What’s Behind Your Google Analytics Bounce Rate?

Saguy Aizen
Search & Social Media Manager
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When you want to measure user behavior on your website, one of the most useful metrics is Bounce Rate. You know, the percentage of sessions that only had a single page view, or another way to think of it is the percentage of times that users leave a website from the same webpage they entered without interacting with it.

Before getting in over our heads, let’s review the basics:

  • Google Analytics counts “hits” as “interactions.” And since a hit is sent when a page is viewed, the default interaction for bounce rate is page views.
  • The system automatically starts a virtual timer when a hit is sent. If it doesn’t receive any other interaction within 30 minutes, the session will count as a bounce. (Aka single interaction sessions)
  • A high bounce rate does not necessarily indicate that there’s a problem with the page or website. What really matters is the type of page we’re looking at and the desired action.

Okay, now that we’ve got that down, what can we learn from this metric? What does a high or low bounce rate really mean? Let’s look at two examples to understand better:

Example #1: Blog – This example shows us that a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. Imagine that this blog had these metrics last month:

bounce rate_blog
According to the table, the blog has a very high bounce rate. But if we take a closer look, we can see that it also has a relatively high average session duration. This means the traffic that came to the blog stayed for a long time: 7 minutes. (The average session duration for a bounce is 0 minutes!) Since this is a blog and its main goal is to create engaging content that is relevant to users, we can assume that a lot of people actually read the content. So in this case, the bounce rate is irrelevant. We can still put it to good use by reevaluating our goals and events, but we’ll talk about that later.

Example #2: Online Pet Shop – This example shows us that a high bounce rate can also mean serious trouble. Let’s look at the data from the previous month:

bounce rate_site
To understand this example let’s think about the goals this site is trying to achieve. They want people to enter the website, find relevant content (their products), and ultimately, drive online sales. From the table, we can see that the high bounce rate and short average session duration indicates that the site is performing poorly. With the raw data alone, we can’t conclude if the issue is with the traffic or the site itself but it does alert us to a problem: users are entering and leaving without engaging with the website.

So What Is a Good Bounce Rate?

So how do we know what is a good bounce rate? And how can we take into account user interactions that are not associated with a hit?

The answer to the first question is unclear and depends on a lot of variables that are unique per industry and site. However, typically a 35% or lower bounce rate is considered “Okay”, and higher than 50% indicates that there is an issue, possibly an implementation problem with the code or UX issues.

The second question is much simpler to answer. We have the ability to implement Google Analytics Event Tracking and use it to track and quantify interactions within a website. When we implement events, we have the option to choose if an event will be counted as a bounce or a non-bounce. Now you’re probably thinking, “So why not just create a lot of events to make the bounce rate drop?” Good question. But doing that won’t give a real view of the data. The better course of action is to consider what kind of actions we can clearly define as interactions. If it’s a blog for instance, we can count the amount of time spent on a page or reaching a certain scrolling point as an interaction.

After these changes are implemented, we can see any website’s true bounce rate. Now before I say goodbye, here are a few last thoughts:

  • Referrals to subdomains and external links are counted as bounces by default (This can be changed during your analytics setup). These are clicks that engage with your content in a way, but they still navigate out of your site from the same entrance page – hence they count as a bounce.
  • Using events to track and segment certain behaviors is a great way to dive into your users’ flow on specific web pages and on your website in general – get excited for some awesome insights!
  • Think twice before defining your events as bounce or non-bounce. You may cause a drastic change in your data that will not accurately reflect your true bounce rate.

Feel free to use these tips as you like, but keep in mind that bounce rate is just one of many important metrics that contribute to your site’s ranking and success.

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