Bounce rate is one of the most important, yet misunderstood metrics in Google Analytics. In this post, we’ll look at what sort of bounce rate you should be aiming for, and what to do if your website bounce rate is higher than this.
Topics we’ll cover:
- What is Bounce Rate?
- How To Check Your Bounce Rate in Google Analytics
- What Should Your Bounce Rate Be?
- Why is Your Bounce Rate So High?
- Causes Of An Artificially High Or Low Bounce Rate
- How To Improve Your Website’s Bounce Rate
What Is Bounce Rate?
Google’s own definition of bounce rate is: “The percentage of single-page sessions” (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
The first half of this sentence is technically incorrect because the bounce rate is actually the percentage of single interaction visits to your website. But, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with Google’s definition.
Here is an easy way to think of website bounce rate. Think of a “bounce” as someone landing on your website, not clicking on any other pages and then leaving. The bounce rate is, therefore, the percentage of people who go rather than stay and take a look around your website.
How To Check Your Bounce Rate in Google Analytics
You can check your bounce rate inside Google Analytics, under Audience -> Overview
This is your website’s overall bounce rate, but your site actually has multiple bounce rates. The bounce rate of each page tells you the percentage of visitors who landed on that page and “bounced” off. Plus, the bounce rate of each device shows you the percentage of people using mobiles, tablets and desktop computers bounced off, and so on. We’ll look at these different bounce rates later on, so, for now, let’s stick to the overall bounce rate.
What Should My Website Bounce Rate Be?
Your website bounce rate will depend on a number of factors, the key ones being:
- The type of traffic you are attracting. Are the visitors to your website specifically looking for your company, or are they looking for information? People who are familiar with you will bounce less than those who are in information-gathering mode. If you’re an eCommerce store, does your traffic have high ‘commercial intent’ (i.e. are they in the mood to buy?), or are they simply researching future purchases?
- The sources of your traffic. Visitors who come from Google search results tend to “bounce” much less than visitors from Facebook, for example. People are in very different frames of mind when they’re in work or play modes.
- The pages your visitors are landing on. Blog pages tend to have higher bounce rates than product or service pages, for example. If people are coming straight to your homepage, they should not be bouncing off. But if they are landing on an old blog post that doesn’t link to anything else on your website, you should expect a high bounce rate. Learn more about creating conversion-optimised blogs.
- The design and layout of your website. Sites that are difficult to navigate, confusing, or look old-fashioned all tend to have higher bounce rates than new clean, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly websites. Is your site something people want to look at? If not, they will be leaving.
- The clarity of your message. Is it immediately obvious what you do and who your target audience is? People are busy and distracted, so if they can’t find the answer they are looking for, they won’t hunt around to find it — they’ll leave. This is one of the most underrated causes of high bounce rates.
- The speed and usability of your website. Slow-loading websites have high bounce rates and low conversion rates. It’s that simple. According to Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
As a broad rule of thumb, you’re aiming for a website bounce rate of under 40%. Between 40% and 55% is usually okay, while 55-65% shows significant room for improvement. If your bounce rate is above 90% or below 20%, that often indicates a tracking or code installation error.
This is a simple and broad rule of thumb, and there are certain circumstances where it might be perfectly okay to have a bounce rate higher than these figures.
Why Is My Bounce Rate So High?
If your bounce rate is above 40%, this might not be cause for alarm. We’ll look now at some legitimate reasons for a higher bounce rate, then we’ll address possible issues.
High Bounce Rate Legitimate Reason 1: Paid Or Social Traffic
If you pick up a high percentage of your traffic from social media or paid ads, this can affect your average bounce rate, as these visitors tend to have a higher bounce rate. In the example below, you’ll see the bounce rates from paid searches (row 4, 88%) and social (row 5, 70.98%) are much higher than from organic search (44.79%), direct traffic (39.76%) and referral traffic (37.83%).
While it’s perfectly normal for paid search traffic to bounce at a higher rate than organic traffic, in this example, the bounce rate is exactly double. This indicates the targeting of the ads needs examining. Typically, either the ads are pulling in unqualified traffic (perhaps they are showing for phrases that aren’t relevant to the business), or the landing page is not doing a good job of turning the traffic into customers.
In the example below, we see a website with an average bounce rate of 75.33%. This figure appears to be a massive issue until we examine the traffic sources and understand that, because a large percentage of the site’s traffic is coming from social media, the average bounce rate has skewed. In actual fact, the bounce rate from organic search is 38%. A touch higher than we’d like (30-34%), but certainly not spurting blood.
