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What Is a Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?

Marketing analytics is at the heart of any digital marketing strategy. Ask anyone who’s dealt with marketing analytics, (which in most cases is Google Analytics), a bounce rate is a very scary number. Since it’s ideal for a website to have a low bounce rate, the higher that number goes, the scarier it is. It’s literally the number that leaps out at you every time you bring up your analytics dashboard.

What Exactly is a Bounce, and a Bounce Rate?

In Google’s words, “A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”

In more simple language, a bounce happens when a visitor on your website leaves from the same page he/ she arrived on, without having any further interactions with your site – such as exploratory clicks, more deliberate, information-seeking clicks, purchases, or form submissions.

Google Analytics calculates a bounce rate as an average across all the pages of a website.  Essentially, it’s the percentage of bounces you receive on your site out of the total number of visits.

How Bad is Really Bad?

As with all numbers, it’s hard to blanket any bounce rate as bad. Even Google says that it depends. Context is critical to a proper understanding of your bounce rate. That’s why it’s helpful to analyze a bounce rate from different perspectives to get a better idea of how acceptable or unacceptable it is.

For instance, segmenting bounce rates by page or channel provides new context behind why they may be happening.

Bounce rates also differ across industries, traffic sources, and website/webpage types (Did you know e-commerce sites have the lowest bounce rates?n (Here’s an informative article  from Custom Media Labs with more details.) For these reasons, it’s hard to specify an “acceptable” average bounce rate.

You should also know that a bounce rate has an inherent limitation – it can’t be calculated accurately without what’s called an exit click, which is a click that signifies that a user is navigating away from a page.

In other words, when you have an entrance click (the click that lands a user on a page) but no exit click (which can happen when people directly close a tab or window), it still counts as a bounce – regardless of whether the user read all the content available, and had an altogether satisfying user experience.

Nevertheless, a bounce rate is still largely a good reminder to check if you have a few basic things in place.

The Idea is to Ensure Good Site ‘Stickiness’

Overall, a bounce rate is triggered by a lack of site appeal – or “stickiness” – and should be reduced to as low as possible. Here are the top five ways to do that:

1. Publish Awesome, Engaging Content. Visitors bounce when there’s nothing to keep them engaged. Good content helps fix that and ensures a healthy mix of interactive elements like images and click-and-reveal text.

Also, be sure to avoid overwhelming visitors with walls of text – break it up, and opt for short, easily readable paragraphs with plenty of white space and textured formatting. This is easier on the eye and also helps “skimmers” and “scanners” find content without putting in too much effort.

2. Ensure Relevance. Sure, SEO is necessary, but you shouldn’t stuff your content full of keywords to rank. The focus of the content is intent – your visitors’ intent. Make sure your content is relevant to your visitors, or no amount of SEO can help you. And bounces? Guaranteed.

3. Use ONE, Clear Call to Action (CTA). Just as you should be focused on user intent, you should also know precisely what you want your user to do after visiting your page. Too many CTAs can confuse and overwhelm your readers. Stick to one action at a time for best results.

4. Optimize Page Load Speeds. This is a little technical but plays a huge role in costly drop-offs. Most online visitors expect a page to load in three seconds or less. If you’re taking longer, you’re headed for trouble. Check with your hosting provider and work out how best to load your pages.

5. Optimize for Mobile Accessibility. This just can’t be stressed enough. However hard it is, optimizing for mobile devices is inescapable – if you don’t, you’re practically begging for visitors to bounce.

User Experience is What It’s All About

Above all else, bounce rates are a result of a poor user experience, which in itself can be flagged by a number of metrics that will be tracked by marketing analytics. Not sure what the latest ones are?

Head over here for a Marketing Analytics Nanodegree program.

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Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer is a content writer at Udacity with over 10 years of content creation and marketing communications experience in the tech, e-commerce and online learning spaces. When she’s not working to inform, engage and inspire readers, she’s probably drinking too many lattes and scouring fashion blogs.