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A Guide to Bounce Rates and 6 Ways to Lower Yours

Hannah Beazley

15 April 2021

Bounce Rates are one of the most misunderstood metrics in Google Analytics. Often seen as something that should be lowered at all costs, they indicate users don’t like the page or that there’s been a discrepancy between search expectation and reality.

Or do they?

There’s more to them than meets the eye and we’re here to clear up the confusion once and for all.

Read on to find out the true meaning of Bounce Rates.

What is a Bounce Rate?

The simplified version you see around the Internet is “the % of people who leave after viewing one page on a website”. But like I said, it’s a misunderstood metric. A more accurate definition comes straight from Google itself

Bounce Rate is the single-page sessions divided by all sessions where a visitor exits the webpage without performing any other actions or browsing any further

To put it another way, if a user enters a landing page and leaves straight away, that’s a bounce. However, if a user enters a landing page, watches a video and then leaves, it’s not. Both are single-page sessions, but only one is marked as a bounce on Google Analytics.

It’s also important to understand the key differences between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate. These are usually shown next to each other on your Google Analytics Dashboard but are not the same.

Bounce Rate Google Analytics Dashboard

As you can see from the example above Bounce Rate and Exit Rate often have significantly different values. That’s because while BR is the % of single engagement sessions (total 1-page visits divided by total entrances), Exit Rate is the % of exits on the page (total exits from a page dived by total visits to the page).

Event Tracking

From the example earlier, we know that visiting a page, watching a video and then leaving isn’t considered a bounce. However, while that’s technically true, whether it contributes towards your Bounce Rate really depends on how you’ve set up event tracking in Google Analytics.

For example, say you visit the Casa Media website, scroll down our homepage and click through the testimonials near the bottom. You’re interacting with the site, you’re interested but you suddenly remember you’re running late for a dentist appointment so you close the browser.

If we didn’t have an event tracking set-up for the micro-actions (Interaction events) you can take without visiting another page, it would go down as a bounce. This despite the fact that you have every intention of returning to our website, booking in for a consultation and upgrading your marketing strategy for 2021, right?

Although typically ‘Interaction’ events are set up to trigger after a user has spent a set time on a page, really any actions can be set up to trigger them. Therefore analyzing Bounce Rates doesn’t always lead to accurate conclusions as the reliability of the data depends on how events are distributed.

This is something to bear in mind, particularly if you’re comparing the bounce rate between two pages on your website; one with no events and one with lots of ‘interaction events’, say an about page and a contact page.

In this example, just because your about page has a high Bounce Rate it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t functional. In fact, it could mean the exact opposite; users are finding what they need without further action. On the other hand, your contact page could have a very low BR because you’ve set up events triggered by users selecting drop-down buttons to find contact information. This additional step triggers an event so even if they leave straight after, it’s no longer considered a bounce.

Which brings us nicely onto…

Interpreting the Bounce Rate Metric

HubSpot did a study and found the average Bounce Rate for different types of websites/pages:

  • Content Websites: 40-60%
  • Lead Generation: 30-50%
  • Blogs: 70-98%
  • Retail: 20-40%
  • Service: 10-30%
  • Landing Page: 70-90%

However, since there are multiple factors that influence BR it’s not that helpful to look at an industry average. This is because you’d need to know the context of the page, the type and quality of website traffic, the seasonality of the data and how it correlates to your website to make an accurate comparison. In other words, you can’t compare yourself to what you see online. (That’s good advice in general, not just when it comes to Bounce Rates!)

What’s more useful is to consider the following factors, how they apply to your website and what impact this could be having on your individual Bounce Rate.

1. User Intent/ Behavior

The webpage or landing page a user arrives at should match their search query intent as much as possible. Any discrepancies here could cause a higher bounce rate. For example, if the user searched for/clicked on an ad for sneakers but landed on a page with ice skates, they’re going to get out of there pretty quickly. Check your landing pages!

