Understanding Bounce Rate Analytics

What does your bounce rate say about your website?

This stat may pop up whenever you log in to your Google Analytics account, but your bounce rate analysis might be limited to feeling a little alarmed when you see it go up or breathing a sigh of relief when it goes down.

Fortunately, there are ways to fully measure and appraise your bounce rate. As a digital marketing agency in Dallas, we can better quantify those numbers and help you interpret what exactly they mean. We can also problem-solve to determine what’s bringing your bounce rate up and show how you how to make improvements to help your website’s performance.

To begin, though, let’s take a look at exactly what a bounce rate is and why it’s an important phenomenon for any website or business owner to understand.

Explaining a bounce rate and its importance

When someone visits your website and leaves without interacting at all, that’s called a “bounce.” Your bounce rate is, therefore, the percentage of visitors who leave your site without visiting at least one additional page.

You can find the bounce rate for your entire website on the “Overview” page associated with your Google Analytics account.

The formula for this bounce rate is simple: the average number of bounces on your site divided by the total number of site visits within a given timeframe. There are ways to track the bounce rate of individual pages as well, but we’ll get to that later.

Another topic we will dive more deeply into is segmented bounce rate, which looks at the bounce rate of different parts of your website. For example, if you run an e-commerce site, you might want to see the bounce rate when visitors arrive via your blog versus when they visit one of your product pages directly.

Looking at this type of segmented data can give you more insight into your website, including what is drawing visitors in and what is making them click away. Knowing this can help you better understand what’s working on your site, as well as what’s not.

Of course, the more time people spend on your site, the better. But, beyond that, why is your bounce rate so important?

According to industry experts, bounce rate turns out to be the fourth most important ranking factor when it comes to SERPs.

You may have read that Google does not take bounce rate into consideration when it creates its algorithms. However, don’t misconstrue this to mean that bounce rate is not important when it comes to your Google ranking.

Even if Google’s algorithm does not directly take bounce rate into account, it does factor in what that bounce rate represents. Google now relies on a technology they call RankBrain. Its express purpose is to make search results better for users by gaining a deeper understanding of what users mean when they enter search terms. Even as far back as 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev revealed that RankBrain was the third most important contributor to their algorithm.

How does RankBrain tie in with your bounce rate? If someone finds your page via Google search and then leaves the page without interacting with it at all, that can signal to Google that your page was not beneficial to them. If your page wasn’t beneficial to the user, that will lead Google to believe that your site doesn’t match what they were intending with their search, which, in turn, could result in a lower ranking.

This is what makes bounce rate so important when it comes to generating traffic. Simply put, if users are not engaging with your website, Google will stop sending them your way.

Clearly, a high bounce rate is a bad thing. But what constitutes a good bounce rate percentage?

What bounce rate should be your goal?

In short, it’s complicated. Many different variables factor into determining what a “good” or “bad” bounce rate may be for any given site.

For instance, an average bounce rate might vary depending on the type of business you run, the industry you’re in, the country out of which you’re based and even the types of devices your visitors are using to access your site. This variance in average bounce rate is supported by multiple studies.

Google’s own 2017 benchmarks study defines average rates on an industry-by-industry basis, with those averages ranging between 46% and 65%.

Another study, conducted by Brafton, reveals an average bounce rate of 58.18%. However, that number is higher for Business to Business (B2B) companies than for Business to Customer (B2C) companies.

Clearly, there’s no one average bounce rate for which your business should be aiming. Context is important. Consider your industry when setting a target goal. Setting that goal is another area where Google Analytics can help you out.

Google uses benchmarking to provide you with an average bounce rate based on criteria specific to your industry (as best as Google can determine your industry). In order to benefit from these insights, though, you’ll need to set up benchmarking manually in your account. Luckily, that’s a simple process.

How to set up benchmarking in your Google Analytics account

Go to the Admin section of your account and click on Account Settings. Within that screen, click on the Benchmarking box. Simply checking that will give you instant access to Google’s industry averages.

Next, navigate to your behavior reports and click over to “Site Content.” From that drop-down menu, click on “Landing Pages.” This will give you access to an average bounce rate for your site.

