Bounce rate demystified

Recently, while looking at the Google analytics for this site, I noticed that my bounce rate was very high. I wasn’t very clear on what this meant, so investigated and concluded that there wasn’t much I could do about it given the type of content I post here.

So a new infographic on Kissmetrics caught my eye today: Bounce Rate Demystified.

I’m not a big fan of this current infographic craze, partly because they lock the data into a very web-unfriendly, non-interactive format, and partly because they are usually nothing more than transparent linkbait, with little or no actual informational substance.

My previous post challenged the former complaint. In this post I’ve decided to dissect the bounce rate infographic and see how good the information really is…

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.

[…]

Read more about writing effective web headlines to decrease your bounce rate.

(via Analytics Help – google.com)

The bounce rate equation

Where

  • Rb = Bounce rate
  • Tv = Total number of visits viewing one page only
  • Te = Total entries to page

(via Bounce rate – en.wikipedia.org)

The same Wikipedia page also includes this plain language version of the equation: ‘Bounce rate = total number of visits viewing only one page / total number of visits‘.

A visitor can bounce by:

  • Clicking on a link to a page on a different web site
  • Closing a open window or tab
  • Typing a new URL
  • Clicking the “Back” button to leave the site
  • Session timeout

A commonly used session timeout value is 30 minutes[2]. In this case, if a visitor views a page, doesn’t look at another page, and leaves his browser idle for longer than 30 minutes, they will register as a bounce. If the visitor continues to navigate after this delay, a new session will occur.

The Bounce Rate for a single page is the number of visitors who enter the site at a page and leave within the specified timeout period without viewing another page, divided by the total number of visitors who entered the site at that page. In contrast, the Bounce Rate for a web site is the number of web site visitors who visit only a single page of a web site per session divided by the total number of web site visits.

(via Bounce rate – en.wikipedia.org)

Bounce rate by industry

I thought these were the most interesting stats on the infographic, so I was disappointed to discover that they are not based on anything but the speculation of pundit in a Yahoo! Groups forum:

Firstly this is highly dependent on the type of site you’re running. It’s not possible to call as an industry standard I feel as even among similar kind of sites there are just too many variables. It’s even harder I would suggest than conversion rates which should also be taken with a huge pinch of salt. I can however give you some numbers based on our experience.

Retail sites driving well targeted traffic 20-40% bounce. (One vendor told us anything 33% should be a flag)

Simple landing pages (with one call to action such as add to cart) I’ve seen bounce at a much higher rate, anywhere from 70-90%.

Content websites with high search visibility (often for irrelevant terms) can bounce at 40-60%.

Portals (MSN, Yahoo groups etc) have much lower bounce rates in our experience 10-30%.

Service sites (self service or FAQ sites) again usually lower 10-30%.

Lead generation (services for sale) 30-50%.

I must stress that all the above figures are based purely on our own experience after working with clients. I wouldn’t advise you base an optimization model around these numbers. We advise that when forming a benchmark, that you do it internally. Take the average bounce rate over a given period on your current site. You need to have at least 1000 entries coming from normal sources to get reasonably actionable data.

Measure what the average bounce rate is and then work to get that down.

(via The Web Analytics Forum – tech.groups.yahoo.com)

These estimations are also from four years ago.

Improving (reducing) bounce rate

Most of the ‘research’ for this infographic (including the title) was sourced from a single blog post: Bounce Rate Demystified – webanalysis.blogspot.com, including the following list:

What are the factors that affect the bounce rate?

Below are some of the factors that determine the bounce rates. You can use this as a checklist to diagnose a high bounce rate issue.

