Bounce Rate: The Most Misunderstood Metric

By: Kyle Chandler  | 08/05/2015

Let’s start with the basics

Bounce rate, as described by Google, 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)”.

Generally, what that means is if 100 people visit your webpage and 40 of them find it uninteresting, and leave without performing any action on the page, you end up with a 40% bounce rate. While this metric is important and provides some great insights as to what end users do once they visit your website and key webpages, when viewed by itself, it is often flawed or misinterpreted.

Let me paint you a slightly different picture with another use case

Let’s say you are a B2B company that sells a unique product that requires MSDS or technical datasheets. These sheets are often used by purchasers when creating their orders, as well as for defining exactly what products they need. On your website, you have all of your MSDS and technical datasheets listed on a single page so end users can get to them quickly and efficiently. Let’s say a prospect Google searches your specific brand along with the keyword of MSDS and then clicks through to your web page. The user is able to find all the core information on the page and leave, without engaging in any content or clicking through to any page.
Success, right? Not according to your bounce rate! In Google, you would see this successful engagement as a negative metric, saying the user visited one page then left.
This is why we always encourage looking at, not just one, but multiple metrics. For instance, if we looked at the average time on site, along with bounce rate, we would see that users are spending a lot of time on the one page and then leaving, without clicking through to others. This gives us the insights that we are providing the right information. So, perhaps we would add in some heat map tracking, or event tracking, to provide even more information to see what they are doing on the page.

Long story short, bounce rate is fairly useless without context. Always ask yourself what your end goal is on a page and determine how you will accurately measure your core goals and objectives. Additionally, continually look at multiple ways to measure and not just one metric or view.

What are your thoughts about bounce rates?  Sound off in the comments below!


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