Thursday, January 2, 2014
A - Z: Bounce Rate
The bounce rate of a site is the percentage of visitors that view only a single page before leaving the site again (and is often confused with the "exit rate" which is an entirely separate statistic). Single-page visitors are generally seen as an indicator of a problem with your website as we obviously want to keep visitors on the site as long as possible and not to leave after a quick look. But there can be plenty of other reasons for a "bounce", so keeping an eye on your site statistics will help you decipher what's really going on.
People often confuse a site's "bounce" rate with the "exit" rate. The exit rate of a web page is the percentage of users that leave the website from this particular page and do not continue browsing. The user may have already visited a good number of other pages on the website before leaving, so that a high exit rate on a specific page does not necessarily indicate a problem but rather could mean that the user found what they were looking for and therefore completed their visit to your site. Nothing wrong with that! (A high exit rate from the cart on an ecommerce site without completion through to checkout ... not so good!)
The bounce rate on the other hand reflects the percentage of visitors that left directly from the page they landed on, whether that is the home page or some inner page (remember that many Google searches will return links directly to inner pages or a user might have followed a link to an inner page that you provided on your social media profiles or were linked to from elsewhere).
In the first instance therefore, you would be forgiven for thinking that a high bounce rate always indicates a problem with your webpage as we obviously would like to keep our visitors on our website for as long as possible. But what if the page they landed on gave them exactly the information they were looking for? Hasn't your page done it's job really well? It is therefore very important that you look beyond the initial statistics and take time to analyse what's really going on so that you can pin-point to the true problem areas without getting stuck on red herrings.
Reasons why a bounce might not be a bad thing or can easily be explained
- The user is simply looking for your phone number and you have it conveniently displayed on the home page.
- The user landed on a specific blog post which contains the information they were looking for.
- The user searched for a product specification which was available on your page.
- You mention a term on your page which landed a user on it but they are looking for different information relating to this term which has nothing to do with the overall service you provide (a recent client example is the mentioning of the writer John McGahern on the ballinamore.ie website - because the ballinamore.ie site generally ranks highly, people searching for information on John McGahern regularly land here but would be seeking more detailed content than would be feasible for the ballinamore.ie website to provide - on the other hand this might point to an opportunity to expand this content!)
- The website is a news/media page with Latest News on the homepage which might be all that the user is looking for. The same goes for weather reports, stocks etc.
- The web page is question is a portal page for other sites, such as directories, listings etc.
- etc. - I think you get the gist!
Causes of a high bounce rate you should avoid
- Slow loading times
- Confusing navigation
- Confusing content with few internal hyperlinks for easy browsing
- Inappropriate keywords that bring the wrong users
- Annoying pop-up ads
- Links to external web pages that don't open in a new tab/window
- Non-mobile-friendly content
- Text-heavy pages with few images or sub-headings
- Distracting layouts
So what is an acceptable bounce rate?
A good bounce rate will vary by industry and the purpose of a website. Like I mentioned above, a directory or portal site will probably be a lot happier with a higher bounce rate than an ecommerce site. News/Media websites also experience on average very high bounce rates as users often come to them by following links on other websites to specific stories and then return to their originating website after reading the item. There also seem to be distinct differences when users land on the home page as opposed to a specific inner page, with higher bounce rates on inner pages as users are more likely to have reached the desired page directly.
Anil Batra, a Web Analytics and Online Advertising Consultant based in Seattle, carried out some research about bounce rates with the following results:
Check out this research in more detail.
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