What Does the Bounce Rate Actually Mean?

And what effect will it have on your website?

Edgaras Katinas
Mar 14 · 5 min read
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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Bounce rate — one of the digital marketing metrics that every marketer measures. However, after measuring it, the majority of us will neglect the findings.

To those who aren’t familiar with the bounce rate — it’s basically a metric that shows the percentage of people who leave the web page they landed on without browsing any further on the website.

It is true that the guideline for the healthy bounce rate is somewhere between 20% and 60%. If the rate jumps higher than 65%, then some address to the issue should be made.

It is also true that bounce rates are frequently higher for blog posts and specific landing pages.

These two truths make most marketers disinterested in looking for answers to what causes the bounce rate on their website.

When was the last time you made changes to your website because of the bounce rate results?

What Effects Does a High Bounce Rate Have on Your Website?

Overall Google ranking is affected (or not)

One of the most important places you want your website to be is Google search. Not only do you want it to be somewhere, but you should also aim to rank high so that more people will see and click in.

The danger here is that if your bounce rate is high, it will signal to Google that the content inside may not be of high quality. Naturally, Google won’t want to bring its consumers to a poor-quality page, thus it will rank it lower. Basically for fewer people to discover.

Google is a business and it strives to provide convenience and quality to its users. Google knows that its users have no time to browse through irrelevant and poor-quality content. That’s why Google will always have a look at overall statistics of the website — and the bounce rate is one of them.

There are plenty of articles saying that Google doesn’t penalize your website if your bounce rate is high. (Basically that the bounce rate has no impact on how high your page will rank on the search results.) I’m a bit wary about it because a high bounce rate is an indication of poor SEO. SEO is, on the other hand, what Google uses to rank webpages.

Reduced time spent on your website

You want people to stay on your website and go through its content. In the end, you spend time and money creating it, am I right?

If people made the first step to come to your website, you’ve already caught their attention (which is the most difficult part of marketing today). You want to ensure that they stay longer and go through the content you have to offer.

Interconnect your pages well. If it’s a blog post, make sure there is a clear and easy way to navigate and discover other blog posts that are relevant.

This is extremely important, especially if you run advertisements on your website, because the more time a visitor spends on your website, the more pages they open, the more ads they will be exposed to. It will, in the end, equate to more income for you.

What Issues Do High Bounce Rates Signal?

Your targeting is wrong

If you notice a high bounce rate from social media, Google Ads and referral traffic, you should have another look at the targeting. Clearly, something might be wrong, as people who see your content on these platforms bounce from your website without looking for further information.

This, combined with a short time spent on the website, may mean that your ads are misleading or understood wrongly by the audience. If they are looking for one thing, but land on a page having something else, they will naturally immediately leave the page.

This mistake in targeting can cost you a lot of marketing dollars. Therefore, if you notice an unusually high bounce rate from ads, you should immediately look for reasons, and adjust your targeting (or the ad) properly.

Poor user experience (UX)

Another common reason for visitors to leave the website without browsing any further is poor UX. If the website seems to be confusing, complicated, loading too slowly or incompletely, naturally nobody will waste their time there.

A high bounce rate may indicate that you should work more on the UX of your website. You can try implementing website heatmaps (for example from HotJar) to see the visitor journey on your website and at which point they bounce.

Did you know that 52% of global internet traffic comes from mobile devices? The popularity of the desktop as a means of browsing the internet has been decreasing. For the sake of your marketing campaigns, you have to adapt — smartphones and desktops are different.

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, people who find it through mobile search will bounce. That’s why good mobile optimization has become a crucial component of a good SEO strategy.

Poor content drives visitors out

Content is king. This is a phrase that every digital marketer knows very well. Therefore, if the content on your website is poor, most of the visitors will leave. They know that the Internet is full of other sources of content that would be of better quality.

If that’s the case, you should review all the content that you have on your website. Avoid poorly looking visuals, clumsy text and user-unfriendly content, such as extremely long paragraphs, or spaces overcrowded with ads.

A Bit More About Good and Bad Bounce Rate

As I mentioned earlier, the so-called healthy range of the bounce rate is somewhere between 20% and 60%. You should be careful if it exceeds (or starts reaching) 60%, as it means that there definitely are some issues to look at.

However, if your bounce rate is extremely low, 20% and lower, don’t start jumping with happiness. You’re still doing something wrong.

If the rate is lower than 20%, there is a chance that your tracking is implemented incorrectly (maybe the tracking code is duplicated). You should have a look and ensure that your analytics tracking is well-installed and functioning on your website.

Another reason may be your website’s structure, meaning that visitors cannot leave from the first page they land on. For example, they have to pass through a gateway page that redirects them from the global site to a local site.

I have also noticed that mobile bounce rates are about 10% higher than on the desktop. This is something that you can also consider when setting the benchmark for your own bounce rate goals.

Bottom Line

The conclusion here is that even if your bounce rate is within the healthy range, it still is something you should understand and aim to improve. It may also indicate certain issues that your website or marketing strategy faces and can help to solve.

A high bounce rate is often a symptom of weak SEO. I discussed a couple of SEO weaknesses that may be causing high bounce rates:

  • Poor UX (slow web loading speed, complicated navigation, poor mobile optimization).
  • Low-quality webpage design, poor quality of textual and visual content.
  • A mismatch between content and keywords.

In order to improve your bounce rate metrics, firstly, address the three points mentioned above.

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Thanks to Niklas Göke

Edgaras Katinas

Written by

Marketer | I write about marketing & personal development| Join my FREE Instagram Marketing Bootcamp: https://bit.ly/5DIGMBC

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and efficiently.

Edgaras Katinas

Written by

Marketer | I write about marketing & personal development| Join my FREE Instagram Marketing Bootcamp: https://bit.ly/5DIGMBC

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and efficiently.

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