What is a bounce rate?

Bounce rate is an amazing metric because it’s easy to understand and gives you a very quick method of identifying landing pages with issues. Generally speaking a bounce rate of about 30% is considered good where as a score of 50%+ is considered negative and possibly points towards landing page issues. According to Google Analytics bounce rate is defined as:

“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” (Google Analytics)

In other words someone came to the site and just saw one page and then left, or as Avinash Kaushik says “I came. I puked. I left!”

Technical definition of a bounce rate

Unfortunately as you dig deeper into what is a bounce you start to realize that this simple metric is not so simple after all. Strictly speaking a bounce is not a session but a “hit”. Justin Cutroni notes that there are five types of engagement hits:

  • Pageview hits
  • Interactive event hits
  • Ecommerce transaction hits
  • Ecommerce transaction item hits
  • Social plugin hits

Unfortunately all of these types of hits can affect the bounce rate. This means that a social share or an event, such as a video play or download, can all impact the bounce rate.

Relevance
Generally speaking a high bounce rate is indicative of page that returns irrelevant content for a specific search term. For example, if someone did a search for “blue shoes” but landed on a page selling children’s toys the person would obviously leave pretty quickly.

Incorrect tracking code implementation
If you see a sharp increase or decrease in the bounce rate this is generally a sign of something technical that has gone wrong. Yehoshua Coren highlights some common culprits as being live chat pop-ups that send pageviews or events, videos that create virtual pageviews and events. If you put Google Analytics code more than once on a page this will result in a zero bounce rate.

Site design
If you can’t use a site people will leave very quickly. You have to design your site so users don’t have to think. Make all the call to actions clear and simple and, as above, make the landing page relevant. Another aspect of usability is “findability”. People need to know where to go next. If the navigation is not self-explanatory they will go.

User behaviour
A high bounce rate can also be attributed to user behaviour particularly when people view blog posts. Blogs often have high bounce rates because users read one blog article and then depart. A high bounce rate can also be caused by people bookmarking their favourite pages. They may often return to the same page, read or check something and then go , which creates the bounce.

Other causes of high bounce rates
As indicated above there can be many reasons for a high bounce rate. Generally speaking they indicate something is not quite right with your site. However, you have to be vigilant because sometimes the bounce rate can be caused by a totally unrelated issue to do with your site. In the image below you can see the bounce rate shoot up because an ISP accidently started pinging this site!

ISP-accidently-pining-site

ISP accidentally pinging site

Bounce Rate Weighted Score
Identifying a bad bounce rate is easy but have you ever tried to analyse all of your landing page bounce rates only to be frustrated by the large number of pages with a bounce rate of 100%? Many of these bounce rates will have few sessions so they are meaningless.

non-weighted_bounce_rate

Bounce rate – not weighted

Luckily you can sort through the debris using a mathematically intelligent feature in Google Analytics called “Weighted sort”. When selected it sorts your bounce rates by importance by measuring them against the number of sessions. Now we can start looking at our actionable data.

weighted-bounce-rate

How to set the bounce rate’s weighted score