What is Bounce Rate? (Google’s Most Misunderstood Metric)
Dec 31, 2021|Read time: 12 min.
- Bounce rate is a web analytics metric that measures the ratio between single-page sessions and all sessions.
- Google does not use bounce rate in their ranking algorithm.
- High bounce rates aren’t always a bad thing.
If you’ve spent any time in Google Analytics, you’ve undoubtedly seen the bounce rate metric that accompanies each page of your website.
If you don’t know exactly what bounce rate means, or how to use it, you aren’t alone. It’s one of the most misunderstood metrics in SEO.
Before you can improve it, you need to know what factors contribute to a high or low bounce rate. While it isn’t a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for many different reasons, it can be a good gauge to help improve site content and usability. As a result, you’ll improve rankings overall.
What is bounce rate?
Bounce rate is a web analytics metric that measures the ratio between single-page sessions with no user interaction events and all sessions.
When someone visits your website and only views a single page without taking any actions within a specified time period, that is a “bounce”. So, if your homepage has a total of 1,000 sessions and 500 of those sessions are single page visits that didn’t trigger any user interaction events, your bounce rate is 50%.
User interaction events include things like, playing a video, downloading content, or subscribing to your blog. However, they do require you to set them up in order to fire properly so they don’t distort your analytics metrics.
I cover several different examples of what a bounced session looks like later in the article, so don’t bounce just yet ;)
Bounce rate vs exit rate
Exit rate (also known as drop off rate) is often confused with bounce rate because they both measure the percentage of sessions that ended on a web page. The key difference, however, is that exit rate applies to both single-page and multi-page sessions. Let’s look at the difference between the bounce rate definition vs exit rate:
- Exit Rate represents the percentage of all page views that were the last in the session.
- Bounce Rate represents the percentage of sessions in which the entrance page was the only pageview of the session.
Unfortunately, that definition of bounce rate is pretty broad, which is precisely why it’s such a widely misunderstood metric.
What’s more, sometimes users are supposed to bounce. Think about resource sites like Wikipedia or WebMD. The bounce rate for informational sites is as high as 90%. But, that doesn’t mean those sites are a usability disaster. As long as the visitor leaves satisfied, the page has served its purpose.
How to Reduce Bounce Rate (13 Tips to Lower Bounce Rate)
Why is bounce rate important?
Bounce rate is an important seo metric because it measures how engaging your content is. A high bounce rate might mean that people aren’t finding what they want on your website. Or, it may be a sign that you need to improve your content or the user experience on your website. Whatever the reason, it usually means you’re missing out on conversion opportunities.
A detailed analysis of your bounce rate helps you improve a number of usability elements on your website, such as navigation, call to action (CTA) placement, and content quality.
It’s particularly helpful when comparing different pages on your site against one other. For example, if a specific topic has an unusually low or high bounce rate, it may indicate that your audience prefers or dislikes that topic.
Bounce rate is also a useful tool for comparing segments of traffic against one another. Does one digital marketing channel perform better than others? Does organic search traffic have a better bounce rate than Facebook? A/B testing channels against each other can help you determine which channels you should focus on.
How to calculate bounce rate
To calculate the bounce rate for a web page, divide the total single-page sessions by the total sessions for the page. Then, multiply by 100 to get the percentage.
Google bounce rate calculation = (Single page sessions / Total sessions) * 100
Example: (500 / 1,000 = 0.5) X 100 = 50%
It’s important to remember that a page’s bounce rate can vary significantly depending upon the traffic source as well as the time period you choose to view.
We define bounce rate metrics at the page level, but each page also affects the overall bounce rate for a website. To improve a website’s bounce rate it is important to understand how each individual page is doing.
What is a good bounce rate?
Generally speaking, the lower the bounce rate of your website, the better. However, there’s no standard benchmark for a “good bounce rate” versus a “bad” one. The metric is simply too variable based on the industry, type of content, search intent and landing page. It is more effective to focus on other metrics like time on page and conversion rates to understand how your website performs.
