Still Unclear About Bounce Rate?

What It Means, How It Works and Things to Consider

This seems like a rather elementary topic when it comes to analytics and measurement, but the truth is it still comes up. Often. And it’s commonly a misunderstood metric.

What is Bounce Rate?

As defined by Google:

“Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”

Essentially, a “bounce” occurs when a user comes to your site and leaves without going to another page. The percentage of bounced users is tallied and reported in Google Analytics as the bounce rate.

How Does It Work?

In this example, a user visits a website then leaves without visiting another page:


Under default Google Analytics settings, even if the user spent three minutes on the entrance page, if he or she did not go on to another page, the session would be tracked with a bounce rate of 100% and a session duration (or time on site) of 0:00. Google cannot track the time from Page A to Page B if there is no Page B.

In this next example, a user visits a site and goes on to view several more pages before leaving:


Under default settings, the session above would track with a 0.00% bounce rate since a user navigated to another page. Also, while Google will track time spent on each page, it will not track time spent on the last page. In the example above, if the user spent 0:20 seconds on each page, the session duration for that user would report as 0:40, not 1:00.

The Potential Challenges with Bounce Rate

In some cases, bounce rate can be a very useful metric. If you recently redesigned your site, for example, and want to compare how users are engaging with the new site versus the old site, bounce rate can certainly be of assistance. When you invest time into your website, why wouldn’t you want to make sure that users are engaging with your content?

The challenge comes with the interpretation of the metric itself. A user visiting your site and leaving doesn’t necessarily mean he or she had a bad experience. When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to say, “70% of our traffic is coming to our site and leaving. Something’s wrong!” However, as mentioned in the first example, even if a user spent time on your site and left without visiting another page, the time won’t track.

In some cases, bounce rate might not make sense to track. If you’re directing a user to a standalone landing page with a form requesting personal information and no other means of navigation, you’ll likely see a higher bounce rate than if you directed the user to a page on your website – especially if the user is not ready to submit his or her information.

When evaluating online campaigns, most campaigns direct users to the most relevant webpage or landing page – reducing the need to navigate. By sending users to the most appropriate section of your site, based on the desired actions you want a user to take, you may see higher bounces than non-campaign traffic.

Rather than making assumptions from a single metric, understanding the meaning of and the story behind the metric will help paint a clearer picture and allow you to identify what matters most from a measurement standpoint.

Things to Consider

  1. Determine if Bounce Rate makes sense to track. Based on the goals and objectives of your site and campaigns, should the bounce rate even be considered as one of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
  1. Make sure your site is set up to track everything. Is there anything else that can be set up for tracking that would provide more insight into user activity? Tracking actions can help to determine interaction beyond bounces, for example: PDF downloads, video views and/or off-site clicks.
  1. Identify ways of keeping users on your site. Are there any improvements that can be made to your site’s content or navigation that will make users want to visit other pages?
  1. View Average Time on Page vs. Session Duration. Average time on page filters out bounced times, while session duration factors in bounced times. If your site has a bounce rate of 75%+, your session duration will be heavily impacted by all of the 0:00 sessions. Looking at average time on page will filter out the 0:00 sessions and provide a better idea of what non-bounced users are doing on your site.
  1. Consider Adjusted Bounce Rate. This option requires revising a snippet of code on your Google Analytics tracking script. Adjusted Bounce Rate allows you to track users who spend a certain amount of time on your site by triggering a non-bounce event – even if they don’t visit a secondary page. Keep in mind: implementing Adjusted Bounce Rate is by no means a solution for solving the challenges that come with measuring bounce rate, but could help you get a better idea of whether or not users are engaged.


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