Managing your website analytics is already difficult, but when you don’t understand the traffic metrics, then it’s just about impossible. Bounce rate is a commonly misunderstood metric.
What is a Bounce?
A bounce is a visitor who arrives on your site, views one page, and immediately leaves your website. By this definition, the bounce rate is the total number of visits with only one page view divided by the total number of visits to your site.
The key word in the definition is “page”. Most people I know contact me super worried about a 50% bounce rate for their website. The average bounce rate of your website means nothing and the individual page bounce rate means everything.
Since most of the WebLink website clients are business associations or chambers of commerce, the visits are so diverse, understanding why someone would only visit one page and leave is very important to understand the value of your website.
Is a Bounce Good or Bad?
"It all depends".
My old boss HATED when I would say this phrase but, just like anything in life, there are a lot of factors that come into play for the outcome to go one way or the other. Does one officiating call at the end of a basketball game determine the outcome? No. There are 1000’s of plays, minutes, substitutions and decisions that as a whole make up the outcome of the game.
Just remember you have to consider the purpose of the page and the intent of the user when you are determining if the bounce rate is good or bad.
Pretend a shopping mall is a website. Do you enter one entrance only? No, you go to the entrance that is the closest to the stores you want either window shop or make a purchase. The same concept applies to your website and people want the path of least resistance. Most of the time, people want to get where they are going in the shortest path possible which means they are probably searching for the theme or topic they are interested in and then entering your website on the pages most closely related to their interest.
Also, do you visit every store in the mall every time you go? No, you bounce from store to store where you have a particular interest, but sometimes the one store is all you need. When this happens on your website, you’re serving up super targeted content and the user might leave the site after fully satisfying their search request.
How and When to Focus on Bounce Rate
Since we recommend you look bounce rate at a page level, you should really stay focused on the top level pages if you find problems. The top pageview pages of your association's website (not your landing pages) should be where you start this type of review. Here are some simple tips to ask yourself if you feel bounce rates are too high:
- What is the focus of this page and does it accomplish the goal?
- What keywords are helping produce traffic on the page and they are relevant to the goal?
- What does bounce mean to our overall objectives?
- What communications have gone out to affect the bounce rate?
- What news or events are happening now, or in the near future, that might affect the bounce rate?
A good rule of thumb is to consider where in your website architecture your pages are and use their distance away from the home page to provide a higher level of leniency to a higher bounce rate. That said, you should still keep an open mind to every page when considering the value of the bounce rate. Additionally, you should give some consideration to they way people find your website. Keywords that are branded ( those that include your name or some variation) should be finding low bounce rate pages. The final bit of advice regarding bounce rate would be to NOT use this metric when reporting website activity. Since the real value is on a page level, using the average bounce rate as a measure of success is ill advised.