  1. Source of your traffic – Each source results in a different bounce rate. When setting your baseline create overall baseline and baselines for each traffic source e.g. display advertising, organic traffic. With one client I found out that the traffic driven by searches (paid and organic) and sources other than campaigns had a much lower bounce rate than traffic that was driven via display ads. Their display ad had 90% bounce rate while other traffic only had 35% bounce rate. Their overall bounce rate was around 55%, way lower than 90% and giving them a misleading picture.
  2. Search engine ranking of the page – A page which ranks higher on irrelevant keyword will get a higher bounce rate. I have seen this to be an issue a lot of times. I wrote an article on how to follow the search and reduce your bounce rate.
  3. Type of Audience – If you are advertising and reaching the wrong audience you will see higher bounce rate. Bounce rate will tell you if you need to better target your ads.
  4. Landing Page Design – Landing page design affects the bounce rate. I suggest A/B testing to improve after you have set your baseline. No matter how low you go there is always an opportunity for improvement unless you somehow achieved 0% bounce rate.
  5. Ad and Landing Page Messages – If the messages on your banner or search ads are not aligned with the messages on the landing page then the chances are you will have one of those 50% + bounce rates. Make sure messages are aligned and give visitors a clear call to action. Many a times I have seen marketers sending users to a generic page instead of an appropriate landing page. This can (and will) result in higher bounce rates. Again A/B or multivariate testing should be used to reduce the bounce rate.
  6. Emails and Newsletters – Subject lines, to and from, links, banners, the layout of email and the landing pages all work in tandem. They can either result in a great user experience and hence lower bounce rate or can result in a disaster. Do testing (More on this later in another post) to reduce bounce rate.
  7. Load time of your page(s) – A longer load time can result in visitor bailing out of the site causing higher bounce rates. Conversely, users can hit the refresh button, thinking there was a problem with the page load. This will incorrectly reduce bounce rate.
  8. Links to external sites – A page that has links to external sites (or sub domains/ pages that are not tracked in the same data warehouse) will show higher bounce rates.
  9. Purpose of the page – Some pages’ purpose is to drive users inside the site while other pages provide the information that user is looking for. A page that provides the end result can show higher bounce rate. One example is the support page on my bank’s web site, I have this page bookmarked. Whenever I need my bank’s phone number, I go to my favorites, pull this page, get the number and leave.
  10. Other factors – Pop-up ads, pop-up survey requests, music, streaming video, all can have an adverse effect on bounce rates if users become annoyed.

(via Bounce Rate Demystified – webanalysis.blogspot.com)

The final list is a reduced version of a very low quality (but at least recent) post found on Save Delete:

Useful tips to reduce Bounce Rate

1) Website Design : Design of any website plays an important role in keeping your visitor stay a long time on your blog or website. So, it is very design a website with proper blend of color, neatness, good layout and proper user interface. This helps visitors to stay for some time at least for the pleasant design.

2) Provide Relevant Content : Give your visitors what they want. When writing content for your blog, keep your target segment in mind. Whenever you write content for your blog, keep your target segment in mind. Write quality content that is easy to understand and try to connect with your visitors using the language they speak. This way they will be more inclined to stay on your blog and significantly help lower your bounce rate.

3) Easy and Proper Navigation : Every page in your website should have clear and proper navigation to make the user experience better. Guide your users by linking to your internal pages and related posts. Use clear words for navigation options so whenever user finds difficult to find the content, he/she will use the navigation links to finds relevant content based on his/her interests.

4) Regularly update the content : One of the most important reason visitors leave the landing page because the content is inaccurate or outdated. Try to update your blog regularly or try to remove any reference to dates.

5) Better speed up your page load times : The loading time of your webpage is not only a important factor in SEO, but also important in having a visitor to stay in your site. Deactivate unnecessary plugins, optimize your images and code to speed up the loading time of your site. Your visitors surely check other content if your pages load faster and quicker.

6) Get rid of Pop-up ads : Try to avoid using pop-up ads because it annoys the reader. If you content on a site worth-reading, visitors don’t want any kind of distractions and pop-ups to join the newsletter or subscriptions irritates them.

7) Reduce external links : External links on your blog’s main page where your visitors mostly lands are extremely harmful and can make the bounce rate very high. So, try to reduce the external links that will help you to keep the visitors stay for longer time on your site.

8) Effective headline with relevant content inside : Writing a effective headline surely increase your click through rate which will in turn helps you to improve the bounce rate of your website. But, don’t forget that your headline match the content inside in your post. If user see that your headline doesn’t relates to your content, they would no longer stay to your blog.

(via 8 Proven Tips To Reduce Bounce Rate Of Your Website Or Blog Successfully – savedelete.com)

At the risk of being uncharitable, this article stinks of keyword-targeted filler content.

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