A lot of marketers are familiar with bounce rate as an important metric for diagnosing website problems. However, like a lot of analytics tracking, out of the box it may not be implemented correctly and is easy to misunderstand.
Bounce Rate Basics
Bounce rate is the percent of visitors to a site who leave after viewing only one page. For example, a Spinosaurus shows up on a page with a recipe for spinach avocado dip. Because he’s a meat eater, this page is useless for him and he leaves.
This looks like a failed visit in your data. An analyst might look at this bounce and determine the site should start including more Spinosaurus-friendly meat recipes.
When Bounce Rates Are Misleading
Because bounces are viewed as failures or bad experiences, it’s important to make sure that’s actually the case. Here are a few examples of a bounce being misleading:
- Visitor leaves for a social site. Let’s say you have a link to your Twitter page on the site. Is that an unsuccessful visit? You could tag the link to not count as a bounce, since that user is still engaged with your brand.
- Different tracking on related sites. Imagine we had a blog.pmg.co and www.pmg.co tracking separately. If we used 2 different Google Analytics IDs on these sites, we’d count visits from www.pmg.co to the blog as bounces. This requires changing the tracking set up or tagging the link.
- Important event occurred. If a page’s main content is a video, you may not want to count a bounce if they watch at least 1 minute of the video. For Google Analytics, firing an “event” after 1 minute means the visit won’t count as a bounce. Alternatively, maybe you still want a video play or other event to count as a bounce, you may need to adjust the default event tracking code.
- Articles. Blog posts and individual articles tend to have high bounce rates. Usually when someone comes into an article, they read what they were looking for or they don’t. You might want to instead add an event when someone scrolls to the bottom of the article or subscribes to the blog so a bounce isn’t registered.
Other Metrics to Add to Your Bag of Tricks
While bounce rate is useful, you should also make sure you’re looking at things like:
- Conversion rates. Set up goals (such as creating an account) for the page and watch the conversion rate. Set up goal funnels if there are multiple pages involved such as buying a pair of jeans.
- Exit rate. A bounce only occurs when that page is also the visitor’s entrance to that site. For a page that gets few direct entrances, if you only look at bounces, you’re not considering the majority of interactions. Exit rate is useful for pages like that. Avinash Kaushik likes to point out that visitors need to leave somewhere, so keep that in mind as well.
- “Page value.” Page Value is the specific name Google Analytics uses, but it is any metric that lets you know that page’s contribution to the site’s total revenue.
- And many others. Look at the many other available metrics which may be important to that page. Make sure to consider different segments like mobile vs. desktop users to know if a segment is having a poor experience.
Good luck with your tracking!