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What is a Bounce Rate? Website Analytics Explained

What is a Bounce Rate? Website Analytics and Statistics Explained

The bounce rate (BR) statistic has given webmasters unparalleled insight into the behavior of visitors to their website. It adds depth and intelligence to website analytics and offers the ability for webmasters to analytically measure the success of their landing pages and site content. But the term Bounce Rate is often misunderstood, even by the veteran webmasters and metrics analysts. What is a bounce rate? And how exactly can it be used to gather meaningful intelligence from web analytics? This article will attempt to shed some light on this very valuable statistic.

Statistical data and analytics are just figures and numbers that webmasters collect to gather information about the performance of their websites. Here we’ll precisely define BR and learn a little about the information it conveys:

Definition of Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate essentially gauges how interested a visitor to your site is in your content.

When your sight catches a reader’s interest, they are more likely to explore your content and browse throughout the pages on your site, decreasing your BR.

When your site does not interest a reader, they leave without browsing through many pages of content, increasing your bounce rate.

The BR statistic doesn’t necessarily capture the success or conversion rate of your website: it is simply a measurement of a user’s interest in reading the various pages of content on your site. Some sites are set up so as to convert without requiring the user to browse around; at the same time, some users don’t need to browse through a site’s content before converting. Different webmaster strategies and browsing behaviors can produce the same conversion statistics.

Using the BR to increase the success of your site will require some important decisions about how you arrange content on your website. These decisions could be superficial, but they could also necessitate fundamental changes in your site’s design, layout, and page hierarchy.

The most basic information that Bounce Rate conveys is the percentage of users who didn’t surf past their initial landing page on your website. Put another way, BR captures the percentage of users who simply “bounced” off of your website before discovering anything other than the page that they landed on. A user might leave your site for any number of reasons, and every web user has a different approach to surfing the web. To truly use your BR statistic to your advantage, you’ll have to try to put yourself in the shoes of a visitor to your website.

The first question that most webmasters ask is, “What is a good bounce rate?”

This is often a difficult question to answer because each website serves a specific purpose. There’s no specific percentage – 10%, 80%, 78.5% — that can be considered universally “good” for a BR. The first step to understanding this statistic is understanding how the statistic is derived. Web users don’t punish webmasters by leaving their websites – they leave when they were unable to find the information or features that they were looking for. It’s as simple as that; if a user isn’t satisfied with what he or she saw when they landed at your site, then they’ll leave. The Bounce Rate basically answers the question: “How many visitors to my website were inclined to stick around?”, which is a very difficult question to interpret and is what makes it such a complicated statistic.

Can you explain Bounce Rate in simple terms?

  • The Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors to your site that left without browsing past the first page that they arrived at. It’s the percentage of visitors that “bounced” off of your site.
  • It is only helpful if it’s taken in the context of the purpose of your website.

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The most important thing to understand about Bounce Rate…

  • BR has nothing to do with the subject of your website and everything to do with the strategy of your website.
  • If your site is designed to convey everything in the first page that a user lands on, then a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing.

Why do many webmasters completely ignore their Bounce Rate?

  • It is context-based, which makes interpreting it more difficult than simply determining that it’s “too high” or “too low”
  • BR is not a quantitative statistic – it doesn’t measure something concrete. Instead, it is qualitative, meaning it is subject to context and circumstance and measures the quality of something rather than the volume or size. Quantitative statistics must take into account the environment from which they came, as they’re designed to describe the quality of a certain object of study. So the quality of your BR is more important than the number itself – and this is a difficult concept for some webmasters to wrap their heads around.
  • Conversely, quantitative data is much easier to interpret – it measures something concrete. Statistics such as conversion percentage or monthly sales volume can be compared against previous time periods or other websites and deemed high or low. But because the BR statistic is contextual, it can’t be compared so easily with previous periods or other websites. Additionally, it is entirely dependent on the landing page of a user’s visit. Since the BR measures the number of users who never browsed past the initial page of their visit, then comparing the bounce rate of a landing pages with different purposes is useless.

What should webmasters try to understand about their Bounce Rate statistics?

  • When considering if a page’s Bounce Rate is too high or too low, a webmaster should decide what the purpose of that particular page is. Should users be inclined to surf around when they reach this page? Or should this page convey information very concisely and allow the user to feel comfortable leaving the site? What is the purpose of the page?
  • New websites generally have higher Bounce Rates than more established websites. Readers familiar with a site are more inclined to browse because they are familiar with the layout of the site and the quality of the content.
  • As your CTR (click-through rate) to external pages increases, your page’s BR increases with it. But is this a bad thing? What is the purpose of that specific page?
  • Bounce Rate becomes truly revealing when traffic to a website is targeted. Untargeted traffic is unpredictable and can’t shed any light on the quality and effectiveness of a landing page.

How can I improve my website with Bounce Rate?