The data contained in a sitewide average may not be granular enough. For example, if yours is an e-commerce site that sees traffic on both its blog and its specific product pages, that sitewide average may not tell you much. So it helps to get into more section-specific rates. However, the industry averages for blogs or product pages only are going to provide you with much more useful information. There are two ways to gain access to this information: via the Content Drilldown Report and the Advanced Filter feature.

You can find even more useful data in the “Audience” portion of your account. Go to “Behavior,” then “Benchmarking,” and then click on “Channels.” This allows you to compare your website to other sites within your industry based on the average by channel.

Google Analytics will allow you to go even deeper, if you wish. Choose “Acquisition,” followed by “All Traffic,” then click “Channels” from the drop-down menu.

If you then click the “Comparison” button, you will be able to filter channels based on bounce rate. This helps you quickly see which channels are performing above or below the average rate compared to similar sites or businesses.

If you want to continue down this rabbit hole, you can perform even more analysis on each one of these channels.

As you can see, there is no one average number and no specific bounce rate percentage that would be considered “good.” A desirable bounce rate will be different for every site. In fact, it may even be different for each of the pages on your site, based on those pages’ form and function.

Finally, when assessing your bounce rate, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds by focusing on the actual number itself. The more important thing is to look at how this number changes over time. Performing a more longitudinal analysis will help you both to identify your site’s biggest weaknesses and to focus on the pages of your site that are performing the best. You can then target your improvements to further increase engagement, conversions and [?]

Next, we’ll look at the specific improvements you can implement to improve your bounce rate.

Improving bounce rates

Common sense says that you don’t know how to fix something until you really know what’s wrong with it. Improving your bounce rate works according to the same principle. As noted, even if you’ve determined your sitewide bounce rate, that’s not enough to explain why users are choosing not to engage with specific areas of your site.

The key is to narrow your focus. Doing so will help you assess root causes and craft a plan for how to lower your bounce rate. With those goals in mind, let’s look at a few different ways you can customize the bounce rate metrics displayed in Google Analytics.

First — and as we saw earlier — you can segment your bounce rate to drill down to more detailed data. Google Analytics allows you to view multiple segments as well as create your own using custom variables.

By gender

One of the most important demographics to assess when looking at your bounce rate is the gender of your visitors. Studies show that men and women behave differently online, so you need to know your audience and know how to reach them.

To gain better insight into how men and women are interacting with your site, navigate to “Audience” and then “Demographics” using the sidebar on the left-hand side of the screen.

As the above screenshot shows, this report contains valuable information on how many individuals of each gender are interacting with your site. Even this high-level information can help you determine which gender targeting techniques you might use to attract more men or women to your site. Such techniques include employing different colors and revising your website’s language. Both of these “look and feel” elements have been shown to impact customers’ viewing and purchasing habits.

If your numbers are significantly skewed in one direction, you may accidentally be crafting a site that is subconsciously targeting one sex or the other. And perceived bias can drive away members of the other gender.

By age

Age is another very important demographic to examine. As we know, different age ranges utilize the internet in very different ways.

Once you click “Age” from the sidebar, you will be presented with a table that looks like this.

In addition to age ranges of your site’s visitors, this table breaks out their bounce rates, the average duration of their sessions, and the number of pages they look at with each session. If you know your audience and understand who you are targeting, this can be very valuable information to have.

For example, if you are targeting those in the “65+” demographic and they are bouncing off your site at a high rate, read through your site carefully and look for slang and trendy expressions that may not be meaningful to an older audience. This is just one of many ways you can structure your site to reach target age ranges.

By location

In the “Audience” section, you’ll find a drop-down labeled “Geo.” Clicking here will then let you choose to see your visitors’ “Location” information.

The first screen you’ll see is a color-coded map. With this tool, you can quickly visualize your site traffic within a global context.

Attached to this map is a data table that will show you your site’s bounce rate broken down by visitors’ country of origin.

If you want to delve even further, you can even pinpoint certain regions within these countries. If you want to target a hyper-local audience, for example, this level of detail can help you make improvements to your website’s design.

By new visitors

It’s always important to see how often new visitors to your site are bouncing as compared to returning visitors. This segment can be found in the “Audience” section, under “Behavior.”

