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New Webmasters > Optimise > Understand Your Statistics: Why Bounce Rate Matters

Understand Your Statistics: Why Bounce Rate Matters

There are many different analytics packages out there for you to choose from. Statistics such as numer of visitors, where they came from, how many pages they looked at and what sort of browser they used are all very valuable to a webmaster. Most of these analytics packages record similar type of information. The one piece of information we are going to analyse today is Bounce Rate. The information we will look at is taken from Google Analytics, but most analytics packages will give you this piece of information.

What Is A “Bounce”

A bounce occurs when a visitor leaves a particular website after only visiting a single page.

A visitor is regarded as having left the website when either

  • Their session times out,
  • They close the browser window or tab,
  • They type a new address into the address bar, or
  • They click the back button to return to a different website

By default, Google Analytics’s session timeout is 30 minutes. That means that if the user stops activity for 30 minutes then carries on browsing the site, a new session will be created. If the user leaves the site but then returns within 30 minutes, the return visit is counted as part of the original session. You are able to manually change the timeout length.

Each specific page on a website has its own bounce rate. It is generally expressed as a percentage and it means the number of visitors who left after viewing that page and no others.

For example, if a page has a 30% bounce rate, it means 30% of visitors who enter via that page leave without visiting any others.

In addition, there will be an average, site-wide bounce rate. You can work out how effective a specific page is by comparing its bounce rate to the site-wide bounce rate.

What Is A Good Bounce Rate?

There is not one single figure that is suitable for all types of website. As a very rough idea, a bounce rate between 20% and 50% is not too bad. However, the ideal bounce rate depends very much on the type of site you run and the type of visitors you attract.

If you run a news-type website, the chances are you will have a higher bounce rate. A visitor comes directly to the news story they wish to learn about, reads it and then leaves. Having a bounce rate of 80% for this page doesn’t necessarily mean that the page is ineffective. In fact the page may be so effective, that the visitor doesn’t need to navigate to another page.

If you run an e-commerce site and are looking for people to complete a checkout before they leave then you would expect to have a very low bounce rate. If people are entering a product page and leaving without visiting your checkout, then something is wrong. The same is true for any site that wants visitors to complete some sort of task, be it a newsletter signup, or registration at a forum.

Analysing Specific Pages

Bounce rate of 39.16%
To find the bounce rate for a specific page in Google Analytics navigate to Content -> Content by title. Choose the title of the page you wish to analyse. You can then see the bounce rate of the page. In the example to the left, you can see the bounce rate is 39.16%. Google Analytics also tells us that this is 50.28% below the site average.

This suggests that this is a particularly effective page at enticing visitors to navigate the rest of the site. Note that we aren’t looking at the absolute bounce rate, just how it differs from the site-wide rate. I will explain why the site-wide bounce rate is so high later.

Bounce rate of 83.35%
The bounce rate for our homepage is 83.35%. This is 5.82% higher than the site-wide bounce rate. This means that only 17 out of 100 people who enter from the homepage navigate to any other pages.

Analysing Bounce Rate by Source

Another interesting experiment is to look at how the bounce rate changes depending on the source of the visitor. This can tell you how interesting people find your website depending on who referred them. To locate the information, click Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites and click the domain you wish to analyse.

First we will look at the referrer domain buyhitscheap.com. They are a company that sells website hits. I used it in a previous experiment analysing visitor loyalty. As you can see, the bounce rate is 100%. Every single visitor referred by that domain leaves without visiting another page. From this statistic you can get a good idea of how interested the visitors were in your website – not very.

Let’s have a look at stumbleupon.com. This referrer has a bounce rate of 75%. This is not too bad compared to some other referrers. 1 out of 4 people from Stumbleupon navigate to at least one other page before leaving. It shows you that the traffic from stumbleupon will be more likely to visit other areas of your website than the traffic from buyhitscheap.com. With this information you can decide which is better to focus your attention on.

Summary

We all know that digging through statistics is incredibly boring. Webmasters don’t want to spend time trawling through analytics data, they want to spend time working on their site. But bounce rate is one of those particularly useful pieces of data, and is more powerful than it seems at first.

In my opinion it is well worth spending some time working out who are your best referrers, as they may not just be the sites that send you the most visitors. It is also worthwhile being able to determine which pages make people want to explore more of your site and which ones have people scrambling for the back button. All of this is useful information that will help you to improve your site, and ultimately gain more visitors.

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