  • You can update content and optimize pages to be more useful or compelling to visitors — especially first-time visitors who don’t yet know your site
  • You should examine the individual bounce rates of each your website’s pages. Determine which pages generate the most interest in the rest of your site – that is, which pages have the lowest BR – and try to emulate those qualities on the rest of your pages.

Some myths about Bounce Rate

Myth #1: Having a low bounce rate is more important than getting a lot of traffic

  • BR is definitely valuable when it generates interest in your site, but it can’t directly be compared with traffic volume.
  • Many webmasters who have recently discovered the value of the statistic look to it as the end-all, be-all indicator of a site’s success. All things considered, more traffic is always better; if the goal of your site is to generate interest through content, then a lower BR is also better. But a low BR compared with a large volume of traffic is the absolute ideal scenario!

Myth #2: Higher Bounce Rates mean that a site isn’t selling as many products or generating as many affiliate commissions

  • Again, a BR must be taken in the context of the purpose of the page. This statement is not necessarily true; in fact, there are many instances when a low bounce rate is actually detrimental to product sales. Imagine a user being so compelled by a website’s promotional content that they purchase an item straight from the landing page, or click the first affiliate link they see, or click the first banner ad they see. In these cases, a high BR would be a great thing! It would mean that the website’s users are immediately monetizing and not being distracted by content that doesn’t lead to a conversion. The idea is that Bounce Rate alone cannot evaluate a website’s success.

Myth #3: Interesting content always leads to low bounce rates

  • Again, this isn’t necessarily true. The BR of a site should be taken within the context of how targeted the traffic to the site is. If a 90-year old man landed on a site selling skateboard shoes, could even the most interesting content in the world keep him from leaving?
  • Bounce rate is only revealing when traffic is targeted.
  • If hordes of users who are fundamentally not interested in the subject of your site’s content are being directed to your page, you bounce rate will almost certainly be high – regardless of the quality of your content.

How can I decrease my bounce rate?

  • Make sure to put descriptive text in your website’s title tags
  • Some of the most valuable real estate on a web page is the bottom; links placed here to other content can be extremely effective. Webmasters have observed that the links placed here have a higher conversion rates than links placed anywhere else on a page, but they should be used astutely. Valuable links in this area may decrease your BR, but a well-placed ad could increase your site’s conversion numbers. Consider the pros and cons of each.
  • Advertise your website in forum signatures in online communities relevant to your site’s content
  • Use an intuitive navigation system on your site. Visitors should easily understand how to get from one page of content to the next and should easily be able to navigate your entire site. What good is great content if users can’t find it?
  • Work hard at publishing high-quality, interesting content. This one goes without saying. When users are actually interested in your site’s content, they’ll be more inclined to stick around.
  • Interactive content is great for keeping users on your site. When a user feels engaged, they are much more likely to investigate your entire site.
  • Experiment with a number of different layouts and determine which one is the easiest to use
  • Provide visitors with a number of different options to select on your site. If visitors feel that they’ve seen everything on their initial page, they’re not going to browse any further.
  • Use prominent, visible links that are easy to notice in a glance, point them to featured articles. This is like giving your site a second chance.
  • Make your links stand out so that users can find and click them easily. Emphasize and point them in the direction of featured content.
  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of your visitors and anticipate how they’ll use your site. Build your site layout from the visitor’s point of view, not your own.
  • Organize your content in a way that visitors will quickly recognize. Don’t hide content!
  • Entice users to click on links by using compelling phrases in your link text. Explain to your users why they should click through to more content!
  • Make the purpose and subject of your website very obvious. Users won’t stay on a site that they don’t understand.

How can I increase my Bounce Rate?

  • First-time visitors to a website are not inclined to spend much time there.
  • Aggregation sites like Reddit and Digg are notorious for only spending a few seconds on a website before moving on. Attract these users to increase your BR.
  • Using deceptive keywords, meta description tags, title tags, or introductory content is a surefire way to increase your bounce rate.
  • RSS subscribers generally only visit your site’s most recent content since they’ve seen everything else before. This is another case of a high BR not being a bad thing – RSS subscribers are the most loyal readers a site can have!
  • Paraphrasing or rewording someone else’s content and then linking to the original article will only encourage readers to read the original. Why read someone else’s summary when the original is accessible right now?
  • Putting analytics code in an iFrame on a website will increase bounce rate.
  • Making your website a visitor’s homepage or startpage will almost surely increase bounce rate – although not universally. Many homepage websites have bounce rates of between 30 and 60%.

About the Search Engine Pros:
The Search Engine Pros are a Santa Barbara-based internet marketing consultancy. The Search Engine Pros can help you decipher your site’s bounce rate and integrate practical, effective web analytics solutions.

One Comment
  1. I have heard the term “bounce rate” many times, but never understood it completely until now – thanks for this detailed explanation. Now I have an idea of what to look for and how to change my bounce rate to work for me. Thanks for these easy-to-follow steps.

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