Understanding Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is one of those analytics metrics that is almost always misunderstood in the blogging community. And it is no surprise why. The way Google Analytics (and most likely other analytics platforms) calculate bounce rate is not what you think.

Understanding Bounce Rate

According to Google,

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions.

That is definitely not what I would classify as a “bounce.” I think it is way more complex than that.

So what classifies as a bounce?

There are a few ways people can “bounce” from your site:

  • They accidentally clicked on a link to your site and clicked right back to their original page because they were in the middle of reading/watching/etc.
  • Your site is having usability issues or is not easy to navigate and they don’t want to deal with it so they leave
  • They clicked over to your site but the information is not exactly what they are looking for so they click back
  • While reading your post, they click on a link to another blog/product/etc. and that link opens in the same window
  • They found EXACTLY what they were looking for, they read the entire blog post and didn’t need any more information so they exit out
So what classifies as a bounce to Google? Click To Tweet

Reading an entire blog post and getting exactly what they need is definitely a good in my book. But that doesn’t register that way in Google Analytics. It registers as a bounce.

What is the average bounce rate?

This is a common question because you want to know if your bounce rate is in a normal or good range. The truth is, bounce rate varies by industry and type of site.

According to Kissmetrics,

The average bounce rate is 40.5%, but for content websites the average bounce rate is 40-60%.

I would suspect that the bounce rate for most blogs is probably even a bit higher than that.

Is a high bounce rate bad?

Not always. Think about it, not every website or webpage needs a reader to go beyond one page.

For example, say you are promoting a pin on Pinterest that leads to a sales page on your site. That sales page is probably laser focused and there isn’t much else going on besides focusing on that product or service. Your main goal is for the reader to convert by entering their contact information or clicking to purchase which takes the reader to another site like PayPal. So technically Google Analytics counts this as a bounce, but if they converted who cares right?

Is a high bounce rate bad? Not necessarily... Click To Tweet

But wait, isn’t a high bounce rate bad for SEO?

Yes and no. A high bounce rate itself does not necessarily have a negative effect on your SEO efforts.

What does have a negative effect is something called “pogo sticking.” This happens when a user performs a search, clicks on a result, and then almost immediately (within the first five seconds) clicks back to return to the search engine results pages (or SERP). This is a signal to Google that your page isn’t of high quality or relevancy for that keyword or keyword phrase. If it was, the user would have stuck around.

Making Sense of Bounce Rate

While bounce rate isn’t exactly a telling metric on its own, it can still be useful. Look at the average session duration and bounce rate together.

If a page has a high bounce rate but readers are spending an average of 5 minutes on that page, most likely they are getting the information they need.

However, if a page has a high bounce rate and readers are spending a few seconds on your page then you know you have a problem.

You can drill that down not only to see how pages are performing but also how social media channels are performing. It can help you decide which channels are sending the most qualified traffic and which channels might not be worth your effort.

How to Improve Bounce Rate

If you go through your analytics and decide you do have some trouble pages, there are some things you can do to hopefully improve your bounce rate.

  • Create great and easy to read content
  • Use a read more button on your home and archive pages rather than showing the whole post
  • Have a related post section below your posts
  • List your categories or top posts in your sidebar
  • Link to your own posts within your posts and have them open in the same window
  • When linking to other sites, have the links open in a new window
  • Have clear navigation
  • Optimize for relevant terms, don’t optimize for unrelated terms just because you can rank (this will probably result in pogo sticking)
Curious how to improve your bounce rate? Here are some tips. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Bounce rate is commonly misunderstood. It is a metric that is stressed over way too much. Remember bounce rate itself is pretty much useless. It should never be your primary focus. Use it to find and fix trouble pages and to inform decisions on your marketing efforts.

I FINALLY understand bounce rate. And you can too! Click To Tweet

What is one thing you learned about bounce rate?

32 thoughts on “Understanding Bounce Rate”

  1. I can’t tell you how helpful this is! I started my blog about a month ago, and there is SO much to learn. I am so thankful for those bloggers that blog about tips for me to learn from. Thanks so much for sharing!
    xoxo,
    Elaine

    1. This makes me so happy!! I am so glad you found this helpful. This is definitely a tricky subject that most people don’t fully understand. And they tend to stress over it too much.

  2. Hello, clueless party of one over here 🙂 I always see bouncerate and I just skim right by it. This post was a great explanation. I think I have even read the google provided information on bounce rate before but I didn’t find it helpful at all. Thanks for clearing it up for me!

    1. So happy to hear this! It is one metric that people either skip over because they don’t understand it or they put too much focus on it because they don’t understand it. 🙂

  3. Agreed that bounce rate is commonly stressed over. I know at work, I am the youngest person and the older people think the bounce rate is the worst thing ever so I have to constantly explain it to them.

    xoxo, Jenny

    1. Yes! Bounce rate itself isn’t very telling. But when you take a look into the specifics and pair it with other more telling metrics you start to get the bigger picture.

  4. LOVE informative articles like this one! I struggle with bounce rate for a while now, because I have an “event” on my page that skews the results AND my mobile navigation is poor. I’ll be fixing all of those soon, but it’s always great to read even more tips to tackle that bounce rate number!

  5. Thanks for helping me to understand bounce rate more. I have to check my settings to see if new windows are being opened when people click on my links.Great post!

  6. Good to know. Some days my bounce rate is sky high… especially when StumbleUpon or Flipboard are hitting hard. Those days concern me a little…. it is nice to have a jump in views but i want people to stick around a little!

    1. I definitely care more about people sticking around too. But I would also check your time on page for those two traffic sources. They could be staying a while but “bouncing” after only one page.

  7. This is a great read. I always thought that when you include internal links it should open in a new window but I guess it makes sense to keep the reader in the same page where bounce rates are concerned.

    1. For bounce rate you should have it open in the same window, some people will argue for user experience to have it open in a new window. Personally, I always right click and open all links in a new window nowadays when I definitely don’t want to leave the page I am on. I am sure many readers do the same.

  8. This is a great topic. It can be tricky, I agree. You explained bounce rate very well. Thank you for the tips. Do you recommend a related posts plugin for wordpress? Thanks in advance.

    1. Thank you! It is a very confusing topic for sure! I just use the related post that comes with the Jetpack plugin. I will admit that most of the plugin is junk, but I like the related posts.

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