Bounce Rate: Brief Summary
Bounce rate is a website performance metric, which measures the percentage of visitors that enter a site, then leave (or bounce) without carrying out another desired action. The most common desired action is clicking on a link to another page on the same website, but other actions may include downloading a file or watching a video. Within the field of web analytics, bounce rate is one of the most important measurements of a website’s effectiveness.
A low bounce rate is generally indicative of a website that is successful in persuading visitors to carry out such actions, while a high bounce rate may suggest the site is unsuccessful in this regard. With that being said, there are certain limitations to interpreting bounce rate in such a simplistic way and the metric should be considered within the wider context of what the website, or specific web page, is designed to achieve.
Bounce Rate: Detailed Summary
A website or web page’s bounce rate is expressed as a percentage and indicates the proportion of visitors who bounce off the site from the first page they land on. Visitors can be classed as having ‘bounced’ if their session times out, or if they perform a number of actions, including closing their web browser or tab, clicking the ‘back’ button, turning their mobile off, typing a new URL into the address bar, or clicking a link to a page on a different website.
The bounce rate metric is important for website owners and online marketing experts because it helps them to build up a picture of how their pages are performing in terms of retaining visitors’ interest and encouraging them to perform specific actions. Website owners often keep track of the bounce rate on key landing pages of their website, as these pages are designed specifically to encourage further interaction or usage of the site.
The bounce rate for a single web page can be calculated with the following formula:
Bounce Rate = Number of Visitors Who Visit One Page Only / Total Visits to the Page
Meanwhile, the bounce rate formula when analysing an entire website is:
Bounce Rate = Number of Visitors Who Visit One Page Only / Total Visits to the Website
Generally, the bounce rate is measured through the use of specialist web analytics software or services, with examples including Google Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics, Bing Webmaster Tools and Adobe Analytics. It is often viewed in connection with other key metrics, such as total web page traffic or total website hits, to build a complete picture of how the website is functioning, or how effective an SEO strategy has been in achieving its goals. These analytics tools are free, but one can unlock more functions with subscriptions.
Uses and Limitations
In most cases, a low bounce rate is desirable, because it indicates that visitors are being persuaded to carry out requested actions or being persuaded to engage further with the website as a whole. Therefore, when used to assess website performance, the bounce rate metric can be valuable for indicating pages where improvement is needed, or for comparing a new design to an old design, allowing for greater optimisation in this area.
Bounce rate is perhaps most useful when assessing landing pages, which have been linked to either PPC advertising or part of a search marketing strategy. This is because such pages are specifically designed to attract traffic from search engines like Google, or from banner advertising. They also usually include a call to action, to encourage visitors to convert, subscribe, or engage further. Therefore, low bounce rates suggest effectiveness.
Nevertheless, there are certain limitations to using bounce rate as a performance metric. Its value is severely limited when used to analyse web pages where visitors can get all of the information they need from a single page. For example, a person searching for a specific news story may land on the page for that story, read the news piece, get everything they need and then leave, but the page has actually served its purpose.
Sites which contain news pieces, or other examples of stand-alone web pages, may find that their overall website bounce rate is affected by these pages, despite the site’s key landing pages actually having a low bounce rate. Different types of web page also tend to perform differently, so a website owner can expect their blog posts to have a higher bounce rate than a homepage carefully designed to facilitate or drive sales.
It is for this reason that bounce rate should be viewed in the context of the website’s overriding objectives, which pages are negatively impacting the bounce rate, the content of those pages and what their purpose is.
Causes of a High Bounce Rate
As mentioned, there are a number of potential reasons why a web page or website may have a high bounce rate and still be performing to expectations. Yet, there are also some common causes of a high bounce rate that are more problematic, because they tend to be indicative of a website, or an SEO strategy, which is not functioning properly. It may, therefore, be necessary to take action to address these issues.
One common cause of a high bounce rate is poor quality content. If a visitor lands on a page and sees content which is inaccurate, poorly written, or which fails to deliver in some other way, they are likely to click off the page. Similarly, poor design is a major contributor and this can include pages which are unattractive, pages which take too long to load, pages with poor font choices or pages which are cluttered and overwhelming.
Similarly, website owners tracking visitor behaviour that notice a high bounce rate may need to alter their search marketing campaigns. Sites that target specific keywords may find that they attract lots of visitors, but the website may not necessarily be relevant to what those visitors are actually looking for. People are also more likely to click off of websites which feature pop-up advertising, auto-play video advertising, or poor security features.
Ultimately, bounce rate is an important performance metric for most websites, indicating how effective the site is at engaging visitors, and how effective individual pages are at encouraging visitors to carry out desired actions. The metric itself indicates the proportion of visitors that land on a website or web page and leave without visiting another page or carrying out a requested action. It is expressed as a percentage.
In most cases, a low bounce rate is desirable, because it indicates that a low percentage of visitors are visiting a site and leaving after one page. Common factors that may lead to a high bounce rate include poor design, poor quality content and an ineffective SEO strategy. However, it is important that analysis is carried out with a full understanding of context, as there are situations where a high bounce rate may not be indicative of performance issues.