget on an expensive analytics service, but we hope you recognize there can be many layers to the onion of your campaign.
Remember that high bounce rates are standard for advertising landing pages, and the data you gather from Google Analytics doesn’t always paint a true picture of your marketing success.
Best of all, your campaign can be highly successful even if it’s registering more bounces than you initially expected. There are many other sales funnel factors to consider beyond the dreaded bounce, so don’t lean too heavily on the inflated metrics that Google Analytics can often send your way.
We recommend you set your own baseline for your site’s bounce metrics, as each website is unique and you need at least 90 days of data at a reasonable spend rate to really understand the big picture around your campaign performance. When you set your own standards, you can effectively make tweaks, improve performance, and achieve the goals that matter most to your brand.