2. Webpage Type

Different web pages have different purposes, and therefore different bounce rates. Lead pages, if optimized correctly, tend to have a lower bounce rate as the user typically fills out the form. On the other hand, as we saw in the HubSpot report, blog pages tend to have an extremely high BR because users typically leave after reading. Contact pages can have a similar issue; if the only option is to call and the Bounce Rate is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re leaving unsatisfied; they have all the information they need to do it. Understand your webpage and its purpose before jumping to conclusions!

3. Quality of the Webpage

Too much text, unclear CTAs or visually unappealing/unfriendly design lead to higher bounce rates.

Let’s take a look at this principle in action. Below are the homepages of two different bowling alley websites. Based solely on this first impression, which one would you exit without taking any actions? I think I know the answer…

Bounce Rate factor: page quality

4. Quality of Traffic

If your website is attracting the wrong type of users your BR is going to be sky-high. If you’re SEO is poor, your targeting the wrong keywords or your ads don’t have a specific audience, you’ll get users landing on your site who have no business being there.

5. Type of Marketing Channel

Where is the majority of your traffic coming from? Organic Search tends to have a higher Bounce Rate than traffic from Social Media (assuming you’ve targeted your audience correctly). Understanding how users arrive at your webpage is important for analyzing Bounce Rates.

6. Visitor Type

Returning visitors have a lower BR than first-time ones. Depending on what you offer you might find your website is a one-time-visit type of place meaning your BR is naturally higher.

For example, pages with answers to a question, such as ‘How many people use Facebook?’* are probably only visited once while the searcher is looking for that information. It’s unlikely they’ll return to the page daily!

*It’s 2.7 billion a month, FYI.

7. Device Type

52.2% of online traffic comes from mobile phones. Websites that are not equipped for this will see high bounce rates. If yours isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time to optimize!

How to Lower Your Bounce Rate

After reading the factors that can influence Bounce Rate above, you might already have an idea about how to lower yours. But just in case, here are 6 things to try to get your BR ?.

1. Target the right keywords

You already know how user intent and visitor type can impact Bounce Rate. Make sure you’re attracting the right visitors and appearing in the right searches by implementing keywords (and negative keywords) that relate to your website and specific pages. Meet user’s needs and they’ll stick around.

2. Improve webpage quality

In addition to getting your keywords right, you should work on your page quality. Add clear call-to-actions to direct the user, improve the readability through subheadings, bullet points and keeping text concise and include visuals that complement the page copy/brand story. 53% of people leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load so work on your load speed while you’re at it!

3. Use pop-ups wisely

As a general rule users hate pop-ups, but for businesses, they can be effective. Don’t overload visitors with layers of pop-ups that make it difficult to access the content they’re after.

4. Landing Pages

Make sure the pages you’re sending users to are a continuation of the ad/link theme they clicked on. Incorrect or non-specific landing pages are frustrating to visitors who want fast results and are a surefire way to see Bounce Rates increase.

5. Change User Behaviour

Add additional steps, such as visiting the next page for contact forms to encourage the user to navigate further. This can backfire though if you add too many layers that make the website unfriendly so be careful.

6. Change your definition of it

Setting up ‘Interaction’ events around the critical things a user does to signal engagement with a page will lower BR. In addition, it might also give you a better indication of the quality of your webpage because you’ll see if users are inspired to watch videos, click-through images etc.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately it’s hard to tell if a bounce is good or bad. It could be triggered by a user leaving fully satisfied, or not at all, a session timeout, or even someone finally getting around to closing all those forgotten tabs that reload every time the browser is opened.

Before you stress about high Bounce Rates first understand who your users are, where they’re coming from and the types of web pages you have. Concentrate on providing high-quality, user-friendly web pages that meet the needs of visitors and you’ll be fine.

Hannah Beazley

We rebranded. SH1FT becomes Casa. Read the press release here.