The main goals for this site should be to:
- Figure out how to keep more of that social traffic longer (mobile responsiveness issues could be key here, see below)
- Work on attracting more organic traffic, as this is currently very low, yet providing the most qualified visitors and the highest number of contact conversions
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High Bounce Rate Legitimate Reason 2: Traffic Hitting Blog Posts
If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you’ll know that writing awesome blog posts can bring you lots of traffic. But, this traffic is often information-seeking traffic, rather than visitors with high commercial intent. So, traffic to blog posts tends to have a higher bounce rate than traffic to your homepage, or other core pages on the site.
Below, we’ll see an example of an accountant’s site with an excellent blog. This screen shows the relative bounce rates of the top site pages (white) compared to top blog posts (red). Notice how the bounce rate to the blog pages is very high (93%) compared to the main site pages. You might assume that this indicates the quality of the blog posts is not high, but if you look at “Avg. Time on Page”, you’ll notice that, on average, people are spending almost six minutes reading the second blog post.
Notice how the bounce rate for the blog posts (highlighted red) is much higher than the core pages, but the average session duration is high, showing that the blog posts are good quality. All this site needs is an attractive Call To Action from the blog posts.The question in this scenario becomes how to keep this blog traffic on the site longer. One way to do this is to use lots of relevant internal links to other blog posts so that the reader can delve deeper into a topic that interests them. Another way to keep these blog visitors on the site longer is to use a call-to-action at the end of the blog post (duplicated throughout), which is likely to appeal to them. Remember that blog visitors will often have a lower commercial intent (i.e. they are in the research phase, rather than the buy phase), so it might not always be appropriate to pitch your product or service to them. Instead, consider offering a free mini-course, which elaborates on the blog post, requiring their name and email address. Do you have an email list they can sign up for? Is there a free trial or consultancy you can offer them?
High Bounce Rate Legitimate Reason 3: Lots Of Mobile Traffic
Visitors on mobile devices bounce more, so if your website receives a high percentage of your traffic from mobile, this will affect your average bounce rate.
Notice how this site receives almost 65% of its traffic from mobile and tablet devices. You’ll also see how the traffic from mobile is bouncing at 53%, which brings the average bounce rate up to 44%. This mobile bounce rate isn’t too bad at all, particularly considering the amount of social media traffic this site gets. So while the site owner can always look for more ways to make mobile traffic stick around longer, the reality is that they’re doing a pretty good job already. The desktop bounce rate of 30% is very healthy and shows the traffic is qualified and the site is user-friendly.
With the number of people now using mobile to browse the web, Google is using this information for indexing. This means it’s more important than ever to make sure your website looks seamless on a mobile device. Reduce your website bounce rate on mobile by giving the best user experience on mobile.
Causes Of An Artificially High Or Low Bounce Rate
If your bounce rate is high due to one of the above reasons, then read on to find out how to reduce it and engage more of your traffic. Right now, we will briefly examine some not-so-healthy causes of an artificially high bounce rate.
Evil Cause Of An Artificially High Or Low Bounce Rate (ECOAAHOLBR*) 1: Referral Or Bot Spam
Your website is frequently crawled by bots. Some are nice and friendly (Googlebot crawls your site to read your content and decide where to rank you), while others are mean and nasty (some bots are looking for content to scrape and put on spammy sites). Sometimes, this bot activity is picked up by Google Analytics and can skew your numbers, because bot traffic can often have a bounce rate of 0% or 100%.
Check out the example below, where you’ll see the average bounce rate for this eCommerce site is 27%. The referral traffic number seems a little high at 64%, bearing in mind that referral traffic is visitors that have landed on the site from a link on another site.
If we click on Referral traffic to examine it more closely, we see that a large proportion of this referral traffic is actually from two bots. You’ll notice the bounce rate of this traffic is very high because it’s not real visitors. This has skewed the referral traffic’s average bounce rate, and thus the site’s average bounce rate.
Evil Cause Of An Artificially High Or Low Bounce Rate (ECOAAHOLBR) 2: Misconfiguration
Misconfiguration of Analytics can cause some very short-lived celebrations amongst site owners delighted to find that a grand total of 0% of their visitors are bouncing off their websites. As they prepare to open a web design school and position themselves as the Mary Portas of the Internet, they realise that Analytics isn’t set up properly and what they’re seeing is less accurate than a politician’s memoirs.
Below is an example of a site with clearly misconfigured Analytics set up. Notice how the bounce rate is always either 100% or 0%?
Some common reasons for Analytics throwing up weird stats are multiple instances of Analytics installed on the same page, code conflicts, or the tracking code installed in the wrong place (usually the footer).
If you see some unusual numbers in Analytics, get the Google Tag Assistant extension for Chrome and use it to diagnose the issue.
