The Magical, Mysterious Bounce Rate and What It Means

by cj Advertising | May 5, 2014

Bounce Rates seem to either drive business owners crazy or totally confound them. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the years I’ve explained Bounce Rate on countless occasions to business owners, marketing managers, and executives entering the digital space for the first time.

These are the two most common assumptions people have when they begin paying attention to Bounce Rates: 

  • Low Bounce Rate = Awesome!
  • High Bounce Rate = Oh, no! How do we fix this, and who should I fire?

Neither of these views is accurate. In reality, there are so many scenarios that impact Bounce Rate, it’s almost impossible to declare a high or low Bounce Rate “good” or “bad.”

You can have a lead generation or sales product page with a 90% or higher Bounce Rate that generates tons of leads and sales. You can also have a page with low Bounce Rate that isn’t doing anything to build your business or sell your product.

Bounce Rate is a useful metric to measure user behavior and engagement on a website, but it has to be measured against the overall goals of the website, such as:

  • Does Bounce Rate impact Conversions?
  • If you lowered your Bounce Rate, did you see a corresponding increase in leads and sales?
  • Did the lower Bounce Rate make your website more profitable?

Answering those questions is essential to any discussion about Bounce Rate.

Here’s the not so secret thing about Bounce Rate—it’s just a number that doesn’t mean anything when taken out of context.

You could have a page with 98% Bounce Rate that had an 85% Conversion Rate for your most profitable product. In this scenario, you probably wouldn’t care that your Bounce Rate is approaching 100% because the 2% is making you money.

Also, Bounce Rate is one of the easiest metrics to manipulate in Web analytics, so your SEO or Web marketing company may be driving your Bounce Rate lower without substantially improving your website. If they’re focusing on Bounce Rate over Conversions, then it’s time to start looking for a new partner.

We’ll take a quick look at those points a little later, but first, let’s do a quick primer on Bounce Rates.

What is a Bounce? What is Bounce Rate?

According to Google, a Bounce occurs when a website visitor leaves your website from the entrance page without interacting with the page.

Let’s say a visitor comes to your website from a Google search for “car accident lawyer” and lands on your auto accident page. If that visitor then exits the page or the session times out without the visitor taking any other action, then it counts as a bounce.

So what is the Bounce Rate? According to Google, Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions. That means Bounce Rate is the ratio of visitors who left without doing anything (including visiting another page of your website) vs. the total number of visitors.

If 1,000 unique visitors came to the homepage of your website and 700 of them left without viewing any other pages or interacting in any way with your website, then your Bounce Rate would be 70%.

What Causes a Bounce?

Here are the most common scenarios that create a bounce:

  • The visitor exits your website by clicking an external link where your website links to another website (for example, a resources page where you link out to useful information to help your website visitors with their needs)
  • A visitor verifies that your company is the one they’ve seen on television or heard on a radio spot
  • The visitor lands on your contact page looking for your phone number or email and exits because he or she got the information needed
  • The visitor hits the browser back button
  • The visitor types another Web address (URL) into his or her browser address bar
  • The visitor closes the browser window or tab
  • The visitor doesn’t interact with the Web page for approximately 30 minutes (This is called a “session time-out,” and 30 minutes is the default setting in Google Analytics for session time-outs.)

Manipulating Bounce Rate

It’s pretty easy to manipulate your website’s Bounce Rate using Google Analytics’ feature, Event Tracking.

Event Tracking let’s you measure all kinds of metrics, including:

  • Time On Site for visitors who only visit one page
  • PDF or other file downloads
  • Clicks on links to external websites
  • Clicks on buttons

Once Event Tracking is installed and a visitor takes an action, it moves those visits out of the Bounce category. They won’t count toward your Bounce Rate—that’s true even if the visitor only visits one page of your website.

Event Tracking helps give a better accounting of user interaction, and that’s a good thing. It can also be set up to artificially lower Bounce Rate. That’s why it’s important to understand what’s being tracked and why.

Final Thoughts

Pay attention to Bounce Rate, but make sure you look at it in the context of your website’s performance. Monitor Bounce Rate so you can make changes that increase user engagement, improve conversion, generate more leads, and help lead customers further down the sales funnel.

As Mark Twain so eloquently said, “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”

Keep in mind that Bounce Rate and other statistics/metrics are only valuable if you’re using them to make your website more profitable.

cj Advertising specializes in online marketing for law firms. For help understanding Bounce Rate or any additional questions, please reach out to your Interactive Client Services Manager.