Advanced Google Analytics: The Bounce Rate Myth

by Marc McDermott on July 17, 2011

Too many times have I had people come up to me, friends and colleagues alike, asking me why their blog bounce rates are so high.  Bounce rate is one of those metrics that every blog owner should be tracking and analyzing on a regular basis. But what exactly is bounce rate? An often misconstrued metric, bounce rate is simply the rate in which visitors entered your site, did not click on anything, and exited.

There’s a common myth in the SEO community that says bounce rate is the rate of visitors on your site for less than X amount of seconds. This is simply not true. Visitor A can visit domain.com/blog-post and read that blog post in its entirety, leave the site after 20 minutes and that session will be logged as a ‘bounce’. Why?  Because the visitor did not click on any internal links from the landing page in which he/she entered.

So if Visitor A was logged as a bounce after spending 20 minutes engaged in my blog post, doesn’t it seem silly that Google Analytics classifies this as a bounce? Everyone will have their own opinion but I say that it’s not silly because Visitor A did not feel the inclination to explore my blog further, read additional posts, read my about page, post a comment, etc. I’ll use a phrase coined by analytics expert Avinash Kaushik , the visitor “…came, puked and left.”  The visitor did not complete any additional actions on the site and therefore should be considered a bounce.

To get a better view of your bounce rate when blogging, segment your traffic in Google Analytics to study only New Visitors . This will ensure that your repeat blog readers are not being included in your bounce rate calculations and only including those new visitors who you would otherwise want to read additional posts, subscribe to your RSS feed, and so on.

While there is no magical number for what your blog’s bounce rate should or should not be, it is important to put this metric into context.  How does the bounce rate for one blog post differ from the other? How do your bounce rates differ for people coming from Google versus those from a referring site?  Always use comparative data points and trends when analyzing your bounce rates.

Understanding what these key metrics actually mean is critical when analyzing your Google Analytics reports; specifically any custom reports made to identify poor performing landing pages/blog posts.  Segment your traffic, look at bounce rates by search engine, keyword and landing pages to better understand why your bounce rates may be higher than the norm.

What has been your experience with bounce rates ?

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Article by Marc McDermott

Marc McDermott is the Marketing Manager at Merchant Express, a provider of merchant account services and payment processing technologies with a specialized approach to accepting credit cards, merchant bankcard processing and transaction processing services. He is a SEMPO Certified SEM Professional and Google Analytics Certified Individual.

Marc has written 1 awesome articles for this blog.

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{ 11 comments }

iPhone 6 Blog July 17, 2011 at 11:42 am

Adsense increases Bounce Rate.So,it is often said that remove the adsense unit and put their an email subscription box.

Jawed July 18, 2011 at 8:06 am

I actually don’t care Bounce rate as much i care the time spent by a visitor on my blog or website. While experimenting with the average time spent per user, one thing that i have found interesting is that average time spent by visitor from a referring site is just double that of referred by search engines….!!

Graham Lutz July 18, 2011 at 8:39 am

I just wish bounce rates for visitors who left immediately and visitors who stayed but didn’t click through to another page were separated.

That was, you could split test a few things to focus only on those who like your content but were not sufficiently intrigued to go any further.

Jim July 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

What a pop-up? Does that affect bounce rate?

Melvin July 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

well bounce rate is really tricky and i used to believe that same myth a year ago until i was told that its not really the way it works. Could it be that bounce rate is related totally directly to pages/visit?

Im asking because the bounce rate of my blog is ridiculously low (as in less than 10%), yet the pages/visit is just about 3.2 w/c makes me wonder.

seo companies in india July 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

Its very important for a blog owner to keep tracking and analyzing their “Bounce rate”on a regular basis. To reduce bounce rate blog owner can always improve the content of the blog as i think sticky content can definitely improve the bounce rate.

Senabi Infotech July 21, 2011 at 5:47 am

We are commonly driven by the ‘myth’ of bounce rate. Thanks for sharing your views on it. We might have to analyze the bounce rate factor differently.

ZK July 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Keeping a watch on the bounce rate is important, but more than the bounce rate its the revenue from the blog.

Pencil Portrait Tutorial July 27, 2011 at 2:52 am

In my experience, bounce doesn’t go below 70% for typical blogs. Bloggers are smart asses who make the search visitor click on their search reults via all kinds of plugins and SEO techniques. The ill-fated visitor will immediately see lack or any relevancy and immediately click the back button.

Having too many ads, popups etc will make their decision even faster.

If you position your next interesting call-for-action somewhere on top of the page, this can be solved to some extend. E.g. not finding what you are looking for, search the site links etc.

Susan September 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I guess it pays to not have affiliate links/google adsense on homepage if bounce rate is a huge factor in search ranking. Although with what you’ve said in this article, it makes me think that bounce rate would only account for a small portion in Panda. So how then would Google account for user experience (time on spent on the site) if GA messes up analytics with something as strong as a landing page?

David February 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Avg time on page is 0 with a 100% bounce rate is simple to understand – the visitor realized the page is not at all what (s)he is looking for and proceeds to look at other search engine results.

Pages with the highest avg time on page have 33% as well as 100% bounce rate – clearly no obvious conclusion as to why.

The avg time on page metric itself can be misleading – I have “light” pages that attract a high avg time on page – I can only explain that the person clicked to my page and went off to do something else.

For me, the avg time on page is an noteworthy metric – it tells me which pages garner interest and which ones don’t.

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