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What is Bounce Rate? How to Measure, Analyze, & Improve this Metric

Agota Bialobzeskyte
Agota Bialobzeskyte
Written by
Agota Bialobzeskyte
Content Strategist at Agota
Mar 17
Mar 17, 2020
What is Bounce Rate? How to Measure, Analyze, & Improve this Metric

In this article we’re going to discuss bounce rate, which is often one of the most misunderstood metrics in web analytics.

By the end of the article you’ll learn exactly what bounce rate is, what to expect from the metric, and when you need to make it a priority (hint: you probably already know that it can be too high, but did you know that it can also be too low?).

Most importantly, you’ll learn specific strategies to improve your bounce rate.

Let’s get started.

What is Bounce Rate?

Before we discuss bounce rate, let’s make sure that we’re clear about what “bounce” means in the context of web analytics. Here’s Google’s definition:

“A bounce is a single-page session on your site.”

In other words, when someone visits your website, only views a single page and then leaves, Google Analytics counts that visit as a bounce.

Now, here's Google’s definition of bounce rate:

“Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.”

For example, let’s say that there were a total of 100 sessions on your homepage, 75 of which were single-page sessions. What is the bounce rate of your homepage?

In this case, 75% of people who visited it bounced after a single session, so the bounce rate is 75%.

Now let’s talk about why you should care about this metric.

To put it simply, a high bounce rate usually indicates that there’s an issue with your website. In particular, a high bounce rate can indicate that:

  • People are put off by the design of your website

  • The content doesn’t meet the visitors expectations

  • The offer on your website just isn’t that great

It should be noted that a high bounce rate is not always a warning sign. There are certain industries and websites where a high bounce rate is inevitable and shouldn’t be seen as a cause for concern.

That said, unless your website falls into that category (more on this later), a high bounce rate should prompt you to analyze the page, identify the cause of the problem, and figure out how to fix it.

It’s also worth noting that there may be an SEO benefit to improving your bounce rate. Of course, Google keeps their algorithm a secret so we can’t know this for sure, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they favored websites with a low bounce rate.

Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate

You may also be familiar with another web analytics metric: exit rate.

It’s easy to mix up bounce rate and exit rate, although these are separate metrics so it’s important to understand the difference between them:

  • Bounce rate shows what percentage of people who landed on a page exited the website after only a single-page session (bounce rate = total single-page sessions / total sessions).

  • Exit rate shows what percentage of people who visited a page exited the website (exit rate = total exits from page / total pageviews for that page).

For example, if someone lands on your homepage, then closes the browser, that counts as a bounce that will add to the bounce rate of your homepage.

Meanwhile, if someone lands on your homepage, clicks through to your About page and then closes the browser this won’t count as a bounce on either page, but it will add to the exit rate of your About page.

How to Check Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

Let’s now review step-by-step where you can find the bounce rate for your website in Google Analytics:

  1. Go to Google Analytics Home

  2. Click Audience Overview (you can adjust the time period)

google analytics dashboard
  1. You’ll see the bounce rate below the graph

google analytics dashboard bounce rate

As we mentioned earlier, your website’s bounce rate alone won’t always provide you with a complete picture.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

What is a good bounce rate? What is a bad bounce rate? Is a lower bounce rate always better and higher bounce rate always worse?

To answer these questions, let’s look at a few statistics.

Jay Peyton from RocketFuel attempted to answer these questions by analyzing a sample of 60 websites, in particular:

  • The domains were picked at random.

  • The data covered a period of about a year.

  • The websites varied wildly in terms of traffic, with some getting only a few thousand unique visitors, others over a million.

“Most websites will see bounce rates fall somewhere between 26% and 70%,” explains Jay. “The average bounce rate for the websites in my sample set was 49%.”

bounce rate chart

Image source

According to Jay, as a rule of thumb:

  • A bounce rate of 26% - 40% is considered excellent.

  • 41% to 55% is roughly average.

  • 56% to 70% is above average, but may not be a cause for concern depending on the website.

  • 70%+ is disappointing, with exceptions for blogs, news, and events

Jay also reminds us that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When a bounce rate is under 20%, it’s probably because analytics aren’t working properly. Even a 20-25% bounce rate calls for inspection.

The first question to ask is - are you sure that everything is set up correctly?

Now, this clearly wasn’t intended to be a rigorous scientific study since the sample is quite small so there may be selection bias at play, amongst other things.

That being said, Jay’s research does provide us with a rough idea of what to expect when it comes to bounce rate, and it’s also nice to have thresholds for serious concern.

As mentioned, you also need to take into account the type of a website as the average bounce rates will likely differ based on that. According to Custom Media Labs, these are the benchmark averages for the most common types of websites:

bounce rate chart

Image Source

The data in the image does seem quite intuitive when you think about it.

For example, eCommerce shoppers generally want to explore multiple product pages on the website so they’re likely to click around more, which explains the lower average bounce rate for this type of website.

Meanwhile, someone who finds themselves on a landing page either clicks on the call to action button or leaves. If you know anything about landing page conversion rates, you also know that most people leave without converting.

So you would be setting yourself up for disappointment if you expected a landing page to have a 50% bounce rate. Instead use these benchmark bounce rates to be more realistic.

It’s also important to note that the average bounce rate varies depending on the industry.