That will show you data much like what’s contained in the following table.

It’s common for new visitors to be associated with a higher bounce rate. Returning visitors are likely to be familiar already with your site and consider it to be of value. But you still may want to tweak your site to make sure new visitors can discover that value in interacting with your brand or business online.

By affinity

What type of visitors is your site is best engaging, and which groups are you losing? Lists of visitors, grouped by interest, can be found in “Audience” under the “Interests” drop-down menu. From there, click “Affinity Categories.”

This segment’s interest categories have been created by Google.

If one of the specific groups that you’d like to be targeting has a high bounce rate, you might need to revise your site’s content to speak that group’s language.

By device

If your goal is to target desktop visitors, but most users are accessing your site via their mobile devices, you have a problem. You can check this in the “Mobile” segment, then clicking “Overview” to see the bounce rate comparison across all devices.

The following table will give you an idea of your site’s bounce rate based upon whether a user is visiting on their mobile device, their desktop or their tablet.

In today’s technological society, you need your site to be both mobile- and desktop-friendly. If a high bounce rate is associated with any one of these devices, you need to work on better optimizing for that device. You can go into even further detail with the “Devices” report, which will present you with information about each device’s make and operating system.

You can drill down still further and examine bounce rates based on individual device models.

Due to the proliferation of operating systems and devices — all of which are quite different — this data is extremely useful. For example, if your website is not is seeing more bounces on newer phones, its design may need to be refreshed. Also, if you know that your target audience is more likely to use a certain device or OS, this data can help you deliver them a better optimized and more valuable online website experience.

By browser

Breaking down your bounce rate by browser helps you to identify any possible technical issues affecting your site’s performance. To access this information, click on “Browser & OS” under “Technology.”

Google Analytics will create a report showing all of the web browsers your visitors are using to access your site.

Pay special attention here to the bounce rate percentages associated with each browser. If large variances exist, it could mean that your site is not optimized for a specific browser. If that same browser also brings you solid organic traffic, it’s worth your time to test the site and make sure it’s properly configured.

By acquisition

In addition to segmenting by the type of visitor coming to your site, you can also segment your bounce rate based on where that site traffic is coming from. To do this, go to “Acquisition,” then “All Traffic,” then “Source/Medium.”

The resulting table will list out your site’s top referral sources as well as the bounce rates associated with each source.

This data can reveal important trends. It can also help you to identify sources of traffic that merit more of your attention. For example, if a certain medium or platform is sending you traffic that has a low bounce rate, you might want to focus your link efforts there. On the flip side, if paid advertising campaign is bringing you only traffic with a high bounce rate, that can be a sign that your advertising is too broad, or that your landing pages are not engaging the users who discover your site via these advertisements.

By landing page

In a similar light, it’s also important to look at the landing pages visited by your users — that is, the pages those visitors are accessing when they first arrive at your website. To see this information, go to “Behavior,” then “Site Content,” then “Landing Pages.”

Landing pages that experience a much higher bounce rate are most likely in need of revision or reconfiguration. The issue may be the design of the page, or it may be that the content it contains is not of sufficient relevance or interest to your site’s visitors.

Also, pages receiving a high volume of traffic should be optimized for conversions.

How to create adjusted bounce rates

These are nine ways to segment your visitors, both based on demographics and on how and where they first accessed your site. This information is invaluable to see how your customers are interacting with your site and where you can do better in terms of targeting content, images or video.

Once you’ve segmented the traffic from your site — both by key demographic indicators and user behaviors — you can create adjusted bounce rates. One way to accomplish this is to adjust what Google Analytics considers an interaction, as this has a direct impact on your bounce rate.

Imagine a user watching a video on your site. If that user finishes watching the video but then doesn’t click to another page on your site, this may be considered a bounce. However, Google allows you to count events such as playing a video or completing a download as site interactions.

That said, it’s important to make sure that you understand what is happening on your website before making such adjustments. These adjustments need to align with real actions taken by actual users. For example, you wouldn’t want a video play to be counted as an interaction if the video is playing automatically.

