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November 7, 2010

Should You Worry About Your Bounce Rate?

A low bounce rate is often cited as a hallmark of a good website – 40% or lower is typically heralded as the goal – signaling that visitors are engaged with your site and finding useful content. A high bounce rate is often assumed to mean that your site is not doing its job. In reality, bounce rate means different things for different sites and the emphasis you place on it will vary according to the type of site you have and its goals.

What Does Bounce Rate Mean?

The definition from Google’s Analytics help pages is: “Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page.”

When is Bounce Rate a Relevant Metric?

– If you have a sales or conversion process which requires the user to follow through multiple pages on your site.
– If exploration of your site is important to your goals.
– If you are trying to turn new visitors into loyal readers or customers.
– If yours is a retail site and you want people to shop around and make purchases.
– If your homepage is not inducing further clicks, particularly if it contains blog excerpts or other ‘teaser’ content.

What a High Bounce Rate Could Mean:

1. Keywords and content are mismatched.

In cases where visitors are coming from search engines, a high bounce rate may mean that the keywords they used and the content they found on your site are not aligned – so your site doesn’t meet their expectations in some way.

What you can do:

Analyze your keyword traffic and make sure your pages are optimized for the keywords you want and that the content is closely aligned with keywords and not misleading in any way.

2. The next step in your conversion or goal process is not obvious or easy enough.

What you can do:

Look at your landing pages with an objective eye and make the next step clear and easy to take.

3. The navigation on your site is confusing or unclear, making additional content hard to find.

What you can do:

Re-evaluate the navigation and see if there are ways to streamline or simplify. Also double-check for browser compatibility – perhaps the page is not displaying correctly under some conditions.

4. Your offer or product is not presented in a compelling or easy to understand way.

What you can do:

Look at your sales copy or offer details and see if you can refresh it or make it more appealing. You could try split-testing different versions to see which performs better.

5. Your site has technical problems. Particularly if your bounce rate suddenly spikes or displays an unusual trend, it could be an indication of technical issues – broken images or links, or something on the page not loading correctly.

What you can do:

Check for compatibility and broken links. Test the load speed of the page and generally make sure your code is as clean and functional as possible. Check for server outages and other issues that could have temporarily affected the functionality of your site.

A high bounce rate might not be a problem if:

– You have a blog homepage containing all your recent posts in their entirety – Blogger blogs are notorious for this. When all your posts are presented up front there would be little reason for someone to click to any other pages.

– You have a loyal blog following and your site has a higher proportion of returning visitors than new visitors. Your followers and subscribers may just want to read the newest post and have no need to visit other pages.

– you are promoting a landing page which contains the call to action within it, such as submitting an email address. That single page can do its job effectively without requiring further clicks.

– the call to action or conversion takes your visitor off-site – to an external shopping cart or email sign up for example. This would look like a bounce, but can still be a conversion.

– Blogs typically have higher bounce rates compared to other types of sites so the same benchmarks do not apply.

Bounce Rate is Not the Only Metric.

Don’t look at bounce rate in isolation – look at the overall picture of your website and how it’s performing according to the metrics that matter to you. What DO you want your visitors to do at your site? Are you making it easy for them to do that, and are you measuring it?

Look for trends and other data that give you a fuller picture of what the bounce rate really means:

– Is the bounce rate higher or lower for certain keywords?

– Does it vary according to how people found your site? Search engines vs. social media, for example.

– How does it vary with New vs. Returning visitors?

– Which particular pages or types of content on your site have higher or lower bounce rates?

– Look also at length of time the visitor spends on the page which could indicate whether or not they are reading what they find – this is very important for a blog.

Lucy Beer of is an online marketing professional of more than 8 years. She has been using and loving WordPress since 2004 and provides WordPress training services. She also consults with small businesses on their online marketing strategy, helping them develop and execute a plan that increases their business and engages their target audience.

12 Responses to “Should You Worry About Your Bounce Rate?

    avatar Mens Sex Toys says:

    I agree with everything said above, but one aspect that is often given less emphasis (and is again here) is the general design of a site.

    Marketing companies and advertising agencies spend a LOT of their time creating interesting and appealing design, from color choices to graphics used.

    This is something that is desperately overlooked in internet sales.

    One thing that specifically annoys me personally is the creation of “squeeze pages”. I actually click on some email links offering my business a service because I’m interested in it, but when I’m confronted by one of those pages with red and yellow text, all centered, shouting at me with suggestions that I’ll get something for nothing just for handing over my email address I immediately click away from it.
    I’d much prefer to see a professional and popular site that actually has some design thought other than “pressure them to buy!”

    I often see new members of ecommerce forums asking for reviews of their brand new site. And when I click on it I’m confronted by a mess of mismatched colors, incorrectly placed copy and poor quality graphics.

    The psychological effects of color use and design are known, and this is a vital aspect when designing a site. You need to get the most information across in that one split-second. You need to use color and graphics as a direct means of communication.

    It’s like going on a first date; you wouldn’t turn up in paint-spattered jeans and a torn t-shirt, with an immaculate suit jacket over it and sandals on your feet – while carrying an umbrella and playing an accordion!

    Far too many people present a website to the world that is unfinished, confused, and just poorly designed, and I believe that has as much impact on bounce rates as anything else mentioned in this article.

    avatar Roni says:

    You described what Google says a high bounce rate measures, but it would be good to see some numbers. What percentage would be high (let’s say, as compared to the average website that is not a blog)?

    How do you determine if specific keywords are inappropriate for the website, and whether that is actually a problem that is causing people to leave a site? Also, what about easily misinterpreted keywords, such as those with two or more distinct meanings (e.g., “book” as in something to read, versus “book” as in schedule a flight)?

    avatar Dean Berg says:

    I do a lot of work with customers who need the technical aspects of Google Analytics.

    I thought the article was well thought out and had some new thoughts for clients to consider. Thanks for posting it!

    On First Page

    avatar rumah dijual says:

    Great insight. I love the post, it’s clear and useful. So we don have to worry about our bounce rate data.

    avatar C J Siberia says:

    A very nice clean description. Great points about blog links to main websites. Thank you

    avatar Lyn Murphy says:

    Thank you for a very informative article which has really helped me to understand this term a lot better. We are very new to the world of E-Commerce and so it is refreshing to come across an article written in such simple-to-grasp terminology.

    avatar Sheila @ Avaguide says:

    I agree with Dean, this is well thought at the same time it gives users more insight about bounce rates in their personal or business websites.

    avatar Terry Dunn says:

    I’ve noticed a high bounce rate on my blog statistics and wondered why. Lucy has helped me to understand why. I can see the keywords and content are mismatched. Thanks for an excellent article.


    avatar Forklift sales says:

    I’ve found that a good way to fix bounce rate is by using a short, carefully planned video that plays automatically and is based on the keyword.

    avatar Free says:

    I do a lot of work with customers who need the technical aspects of Google Analytics.

    I thought the article was well thought out and had some new thoughts for clients to consider. Thanks for posting it!

    avatar rohit says:

    I’ve found that a good way to fix bounce rate is by using a short, carefully planned video that plays automatically and is based on the keyword.
    I do a lot of work with customers who need the technical aspects of Google Analytics.
    I thought the article was well thought out and had some new thoughts for clients to consider. Thanks for posting it!

    Thanks you …

    Great post, bounce rates have become even more critical as of late along with actual user experience. It can also affect your website search engine ranking.

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