For example, as ConversionXL pointed out:

“The difference in benchmark bounce rate between the food & drink industry and the real estate industry is more than 20%.”.

bounce rate chart by industry
Image Source

So when you look at your bounce rate, a few things to consider include:

  • The lower and upper thresholds that can be cause for concern (i.e. below 20% and above 70% bounce rate).

  • The type of the website (i.e. eCommerce sites vs. blogs)

  • The industry that you’re in

That way, you’ll be able to set reasonable expectations, evaluate the current situation, and determine the best way to improve it.

How to Reduce a High Bounce Rate

Okay, so you came to the conclusion that your bounce rate is unacceptable. Now let’s discuss a few strategies that can help reduce it.

1. Increase Page Load Speed

Backlinko’s team analyzed 5.2 million web pages in order to learn more about page load speed.

According to the study, the average page loading speed for a web page is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.4 seconds on mobile devices.

desktop and mobile page speed

Image Source

Meanwhile, Google analyzed 11 million mobile ads’ landing pages from 213 countries. This study found that loading speed has a significant impact on bounce rates.

page load times
Image Source

Remember Backlinko’s research? 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.4 seconds on mobile is terrible. Instead, you want your website to be as fast as possible.

So what’s one of the easiest ways to improve your page load speed? Compress the images.

According to Google’s research:

“Simply compressing images and text can be a game changer — 25% of pages could save more than 250KB and 10% can save more than 1MB that way.”

If you want to use a tool to help with this check out TinyJPG for .jpeg and .png images.

There are also more technical things you can do (minifying HTML, CSS and Javascript, reducing redirects, etc.). While we won’t cover them all in this article, you can check out Moz’s Page Speed article if you want learn more.

2. Improve Your Web Design

Now, once your website loads, the visitor will make a snap judgment about it based on its design.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure that it looks modern, clean and professional. Plus, the design needs to meet the expectations of your target audience and resonate with it.

Moreover, you need to make sure that your website looks great on all devices including smartphones, tablets, and desktop. If you want to test your website on mobile, check out the free tool called mobiReady.

However, it’s not enough to have a pretty website, it also has to be easy to use. In other words, you need to consider user experience as well as aesthetics.

Also, keep in mind that annoying elements like popups, autoplay videos, and sound effects might all be contributing to your bounce rate.

3. Improve Readability

Let’s be real, reading on screens for long periods of time isn’t pleasant.

There’s the eye strain, the need to keep scrolling, not to mention all the distractions.

That’s why publishing text online comes with its own set of best practices:

  • Subheadlines: Divide the text into sections, each section should have its own subheadline.

  • Paragraphs: As a rule of thumb, keep them short at 1-3 lines long.

  • Bullet points: Use them whenever you’re listing something.

  • Font size: 16px minimum, but 18px is probably better.

  • Images: In general you want to add 3-4 images for every 1000 words.

People tend to skim when reading on screens, which is why you should break up the text as much as possible.

Also, you want the text to be simple, since the simpler the text, the easier it is to read. Shorten the sentences, remove flowery language, and avoid industry jargon.

One great tool you can use is the Hemingway App to gauge the reading level required to understand the text.

4. Get Better Traffic

All traffic is not created equal.

Take a look at these statistics:

bounce rates by channel
Image Source

Social media is fun but the traffic from it is notoriously fickle. If it is your main traffic source, you may want to work on building your email list and increasing your search engine traffic.

There’s one potential pitfall with search engine traffic, though. You may have a high bounce rate because people want an answer to a specific question and leave right after they get it. Good for them, not so good for your bounce rate.

When that’s the case, it makes sense to work on converting search engine traffic to email subscribers, one way you can do this is by offering content upgrades.

5. Make it Immediately Clear What Your Website is About

When new visitors land on your website, it should be immediately clear to them what it is that you are offering.

If the visitor is confused, they certainly won’t click around or won’t scroll very far to figure it out, they will simply leave.

So make sure that you place the most important information above the fold and that your copy is clear.

6. Meet People’s Expectations

You need to deliver on what you have promised if you want people to stick around.

And you did promise something...maybe it was in an ad, maybe it was in the title and an excerpt on a search engine, maybe it was in an email newsletter. Somehow you got them interested enough to visit your website.

Now it’s time to deliver.

Analyze your site content. Does it match the ad copy? Does it match the search intent for the keywords you are targeting? Is this what your subscribers expected when they clicked that CTA in your email?

You can trick people into clicking through, but once they realize that they have been tricked, they’ll press the back button immediately. It’s better to just give them what they want.

Summary: Bounce Rate

As we’ve discussed in this article, a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing.

Realistically, it generally is a sign that there’s an issue with your website, which means that it’s your job to uncover it and fix it.

When it comes to improving your bounce rate, keep it simple. Can you make your website faster, more aesthetically pleasing and more readable? That would almost certainly reduce your bounce rate.

Start with these three things and you should be on the right track.

Do you have any questions about bounce rate?

Let us know in the comments below.

Agota Bialobzeskyte
Agota Bialobzeskyte
Written by
Agota Bialobzeskyte
Content Strategist at Agota

Agota Bialobzeskyte is a content strategist that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses with value-packed content that readers adore. She has over eight years experience in the digital marketing field and loves to share her knowledge with the industry.

Read more posts by Agota Bialobzeskyte ›

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