Bounce rate is one of the most important metrics in digital advertising, but it’s not scored in the usual “higher is better” manner that most other marketing numbers are. A high bounce rate will kill your conversion rates, drop your SEO rankings, and result in you paying more for pay-per-click advertisements. Having a low bounce rate, on the other hand, will help you gain ground against your online competition, increase brand awareness in your target market, climb the search engine rankings, and boost your website traffic.
In other words, you can think of your bounce rate score kind of like a golf score. You want the lowest score possible, and something is probably going very wrong if your scores start suddenly shooting up. Before you’re ready to optimize your bounce rate, though, it’s important to understand exactly what bounce rate is designed to measure and how to read your scores.
What Is Bounce Rate?
Strictly defined, bounce rate is the percentage of your website visitors that only view one page of your site before leaving. Every analytics engine calculates bounce rate for you automatically, but the formula to do it yourself is actually quite simple:
- Calculate the total number of browsing sessions on a given page in a given time period.
- Identify the number of single-page sessions in that same time period.
- Divide the number of single-page sessions by the number of total browsing sessions.
Given this formula, it’s easy to see why a lower bounce rate is much better than a higher bounce rate. You not only want users to stay on your website for as much time as possible, but you also want users to visit as many pages as possible.
To illustrate why bounce rate is an important metric to pay attention to, consider two different website users.
User A visits one page of your website, stays there for five minutes, browses around a bit, and then leaves.
User B, on the other hand, visits five different pages of your website, has one minute of activity on each, and then leaves.
Both users were on your website for a total of five minutes, but they each had very different browsing experiences. It could very well be that User B got more interested in your site’s content than User A. Examples like this are why bounce rate can be a better measurement of user interest than total traffic numbers or total browsing time.
Here are a few quick notes that might help you understand the formula in a little more detail:
- A “session” is defined as the number of times that a user visits your web page within a given time period. Different analytics engines have different time thresholds for calculating what qualifies as a session, but a 30-minute duration is usually a good rule of thumb. For example, a user that visits your website and then stays on the page without any activity for more than 30 minutes represents one session for visiting the page to begin with and a separate session if they show activity after this 30 minute idle time.
- Other than measuring how many internal links a user clicks on your website, bounce rate does not measure on-page activity. It simply measures the number of times that a visitor, for whatever reason, decides to leave your website after viewing a single page. To measure on-page activity, you will need to use other metrics. However, bounce rate can tell you if there is something about a page on your site that users really don’t like. It may not tell you what exactly they don’t like, but it can give you a hint that visitors are reacting very strongly to something.
- Bounce rate is calculated for specific pages on your website, so talking about the “overall bounce rate” of your site usually doesn’t make much sense. Some pages, such as contact pages or service pages, will naturally have higher bounce rates. If a customer searches Google for nearby restaurants, goes to the restaurant’s information page to get directions, and then leaves to visit the restaurant, that page is doing it’s job but will still have a high bounce rate. Thus, it’s important to understand the objective of each page before you make a decision about what the page’s bounce rate actually means. In general, though, it’s always better to shoot for the lowest bounce rate possible.
Our Top Three Tips For Reducing Your Bounce Rate
1. Optimize Your Website For Mobile
Websites that display poorly on mobile devices are virtually guaranteed to have an extremely high bounce rate. It’s tempting to try and decorate a landing page with all kinds of bells and whistles, but fancy pages often take a long time to load. To help you streamline the mobile version of your website, pretend that your users are only allowed to see one piece of information when they visit for the first time. What would you show them or tell them if you only had three seconds to do it?
After you’ve nailed down the most important thing for a visitor to see, you can build around the page’s centerpiece. In other words, optimizing your site’s mobile experience is mostly about taking away unnecessary distractions.
2. Drill Down On Which Traffic Sources Have The Highest Bounce Rate
In the same way that different pages on the same website can have very different bounce rates, a single page can have very different bounce rates from different traffic sources. Are visitors from Facebook bouncing off of your “About Us” page at a higher rate than visitors who come to this page from Google? Segmenting a page’s bounce rate into different traffic sources can help you figure out which marketing channels are working well for your business and which need some work.
Don’t be surprised if you find that websites you’ve never even heard of are producing high-quality visitors with every low bounce rates. Visitors come from everywhere, and some of the best customers get to you in ways that you may have never considered. If you find that a website or another local business has been sending you traffic with a very low bounce rate for quite some time, then consider reaching out to them about a potential partnership or joint venture.
3. Give Your Visitors A Simple But Powerful Experience
Too many websites use pop-up boxes and other distracting marketing methods that only frustrate users and lead to a high bounce rate. If a visitor doesn’t find the information they’re looking for on your page within a few seconds, it’s very likely that they will just leave and look elsewhere. Instead of focusing on flashy advertising gimmicks and “elegant” design tricks, ask yourself why a visitor is probably going to a specific page. To turn your visitors into customers, you have to first give them the information that they want. Most visitors want to find what they’re looking for and move on as quickly as possible.
If you treat every visitor’s attention as a valuable commodity, then your bounce rate will drop and your revenue will almost certainly rise.