Understanding Bounce Rates

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the vast array of terms and numbers can quickly become overwhelming. Understanding the data in your analytics dashboard can get even more complicated if you bring multiple tools into the equation, since Google doesn’t always define things the same way third-party tools do; it can get confusing and frustrating when you’re looking at multiple tools and not necessarily understanding what the disconnect between them is.

One of the most confusing and potentially misleading numbers is your website’s bounce rate. While you’ve probably read about these or seen them in your analytics dashboard, they might hold little meaning for you in terms of your website and business. They might seem unapproachable at first, but bounce rates are one of the most important and valuable pieces of data you can get from Google Analytics or a different SEO tool.

What is a Bounce Rate?

When someone lands on your website, doesn’t perform any other actions, and leaves the site, that’s what Google counts as a bounce. This might be someone finding a blog post through search results, visiting your site and reading the entire page, and not clicking any other links before exiting. It might be someone going directly to your homepage by typing in your url, finding your phone number, then screenshotting or writing down the phone number to call you but not taking any other actions on your site. Alternatively, and in many cases, it could be someone navigating to your website through search results, finding it’s not what they were looking for, and then bouncing back to the search page. All this is simply to illustrate that intent and time on the page really don’t matter when it comes to calculating bounce rates – all that matters is interaction.

This is why many people consider high bounce rates to be an inherently bad thing – a high bounce rate means low interaction. There are circumstances where it’s fairly normal for viewers to only look at one page and then leave – often, this is the case for blog-style or informational websites. 

Still confused? Here’s Google’s own explanation of how they calculate bounce rates for websites.

The difference between a bounce and an exit

Whereas a bounce rate is someone visiting a single page and leaving without interacting, an exit page is just a descriptor for which page viewers left the website, regardless of whether it was their first or their thirty-first. So, exits include bounces, but not all exits are bounces. Because these terms are somewhat similar, they are sometimes used interchangeably in SEO circles, but this isn’t correct.

If you’re confused by what counts as a bounce and what counts as an exit, and specifically how these rates are calculated for individual pages, there’s a great resource for you with examples here.

What do Bounce Rates Mean for You?

While, as mentioned previously, a “high” bounce rate can be quite normal depending on the type of website, low to medium bounce rates are a good goal for all sites to work toward. When you think about lowering bounce rates, you’re also thinking about how to get more engagement on your website. To do this, your best options are probably implementing interactive elements (i.e. adding videos or other interactive media), providing calls to action that direct users to other parts of your website, or otherwise giving them an incentive not to bounce.

Here are some reasons your site might have a high bounce rate; each factor is accompanied by a step you can take to reduce the rate.

How to interpret bounce rates

“Healthy” bounce rates vary vastly between websites, depending on your goals and what type of website you run. There’s no one-size-fits-all bounce rate that indicates success. However, this chart indicates a baseline of which bounce rates are within the normal range. When examining your own bounce rates, it’s important to consider factors like user intent and exit pages.

Here are some ideas you can use to lower your bounce rates; look out for a post from us on how to interpret and improve your bounce rates.

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Chantelle Gossner

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