Say hello to Ivan Lim, the head of marketing at Tweaky.com, the #1 WordPress Developer Marketplace for Small Customizations. He is passionate about digital marketing, startups & peanut butter.
One Google Analytics metric that usually gets a lot of attention is the Bounce Rate. It’s a metric that has a fairly strong negative connotation around it. In fact it’s pretty common for Google Analytics users to say,
“The bounce rate is high, that can’t be good right?”
Wrong! Bounce rate isn’t a negative indicator it’s just a description of a specific behaviour. As stated by Google – Bounce rate is the percentage of visits that go to only one page before exiting a site.
“Only one page, that has to be bad!”
Well actually no, it’s not. Many Google Analytics users waste time fretting about bounce rates instead of trying to understand the context of that number.
In this post I’m going to show you how to interpret Bounce Rates in various contexts within Google Analytics. Hopefully by the end of it you’ll have a deeper understanding of your site’s performance and stop judging success by that dreaded percentage.
Bounce Rate by Traffic Source
The first way to look at bounce rate is by traffic source, i.e where visitors are coming from (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Before we do that though, let’s take a look at how most users look at bounce rate. Many people jump straight into the main overview page of Google Analytics and stare at their website’s bounce rate as the one source of truth.
The problem with this number is that it is an average. It doesn’t take into account the different segments of your website traffic.
A better way to do it would be to go to your All Traffic report in Google Analytics to analyse bounce rates across different sources of traffic.
Here you should see that every traffic source has it’s own bounce rate. Now we’re getting somewhere!
Google traffic seems to have a higher bounce rate which could be concerning but if you think about it most people arrive to your site via Google because they’ve been looking for answers to a specific question. They then find your blog, get their questions answered and move on. Your content isn’t bad, it’s just answered their questions.
Possible solutions? Maybe having more links to other pages on your site within blog posts or having a more obvious Related Posts section at the bottom of each post.
Another way to segment your visitors is looking at email traffic from your newsletters. This traffic is likely to have a higher bounce rate because they’re regular readers of your blog. They’ve read most of your content so when they get an email about new content, they read it and they’re done.
As a side note, if you don’t have email traffic showing your report you need to read this post on how to track email traffic in Google Analytics.
Bounce rate by content type
Another way to chop up your data and get a better look at bounce rates is by content type. Jump through to your Landing Pages report and start looking at bounce rates by different pages that people land on.
In this report you can start finding out things like
– Do certain content topics have a lower bounce rate than others?
– Do certain blog lengths do better? Long posts can sometimes tire readers out
– Do different formats have lower bounce rates? Top 5 lists versus opinion posts.
As another example, if you ever run a competition with a landing page for people to sign up, expect to see high bounce rates. People visit that landing page, register and move on. There is less chance of them browsing and looking around.
Once again understanding bounce rates in context makes a huge difference to knowing how well you’re tracking.
Bounce rate by visitor type
The last variable you want to look at for measuring bounce rates is visitor type. One I like to look at regularly is New vs Returning visitors. New visitors will tend to have a higher bounce rate because they don’t know much about you. The goal is to do as much as you can to increase engagement for new visitors.
How do you compare new vs returning visitor bounce rates. There are a few ways. You can jump to the New vs Returning Visitor report or you can use the advanced segment for New Visitors.
The other customer segment that’s really useful is looking at mobile traffic. If you don’t have a responsive mobile optimized site the chances are anyone who visits via a smartphone will bounce. Sites that have a high bounce rate for mobile visitors should look at making a mobile site or improving navigation for smartphone users.
The easiest way to look at mobile visitors is again use the advanced segment throughout your Google Analytics account.
Hopefully you’ll never look at bounce rates the same again. The key is not to look at bounce rates as a negative stat but instead understand the number in context. Never look at bounce rate as an average for your entire site. Instead jump in, dive deep and understand bounce rates using one of the three segment types above.
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