When evaluating bounce rates on your site, it’s most helpful to compare yours against the industry average. And if you think it’s too high, check out these strategies to reduce your bounce rate.
Take advantage of the Benchmarking tool in Google Analytics to find out how your website compares to the industry standard. Set your industry first. Google Analytics will offer its own industry benchmarks to see if your website has a normal bounce rate.
In their 2021 digital experience benchmark report, Contentsquare found that the average bounce rate was 47%.
Average bounce rate by industry
Is a high bounce rate bad?
Because it has such a broad definition, you should be careful when asking general questions like: “what is a bad bounce rate?” After all, different types of content will have different bounce rates — even within the same industry.
So, think of the search intent behind individual pages when you analyze the metric.
For example, your homepage probably receives a lot of branded search traffic, direct visits, and referrals. As a result, users often need to dig deeper to learn more about what you do.
However, blog posts are more informational. Because long-form content allows you to cover topics more completely, they usually have more single page sessions.
But, within the world of ecommerce SEO, a high bounce rate affects conversions. For instance, if your ecommerce site has poor quality images, too little information, or slow load times, users may head back to the Google SERP for something better.
Behavioral intelligence tools like Decibel and Mouseflow can reveal how visitors use specific pages. By recording user interactions, you can determine the exact point on a page where visitors bounce.
Additionally, these tools tell you exactly how long users spend on a page. So, if a page has a 95% bounce rate, but the average recording time is six minutes, it’s a safe bet that users find the page useful.
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Why visitors bounce (good reasons)
In the scenarios below, a high bounce rate may not necessarily be a bad thing. These reasons do not reflect issues with usability of your website, but are a natural part of the search process.
You solved their problem
If you solve a visitor’s problem, they don’t need to further explore your site and are likely to bounce. This is very common with informational sites like Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, etc. The good news is that even though the visitor bounced, they’re much more likely to return to your site in the future since you solved their problem right away.
They’re just doing research
Users may bounce from your page after viewing it because they are in the research stage of the buying process. They examine the contents of your page and then go back to the search results to do more research. This is the nature of the buying process and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a problem.
This is especially true for blog content. Users prefer to consult many sources of information, and journalists may be sourcing content for articles of their own.
They’re window shopping
It’s also possible for visitors to bounce from your site because they’re just window shopping. Having an “add to wish list” button on your site can be an effective way to eventually convert the window shoppers to buyers.
Why visitors bounce (bad reasons)
Unfortunately, there are also bad reasons why a person might bounce from your website. Most of them are centered around poor user experience.
Identifying and addressing these problems can significantly improve user engagement on your site.
Misaligned search intent
Visitors might bounce from your site because the content is misaligned with search intent. In other words, the contents of the page don’t align with what the user was actually searching for.
For example, if someone searches for “best trail running shoes” and your page is a list of the best running shoes of all types, that’s not what they want. They only want to compare trail running shoes and don’t want to wade through other types of shoes.
If you want to keep people from bouncing, it’s critical the page content align with the intent behind the search keywords. This can also include writing a clear title tag and meta description so a searcher can know exactly what they will find on your page.
It’s not enough to just do keyword research, you also need to analyze competitor results in the SERPs and understand the intent behind those keywords. This process will help increase the percentage of qualified visitors from organic search, which can improve conversions and engagement.
Slow loading pages
With widespread access to broadband internet and mobile devices running on 5G cellular data, people expect web pages to load fast. If the page load time is too slow, people will bounce before they even see the content of the page.
You can optimize your page speed through a number of actions:
- Remove any unnecessarily third-party scripts
- Upgrade to a faster web host
- Set up lazy loading so that images only load as a person scrolls down the page
- Remove large page elements that take more time to load (images, GIFs, etc.)
