What is bounce rate?
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page.
People can bounce away from your site by:
- clicking on an external link to a different website
- clicking the ‘back’ button to leave the website
- closing the browser or tab
- typing in a new URL.
Why is bounce rate important?
Depending on your website, the importance of your bounce rate will vary. But whatever your site, it’s likely that you’ll want your visitors to stick around for a bit and take some action that’s valuable to you. For example, you may have a link from a landing page (often your homepage) to some kind of form where users can sign up for your service, or make a payment. Most of the time you’ll want your users to do more than just look at one page of your site, which is why looking at the bounce rate is an important measure of how many of your users are taking action, or leaving immediately.
A low bounce rate means…
Your website is attracting the right kind of audience, who are clicking through to your other pages of content, which means there’s a good chance they’ll convert (meaning they will do something valuable like buy a product, download a white paper, or fill in an enquiry form.)
A high bounce rate means…
Visitors to your website aren’t finding what they’re looking for when they arrive on your site, and are not clicking through to any of your other pages or converting. They’re leaving immediately. These visits aren’t very valuable to you, so you need to address the problem.
Factors that affect bounce rate
Popup adverts – If your site pops up an advert or survey when a visitor first sees the website, this might annoy the visitor and make them leave immediately.
Distracting adverts – If your site is cluttered with too many adverts, the visitor might leave immediately, especially if the adverts are so distracting it’s hard to read the website’s content.
Streaming music – If your website immediately starts playing music, this might annoy or embarrass the visitor (especially if they’re at work!) and make them leave immediately.
Auto-starting video – Like music, this can be embarrassing and annoying, especially if it’s impossible or unclear how to stop the video.
Page too confusing – If the design of your page is too confusing and cluttered, your visitors might not find an appropriate link to follow and decide to leave.
Irrelevant content – Your visitors might have followed a link to your website and expected to see something different. This might happen if your domain name doesn’t match the content of your site, or if a site linking to yours uses incorrect anchor text.
External links – If your most prominent links are to external websites, visitors will most likely click these. It’s very likely that your bounce rate will be high. If your site is a portal this is to be expected.
Incorrect text in search engines – If a visitor has come to your site from a search engine they might have read the site’s title and snippet which might have been misleading. Once they get to your site they realise this wasn’t what they were looking for and leave immediately. You can change how your site is listed in search engines by editing the title tag and meta description fields. Web testing tools like Nibbler can tell you how your site will appear in search engine results.
Load time of pages – Your page might take a long time to load, and your visitor might be impatient and leave. This happens often with full Flash sites that show a preloader bar. If a part of your site takes a long time to load, make sure this isn’t the homepage; keep the homepage simple and quick to load.
Content isn’t appropriate for your audience – Like the design of the page, your visitors make a snappy decision on your content and might decide it’s not what they’re looking for and leave immediately. Make sure all your content is useful, relevant and interesting to your audience.
Few links to other pages – It might be obvious, but if you only have a few (or no) links to your other pages, your bounce rate will be sky high. If you’ve got some really great content, but your visitor has to click through 5 pages to get to it, they won’t bother.
Page not found – If a visitor has come to your website by following a link on another site and the first thing they see is a page not found error, there’s a chance they’ll leave immediately, unless you can easily get them to navigate to the page they were looking for. Here’s some more tips on improving your error pages.
Calculate your bounce rate
If you’ve got analytics on your website you should be able to view your bounce rate. Google Analytics show this as a handy percentage graph.
Caption: Google Analytics can give you a breakdown of your bounce rate per month, week, day or hour.
If you want to know more about measuring your website’s bounce rate see this article.
What’s the average bounce rate?
Usually the lower the bounce rate the better, but there are some exceptions to this which I’ve explained at the bottom of this article.
The average bounce rate is around 40%, so if your website is doing better than that, you’re obviously doing something right!
The average bounce rate does also depend on the type of site you run, see the graphics below.
Image source: Kissmetrics
- Retail sites, driving well targeted traffic 20-40% bounce – 20-40% bounce
- Simple landing pages, with one call to action such as “add to cart” – 70-90% bounce
- Portals, such as MSN, Yahoo groups etc
- Service sites, self service or FAQ sites – 10-30% bounce
- Content websites, with high search visibility (often for irrelevant terms) – 40-60% bounce
- Lead generation, services for sale – 30-50% bounce
Exceptions to the rule – websites where a high bounce rate doesn’t matter
There are of course some exceptions to the rule. Mostly a high bounce rate should be avoided, but here are some examples when a high bounce rate doesn’t matter:
- Websites with only one page – If there’s no other pages to view, the bounce rate will be 100%!
- Landing pages with the call to action on the page – If visitors are able to convert by remaining on the same page, this means it’s not a bad thing if your bounce rate is high.
- Blog articles – Visitors have likely been linked to your website because they were interested in the subject of the article, and left after reading the information that interested them.
Work out if bounce rate is important to you
Depending on the type of website you’re responsible for, you can decide for yourself if the bounce rate is a worthwhile metric to follow. If you want tips on reducing your bounce rate, there’s a good article here.
We want to know if bounce rate is something you’re trying to improve, so let us know in the comments below what you’re doing to reduce it.