Bounce Rate: The Misunderstood Metric

Bounce Rate: the misunderstood metric

Today the internet is celebrating  it’s 25th birthday. In the early days, when people were still learning what makes the internet tick, they kept hearing about one metric: bounce rate – bounce rate – bounce rate. We were told that this was the metric we need to keep an eye on. High bounce rate was the smoke signal showing you may have issues on your site, causing people to view the page they landed on and leave. Even back in the early 2000’s bounce rate was a misunderstood metric, but 25 years later, in today’s world of online advertising, complex design, and extensive data, the relevance of bounce rate is only getting smaller and smaller.

How is bounce rate calculated? Google explains bounce rate like this” “Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page)”. To put that simply. If someone only views a single page or your website and leaves (bounces) that will increase your bounce rate.

bounce rate formula

Why Do People Think Bounce Rate Is Important? People assume if someone hits a single page and leaves the site, there must be something wrong with that page, why else would they leave and not continue on exploring the site? This is a legitimate question, but the answer depends on the situation. Maybe all the info the user needed was on that one page – Google doesn’t look at the amount of time they spend on that single page. I could spend 7 minutes reading about the 2013 Ford F150 you have in stock, call the dealership to book a test drive (which would be considered a success) but Google Analytics is going to show that as a bounce.

Bounce rate is even more watered down when you are running online advertising. Many online advertising campaigns target specific people searching for specific things. Landing pages for online advertising are designed specifically to remove the temptation of exploring the site. You want that user to see your ads, click to get to the landing page that is most relevant to the ad, and take the desired action; whether it be filling out a form, calling, printing off a coupon etc. If that person does the desired action, that is a success, a success by every metric except for bounce rate. This is why bounce rate is no longer the key performance metric you once thought it was.

So what metrics should I be using to determine if my site is working well? Unfortunately, there is no simple or single answer to this. You have traffic coming from many sources, and the different people from those different sources interact with the site differently. You may think time on site is a good metric, but you’ve noticed it go down. Is this bad? Maybe something needs to be done and let’s redesign your whole site! But did you also notice that the amount of traffic from mobile and tablet has gone up? People visiting the site on mobile spend less time on the site than those visiting from desktop, so now that drop makes sense. The solution is not to look at your traffic as a whole but to segment out the traffic. Look at the sources of traffic individually and whether they are going up or down. Look at what devices people are coming from, and check out behaviour flow to see how they are flowing through your site.

You should have access to your Google Analytics, your website provider has no good reason to keep that from you, so make sure you have access and go in and look around, if you see anything you don’t understand ask you website provider or drop us at Strathcom a line and we can help decipher the data for you. Data is power, but only if you look.

User viewing many pages online

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