- Remove non-essential third-party scripts that have to load before a user can interact with your site (heat maps, analytics, etc.)
- Implement browser caching, which stores certain elements in a user’s browser so that they don’t have to reloaded every time
All things equal, a higher page speed leads to a lower bounce rate.
Too many disruptive ads
Your users will hit the back button on your page as soon as it loads if it’s packed with too many ads.
Having multiple ads on a page that disrupt the user experience and increase page load time is frustrating for website visitors and can decrease trust in a brand. Ads can also cause the layout of a page to abruptly shift, making it difficult for users to navigate the page. Not only does this annoy users, it can also hurt your search engine rankings since Google takes page shifts into account as part of the Page Experience ranking factor.
This does not apply to just blogs, but ecommerce websites as well. Popups for ads about sales or for a mailing list are just as overwhelming to users.
If your website contains ads, make sure that they don’t disrupt the user experience.
Low quality content
If your pages feature out of date, thin content, your visitors have no reason to stick around. After all, why would they want to further explore your site when their initial experience is bad?
If you want to keep visitors from bouncing, you need high-value, high-quality content that demonstrates your expertise and thoroughly covers the topic in question.
A well-defined content strategy is one of the best ways to keep visitors engaged with your brand. Blog posts should thoroughly cover relevant topics, answer key questions throughout the user journey, and clearly define next steps through internal links.
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Website design is untrustworthy
If you want to keep more visitors on your site, it needs to look trustworthy and reputable.
This means having a professional design, high-quality images, social proof (testimonials, reviews, etc.), and an easy to navigate menu. To further trust with visitors, include all contact information, as well as detailed information about your brand and those behind it.
Additionally, include any relevant trust seals, such as Better Business Bureau accreditation or the Norton SSL badge.
Add the credentials of your content authors, as well. All of this helps your site satisfy Google E-A-T (Expertise – Authority – Trustworthiness) guidelines, which are increasingly important ranking factors.
How to accurately assess bounce rates
Analyzing your website bounce rate isn’t particularly helpful since people bounce from pages for a variety of reasons. You can get some useful insights by evaluating the bounce rate of a single page but you still don’t get the full picture regarding why visitors might be bouncing from the page.
To augment the data you gather from single pages, here are three additional ways to evaluate bounce rates:
Segmenting your audience is an excellent way to measure bounce rates. It gives you insight into how different groups of people engage with pages on your website.
There are numerous ways you can segment your audience:
- Purchase history
Analyze how each group interacts with different pages on your site. Do any segments prefer specific types of content and stay on your site longer than other segments? Do any segments have much higher or lower bounce rates compared to other subjects? By understanding how different groups of people interact with your website, you can make changes to the pages that are most likely to result in a bounce.
It’s also helpful to analyze bounce rate by the source of the traffic. For example, you might find that visitors from a particular source like social media have the highest bounce rate.
Alternatively, you might find that organic search traffic has a significantly lower bounce rate.
For sources with a higher bounce rate, you can either change the way you use that source, reduce the amount you use it, or abandon it altogether. Traffic sources with a low bounce rate are a potential growth opportunity. Consider investing more in those particular channels.
You can also analyze bounce rates by content type. This gives you insight into which types of content are more or less engaging to visitors. Do visitors prefer blog posts or videos? Are there particular product pages that get more or less engagement?
Analyzing bounce rate by content can help you determine what types of content to focus on and which aren’t worth the effort.
Another good way to use Google Analytics to properly assess your bounce rate from organic traffic is to go to Behavior > Landing Pages and apply the Organic Sessions filter.
This will allow you to see the bounce rate just from organic visitors and can be a good indicator of how well your website is doing.
The next step to your success will be to implement bounce rate improvements based on everything you have learned above.
Bounce Rate FAQs
Bounce rate is a web analytics metric that measures the ratio between single-page sessions and all sessions.
No. Bounce rate is not a Google ranking factor.