There are a number of metrics that may play a role in your business’s SEO and online marketing efforts, and one of these for many is known as bounce rate. And while this metric can be very important and meaningful in some settings, there are also others where it is regularly misunderstood or misused.
At SEO Werkz, we’re here to help prevent these issues for all our clients. Through SEO services like conversion rate optimization and many others, we’re able to help you understand the percentage of visitors to your site who take given actions, plus what you can do to improve certain areas here and direct visitors to the ideal conversion locations. What exactly is bounce rate, what are some similar metrics that may be used in related situations, and what are both the proper and incorrect conclusions to draw from these metrics? Here’s a primer.
Basic Metric Definitions
Firstly, let’s define both bounce rate and some other similar metrics you may also see:
- Bounce rate: Simply, the percentage of all visitors to your site who are single-engagement visits – that is, they view a single page on the site, then leave without viewing any other pages or engaging in the site in any meaningful way.
- Time on site: This is not the same as bounce rate, first and foremost. If you click on a website for the first time, then leave for a few minutes to get a drink or go to the bathroom, then come back and leave the site without clicking any other pages, you have increased your time on site – but you have not changed the site’s bounce rate in any way.
- Pages per visit: Refers to the average number of pages per visit for all people who visit a page – basically, are people who land on a given page on your site typically navigating to other pages on your site, or leaving right away?
Google and Bounce Rate
Now, it’s important to note that technically speaking, bounce rate is not a Google Analytics metric. Google does not consider it reliable enough for this, largely because it can be manipulated in some situations.
That said, it can still hold important value for those who understand it and are able to draw the right insights from it. In some cases, for instance, it might indicate that your keywords and page content don’t quite match one another, or that your general page purpose isn’t properly aligned.
One other general theme to be aware of: Beware of anyone who refers to bounce rate as universally good or bad, because it’s neither. While most e-commerce sites do want to limit bounce rate for their main product pages, there are plenty of site types where bounce rate is highly desirable – think about informational pages, for instance, or some landing pages on your site may qualify as well. There are certain settings where optimizing against bounce rates might actually be lowering site quality, and this is why it’s important to work with pros who understand this realm.
Useful Metric Areas
Here are some of the specific areas where tracking bounce rate and related metrics can be quite useful:
- Diagnostics and conversions: In many cases, bounce rates are excellent as a method of diagnosing a problem that’s hampering your site conversions. One major theme here is the conversion funnel, which refers to the common pathways visitors to your site take that lead to conversions. Are visitors going straight from your homepage to product pages for sales, or are they stopping at informative areas like blog pages and others first? Through these and numerous related areas, you can use bounce rates and related site metrics to help determine which pages you should improve and which are doing their jobs.
- Long-term comparisons: Another great method here is to compare these kinds of metrics over time to track your changes. Bounce rates can have an impact on everything from blog pages to subscription areas, allowing you detailed data on where people are going on your site.
- Competitor benchmarks: And finally, using these metrics as simple comparisons to your competitors, especially direct ones, is often very useful and pragmatic. This data can be hard to come by for other sites in some settings, but in those where it’s available, you can look at everything from why a certain competitor is generating low bounce rates to certain settings where they might be intentionally allowing higher bounce rates.
Non-Useful Metric Areas
On the flip side, there are some areas we generally recommend against when it comes to utilizing bounce rate and similar metrics:
- Representations of success: As we noted above, bounce rate in a vacuum is neither good nor bad. When used instead of conversion actions to “prove” that a site is doing well, these metrics are being misused.
- Non-relevant comparisons: We noted above that comparisons to competitors can be valuable uses of bounce rate and similar metrics – but only if the competitors are relevant to you. We noted the importance of “direct” competitors above, which refers to sites that not only sell similar products, but have a similar purchase focus in the way their site is set up.
- Improper context: Finally, it takes the proper context to evaluate these metrics correctly. For instance, if you’re not considering the traffic sources that brought traffic to your pages initially, you’ll be missing a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to bounce rate. Another contextual area some miss is the evaluation of these metrics over time – simply looking at them as snapshots holds far less value than tracking them as trends across large swaths of time.
For more on bounce rate and related metrics in the SEO and online marketing world, or to learn about any of our web design, CRO, retargeting or other digital marketing services, speak to the staff at SEO Werkz today.