How To Improve Your Website’s Bounce Rate
Now we know what sort of bounce rate we’re aiming for and we’ve established the most common causes of a high bounce rate, let’s look at some ways to reduce bounce rate and increase engagement with your website.
The easier visitors find it to use your site, the fewer of them will react with horror and bail. Improving your website’s usability should be a never-ending process of testing, monitoring stats and talking to customers. But, in the interest of giving you something to take away and apply immediately, let’s look at the most common bounce-reducing usability tricks:
Bounce Rate Reducer #1: Clear Navigation
Clear navigation gets people where they need to be, as quickly as possible and with minimum stress and thinking. Look at how the Bathstore.com website gives bath shoppers multiple ways to narrow their selection of baths. Their menu is like a helpful salesperson asking: “Do you know what type of bath you are after? No? Okay. Then do you know what style the bathroom is? No? Okay. Then would you like to take a look at all our baths? No? Okay. Then would you like to see a buyers guide to help you choose?” With each option, this awesome navigation guides the lost and confused visitor effortlessly closer to the purchase.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the usability nightmare that is the Alfred Sung website. The screenshot below comes from the eyewear page. The whole eyewear page, that is. There is nothing cropped out (like, say, a menu or some text). To find the menu, visitors are supposed to hover the mouse over the left-hand side of the screen, at which point a menu appears, linking to more pointless pages. An example of a “design first, marketing never” website that I would imagine has a bounce rate well into the 80s, if not higher. Useless.
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Bounce Rate Reducer #2: Use your homepage to set the scene and funnel people through
Think of your homepage as a helpful check-in person at a hotel. A check-in person has two jobs:
- Find your reservation and make you feel at home (“this is where I’m supposed to be”)
- Tell you where to go next, whether this is your room, a lounge area for some drinks, or the restaurant (“this is where I need to go next”)
Your homepage is the check-in desk for your website. It needs to tell people what they are here for and where they need to go. A clear headline that describes what your business does and who you do it for is a good start, as is using pictures on the site that reflect your target audience and the problem that you solve for them. How effectively your homepage communicates these messages has absolutely nothing to do with how well it’s designed or how expensive it is.
eCommerce sites should use category buckets on the homepage to direct visitors to the right product categories. Our website for the Display Centre uses the category buckets shown below to funnel visitors to the right place, even if they aren’t sure about the industry terminology. These category buckets also have the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefit of some juicy descriptive text, increasing the word count on the homepage without bolting on impenetrable sections of long copy.
Bounce Rate Reducer #3: CTAs on every page
Remember that people don’t always enter your site through the homepage; they’ll often come in through a subpage. In the example below, notice how every page on the site we built for Davis Associates contains their free consultation and “contact us” calls to action (CTAs). Shorten the time and remove the effort required for people to do what you want them to do on your website and you’ll improve your bounce rate.
Bounce Rate Reducer #4: Speed up your website
According to Kissmetrics, 47% of people expect a page to load within two seconds, while 40% abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. This study by SOASTA found that an extra one second of load time on mobile increased bounce rate by 56%.
So, compress images using ShortPixel, minify and compress your JS and CSS, and make sure your server is snappy.
Bounce Rate Reducer #5: Tasteful popups and chats can reduce bounces
There’s a right way to do website popups and a very wrong way. Here’s an example of a very wrong way:
It’s generic, there’s no clear benefit, and calling the email list “our promotional mailing list” is about as appealing as calling it the “junk email list”.
The right way to do popups is to time them to appear when someone is about to leave your site. As they move the cursor to exit the window, a well-targeted popup gives you one last chance to save the session and tempt them back for more. Here’s an example of popups done properly:
Similar to a shop owner offering an additional discount as a potential customer turns to leave the store after a negotiation, exit popups can show extra discounts, free gifts with the order, free delivery, or anything else free to sweeten the deal on an eCommerce site.
If that doesn’t fit with the positioning or profit margins of the store, or you’re not an eCommerce business, you can offer other things in your exit popups instead. You could show your social buttons and invite those leaving the site to follow you on Facebook. You could offer them a free download or guide that educates them about your market and moves them closer to their goals. Or, you could direct them to one of your most helpful blog posts; or, as we do, you could offer them a chance to join a free online workshop where you show them how to solve the problem they visited your site to address.
If you’d like some help and advice to reduce your website’s bounce rate, grab your free website and marketing review from Exposure Ninja. One of our highly-skilled Marketing Consultants will take a break from meditating to look at your website and your competitors, and suggest ways you can decrease your bounce rate and increase sales from your site, totally free of charge. Visit exposureninja.com/review to request your free review today.
Editor’s note: this blog post was updated in January 2020 for accuracy and additional information.