The best method for achieving this alignment is to have Google Analytics inform you when certain thresholds have been crossed, such a user scrolling through a predetermined percentage of your page, a user encountering a specific on-page element, or a user spending a meaningful amount of time on your page. You can define these thresholds using your Google Tag Manager.

Adjust bounce rate by events

This tool will allow you to create specific events that can trigger Google Analytics to count a user action as an interaction with your page. To begin, you’ll need to create a new tag to tell Google what action to monitor.

Name your tag, then choose “Universal Analytics” as the tag type and “Event” as the track type. After you’ve done that, specify the category and action you’ll be measuring.

For example, to define a scroll percentage threshold, click the plus icon next to the field, selecting “Page Path.” Next, scroll down to “Scroll Depth Threshold” for the event. (You may also need to navigate to the “Built-In Variables” to complete this part of the setup.)

Choose “False” as the “Non-Interaction Event,” then enter your Universal Analytics ID. Google Analytics should confirm your selections by presenting you with the following screen.

A good rule of thumb for this tag is to set it so that Google Analytics counts a user viewing 75 percent of your page as an interaction. A user who has crossed this threshold has read through the page’s content and continued scrolling to view (and read) more content. To complete the setup, choose “Scroll Depth” as the trigger and select “75 percent” under “Vertical Scroll Depths.”

Save, preview, debug and then publish your adjustment.

Adjust bounce rate using a timer

Even if a visitor doesn’t visit another page from your site or scroll down a certain percentage of a page, you might want to consider them to have “interacted” with the page if they have spent a certain amount of time on the page.

To make this bounce rate adjustment, create another tag and give it a unique Universal Analytics tag.

The length of time that you choose is up to you, but a good rule is to start with 30 seconds. (It’s important to note that Google Analytics measures in milliseconds. Thus, if you are setting your timer for 30 seconds, enter 30000 in the “Interval” field.) Simply add a new trigger and name it.

Set your “Limit” to one, then enter “Page URL matches RegEx” as the condition. Doing so will ensure that this event will be measured on all of your site’s pages.

Once again, save, preview, debug and publish.

Other ways to bring bounce rate down

Google Analytics offers additional reports and tools that can help you reduce your bounce rate. As always, the first step here is to determine where visitors are bouncing and to consider ways in you can improve the user experience offered by your site. Doing so will encourage visitors to spend more time on your site and increase the chance that they may convert.

One important report in this respect relates to your site’s top exit pages. This information is accessible from the menu on the left-hand side of your Google Analytics control panel.

Where landing page statistics show you how (and where) users are arriving at your site, exit page statistics show how (and where) visitors choose to end their site experience. Google Analytics allows you to see which pages on your site receive the most traffic as well as both the bounce rate and exit rate for each of these pages.

This data reveals important details about the experience users have when they visit your site. For example, it gives you visibility into how often people land directly on a page (versus arriving there from a link internal to your site) before then leaving the site altogether. With this information, you can start planning site improvements and begin testing different methods to engage users on a page-by-page basis.

Check in-page analytics

Using a Chrome plugin, you can also check out in-page analytics reports. This plugin generates a report that shows the click-through rate for all of the links on that page.

This is valuable information to have for any page on your site, but most especially for landing pages and your homepage. It’s also an easy way to check which links people are actually clicking — and which links they rarely interact with, effectively deeming them less useful. With this information, you can test and evaluate your anchor text as well as any on-site calls-to-action.

View site loading times

We know that visitors can be impatient when they are online, so it stands to reason that pages may simply have a high bounce rate if it takes them too long to load. The Page Timings report can help you evaluate this, and it can be found under “Behavior,” “Site Speed,” “Page Timings.”

This report simply tells you how quickly (or slowly) pages on your site are loading for visitors.

There are multiple ways to sort through this data, including by page views and average speed. It’s best to pick the low-hanging fruit here by focusing on those pages that receive the most amount of traffic and experience the longest load times.

This report also includes a measurement of the average speed of your site as a whole.

The speed at which your site loads has a direct impact on your bounce rate. Moreover, Google factors load times into its search rankings. If a site is bogged down or loads very slowly, Google is likely to penalize it.

This quick graph from Google shows the extent to which page load times affect your bounce rate.

