Bounce Rate in Google Analytics and Why It Matters

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay.

Have you ever clicked a Search Engine Optimization result’s page or SERP but quickly navigated backward, perhaps because you were displeased? Each time that happens, it is called a bounce.

The bounce rate of a site is the percentage of visitors that leave a webpage without engaging with any element by triggering a request. It is calculated by dividing the total number of non-interactive single-page visits by the number of all website visits.

It is important for two major reasons. For one, the bounce rate can show if your webpages are engaging or displeasing.

Secondly, Google algorithm uses the bounce rate as a ranking factor. The rank brain update, released in 2015, was the first major Google algorithm update that prioritized user engagement via metrics such as organic click-through rates, dwell time, and of course bounce rate.

On Google Analytics, you can check your bounce rate from four unique perspectives, thus:

  • The Audience Overview report provides the overall bounce rate for your site.
  • The Channels report provides the bounce rate for each channel grouping.
  • The All Traffic report provides the bounce rate for each source/medium pair.
  • The All Pages report provides the bounce rate for individual pages.

What is the ideal bounce rate?

This is a tricky question because the average bounce rate for websites varies depending on the industry. A Custom Media Labs report found out the following:

  • 20% — 45% for e-commerce and retail websites
  • 25% — 55% for B2B websites
  • 30% — 55% for lead generation websites
  • 35% — 60% for non-e-commerce content websites
  • 60% — 90% for landing pages
  • 65% — 90% for dictionaries, portals, blogs and generally websites that revolve around news and events

This shows that a bounce rate lower than 20% is just perfect. On the other hand, a bounce rate higher than 70% shows that something is most likely wrong, irrespective of industry. In any case, whatever your bounce rate is, the aim is always to bring it lower and ensuring that your site is engaging enough for visitors.

Why do sites have high bounce rates?

The following are the major reasons sites may record a high bounce rate.

  1. Irrelevant content

When someone clicks a result on the SERP, they hope that the webpage would answer their query in the best way possible. If it falls short and the content is irrelevant or not satisfactory, the next thing is to leave and check another result.

  • The best content is the one that satisfies a reader’s query clearly and succinctly.
  • Include other content formats apart from the text (images, infographics, videos, etc.)
  • Only post high-quality content. Keyword-stuffing is not an SEO best practice and it can even get your site penalized.

2. Slow Loading Speed

If your website loads too slowly, eventually people get fed up and leave. This is bad because irrespective of whether the page finished loading, that would have been registered as a visit, and subsequently a bounce. A Google study of 11 million landing pages found that loading speeds corresponded to high bounce rates as illustrated in the following image:

What to do:

  • Optimizing images (using the right format and compressing heavy ones) reduce a webpage’s file size.
  • Use the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to make your pages lightweight and fast.
  • Leveraging browser caching reduces loading time for return visitors to your site.

3. Poor User Experience

Pop-up ads and intrusive interstitials are particularly off-putting. Such features are common with marketing sites that inordinately prioritize conversion. However, that is bad for SEO because if a visitor can’t navigate your site properly, they leave.

What to do:

  • Make the content on your site readable. This includes using clear fonts,
  • Avoid intrusive pop-ups by all means, especially for the mobile version of your site.
  • Simplify navigation. Having a sitemap does not only help visitors navigate through your site intuitively, but it also helps Google crawl and index your site better.

4. Not Mobile-Optimized

Since it became clear that most people access the internet through mobile devices, Google has taken mobile optimization seriously, beginning with introducing the mobile-friendliness update five years ago. Sites that are not optimized for mobile devices don’t load properly and make the user experience unpleasant for site visitors.

What to do:

  • Use responsive design.
  • Use HTML5 instead of flash for multimedia.
  • Use smaller images that do not take up the whole screen space.

5. Ugly Design

Sometimes, people don’t mind a page with a poor design as far as it meets their content needs. However, many people evaluate a site by its design. And visual appeal can make a difference in how long they spend on your site. Sites that look unprofessional or that use outdated designs are unpleasant.

What to do:

  • Design for the user. Don’t only make your design visually appealing but also user-friendly and functional.
  • Avoid cluttering a webpage with too many items. Every element on a page must serve a specific function.
  • Consistently use attractive colors and fonts that align with your brand’s image.

Caveat:

It is important to also note that a high bounce rate does not always signify that something is wrong with or broken on your site. In fact, sometimes, it can mean that the page was helpful. For instance, when people can access the information they need quickly and clearly enough, they leave the page. Since they took no further action, Google Analytics might interpret this as a bounce.

The same thing may apply if someone spends several minutes reading the content of a page, find it helpful, but interact with no other element on the page.

And that’s why the bounce rate alone is not a reliable measure of site performance or user engagement. Google uses over two hundred ranking factors, anyway. Also, sites in some industries record a higher bounce rate than others, on the average. At best, the bounce rate works with other user engagement metrics (CTR, dwell time, etc.) to give an insight into a site’s performance.

Google Analytics cannot interpret the intent behind a bounce, and so a high bounce rate (which is a relative term) is not always something to worry about. However, it mostly is. And if you notice that a page on your site has a significantly higher bounce rate than your site’s average, something is most probably wrong

Conclusion

It is important to always make your site as engaging as possible. That drives users to interact. In the coming months, user engagement (even beyond bounce rate) would only become important, especially with Google’s recent announcement of the Page Experience update. When designing your site and crafting content, always have the user in mind and aim to match the search intent of visitors with relevant, quality content while also providing them the best user experience.

Daniel Moayanda is a Digital PR Expert & Online Marketing Consultant. He’s the Founder of SeoOrNothing.com a Topnotch Digital Marketing Agency.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store