Website bounce rate: What it is…what it means

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Any online marketer, whether promoting information or seeking e-commerce transactions,  needs a deep understanding about the performance of their website in order to maximize their effectiveness.  A very common and important tool used to do this is Google Analytics, which provides data about:

  • Bounce rate
  • Unique visitors
  • Visit duration
  • Pageviews
  • Returning VS new visits

The least understood among these is bounce rate.  The term itself seems almost ominous…nobody wants to bounce customers, right?  Taking a closer look at what it is and what it means could be the key you are looking for to improve your online/website efforts.

What it is

The Google definition is straightforward: “bounce rate is the percentage of single pageview visits to a website”.  Easy, right?  Really low bounce rates are great and high rates mean your website sucks.  Not so fast!

In Google Analytics bounce rate is the percentage of single interaction visits to a website.  A pageview is only 1 type of possible interaction, the others being events, ecommerce items, ecommerce transactions, social links and user defined interactions.  We won’t go into all of these in detail here.  The point is the actual definition includes a broader range of activity than the most frequently used definition.

What it means

Basically, you need to understand the types of interaction your online presence encourages and view the bounce rate accordingly.  If you’re selling stuff online, you want to see that visitors are shopping around a bit and bounce should skew lower.  If you are promoting events, visitors come to check date/location/time, then leave.  A high bounce rate is to be expected.  The device used by the visitor also has an effect.  Mobile users are 10%-20% more likely to bounce than desk/laptop users.  Take a look at the general bounce rate averages:

  • Average bounce rate is 26%-70%
  • 26%-40% would be excellent
  • 41%-55% is average
  • 56%-60% is above average but not necessarily cause for concern (see above)
  • 70%+ means something is wrong

How about bounce rates less than 20%?  Common sense should tell you this doesn’t make sense in the real world, so don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a good thing.  Chances are there are problems with code or tracking mechanisms and the analytics implementation is broken.  You’re not getting good data.

Online marketers need to view these averages with respect to their own particular situation.  Rather than seeing the general averages as gospel take the time and make the effort do develop your very own bounce rate history over time.  Now that you know what bounce rate is, what it means and how your own situation impacts the data, you are on the way to identifying what can/needs to be done to improve effectiveness.

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