What is a Bounce? And why does it matter?

Why does your site/page bounce rate matter?There’s a lot of ‘Geek Speak’ in digital land. And if you’re not fluent in it, it can make life horribly confusing. So: here’s a 60 second run-down of Bounce Rates and why they matter.

A ‘Bounce’ occurs when a visitor lands on your site, and immediately leaves, without viewing any further pages.

As you can imagine, this is generally not a good thing. Ideally, you want people to interact with your site and navigate their way through several pages before leaving – hopefully after they’ve bought something / made an enquiry / signed up to your services. This is not only important in terms of ensuring people are finding your site interesting, but also in the message it sends to Google (which presumably goes something along the lines of this: People spend a long time on this site and view lots of its pages, therefore it must be useful (and perhaps we should therefore rank it highly…).

What does a Bounce Rate tell you?

Google Analytics can break down the bounce rate across your site to give you invaluable information about the pages which are performing best, and those which are sub-par. Take a look at the pages with the highest bounce rates – and assess whether there’s a reason people are not hanging around to see more. Are these pages displaying properly, or is there a page error? Are links on the pages working – or are people unable to navigate on to other sections of the site? Are there any design features which might be putting people off? (Flash banners? Dense text? Complicated sign-up forms? Etc.)

[NB: There is a difference between a ‘Bounce’ and an ‘Exit’ – a bounce is when someone lands and leaves without visiting a second page. An exit is the page at which someone who has been navigating through several pages of the site leaves. Exit page rates can also provide valuable information – as you may find large percentages of users exit from particular stages of your purchase process, for example. Which might suggest that your payment or sign-up procedures are too complicated.]

Make sure you also consider how your bounce rate fares across different platforms. Is your bounce rate far higher on mobile devices than on desktop computers? Perhaps this tells you that your design is too ‘busy’ for the small screens and finger-controlled navigation that is typical of smartphones. Typically, mobile searchers will bounce straight off sites that look too hard to use – and as mobile internet usage increases, this could be a major source of lost business. Stats suggest that more people will be going online through mobile devices than desktop computers by next year. So if mobile accounts for a high percentage of your traffic – and your bounce rates for this platform are high – it’s time to seriously consider a mobile-friendly version of your site.

What is a good/average bounce rate?

Alas, there is no straightforward answer. According to Google, the average website bounce rate is 40%. But in reality, this varies hugely depending on industry, type of site, type of page, user intent and many other possible factors. Google’s benchmark averages suggest:

  • 10-30% for service sites
  • 20-40% for retail sites
  • 30-50% for lead generation sites
  • 40-60% for content websites
  • 70-98% for blogs
  • 70-90% for landing pages

However – a note of caution: It must be remembered that, in some cases, a high bounce rate is inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing. If that one page delivers all the answers a user needs, then why should they continue to other pages? Or perhaps you want them to jump to another microsite or booking platform, in which case that will still count as a bounce, despite the fact it’s not actually detrimental.

Bouncing back

In conclusion: High bounce rates = (generally) bad. But knowing this fact = good. Once you have insight, and understand which of your pages are problematic, or which platforms are failing to appeal to customers, you can do something about it! Take the learnings from your best performing pages and apply them to your worst. Test them – and change elements of your pages one by one, to figure out which are helping to lower bounce rates. And in the process, hopefully you’ll manage to increase conversions as well!