Luckily, Google Analytics also offers recommendations on how to improve page loading times on your site.

This tool provides insights into the possible issues causing your pages to load slowly. It also gives you advice on how to troubleshoot these issues.

Side-by-side testing

Now that you’ve uncovered those specific areas and aspects of your site that can be improved, you can start to reduce your bounce rates. That means determining how to actually increase engagement on your site.

This is where side-by-side testing, or A/B testing, comes in handy. This method will help you identify what’s working and what’s not working on pages that are being revised and reconfigured. For instance, you might want to change the wording on a call-to-action or change the type of audience that you are targeting. A/B testing allows you to measure which of those specific changes is most effective.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of A/B testing is that it allows you to present one version of your site to sample group of your visitors and a different version to the rest of your visitors (a control group).

Just be sure to follow the right steps in setting up this type of testing. The most important step is to define a goal that will allow you to evaluate your results.

Tips for boosting engagement on your site

Easy-to-read pages

While it may sound obvious, you need to make your website both easy to read and easy to navigate. Simplify your content, and pay careful attention to things such as font size and paragraph length. Nothing can turn visitors away as quickly as long, uninterrupted block of text. If you use WordPress, you can install plugins that will evaluate the readability of your site.

One best practice to follow is to organize your content and use headings to delineate different points or topics. From a design perspective, avoid using contrasting colors that may divert attention away from your content. Finally, always be mindful of your ad placements and where they are located with respect to the content on any given page.

Live chat support

The quickest way to offer service to your customers is via live chat.

If someone visits your site and does not find what they want right away, the chances are good that they will abandon your site and move on to another one. Live chat prompts can help engage a visitor, giving them an opportunity to express their needs and desires, as well giving them an incentive to continue interacting with your site.

A live chat service such as Intercom can help you retain more visitors, lowering your bounce rate and increasing your conversions.

Don’t forget videos and images

One of the best ways to keep users on your site longer is to give them something to look at. Studies show that if you read something, three days later you will only remember 10 percent of what you read. However, individuals remember 65 percent of the information presented to them visually. This is the power of images and videos.

Even short videos less than two minutes long can boost engagement on your site in a major way — provided they are equipped with the right hook.

Another popular way to keep visitors on your site is by presenting them with an infographic. Infographics are often the most engaging visual content you can include on your site.

If you come across a page that has a high bounce rate, try adding enhanced content such as an infographic or video to help draw visitors in and keep them on the page long enough to take further action.

Make calls-to-action clear

No matter your business or the purpose of your website, you always want your visitors to do something, whether that’s making a purchase, contacting you for more information or simply going to another destination on your site. This is where a strong call-to-action (CTA) plays a role in shaping user experience.

When it comes to designing CTA buttons, you have countless options to consider, including size, color, page placement and copy.

According to Apple, CTA buttons should be 44 pixels tall at a minimum. These dimensions are most helpful to users interacting with your site on a touchscreen.

Closing thoughts

In closing, improving your bounce rate is instrumental in boosting your site’s rankings, creating a better user experience and increase conversions or sales.

However, given all of the options available to you in terms of measuring bounce rates and optimizing your site, it can be tough to know where to begin. Start by determining a good, industry-specific range of bounce rates and narrow in on different segments to figure out how to actually interpret the data you are collecting. The more focused and finely detailed the information you find, the more you will be able to act on it.

Next, optimize your site. Implement A/B testing to discover what’s most beneficial to your bounce rate and to determine the types and styles of content most likely to appeal to your visitors. From there, continue monitoring your site to see what is and isn’t working.

Always monitor the speed of your site and review its top exit pages. This information can further clue you in on bounce rate trends or explain why bounce rates on certain of your site’s pages continue to remain high. Make sure your site is as readable as possible and provide visitors with content that will engage them and keep them on your site.

If you focus on your customers and adhere to these best practices, your bounce rate will decrease, your conversions will increase, and those who visit your site will feel develop a good relationship with your brand.

Jason Cole is the SEO Director of Belo + Company. He has more than 7 years of experience working in Search Engine Optimization and has extensive knowledge in more industries than you can put into a bio!