Bounce rate is an excellent way to measure the quality of a Web site from a product and user point of view.
It measures the number of times someone comes to the site from an external source, views one page and leaves again without clicking on any other pages.
Bounce rate is a common measure in online audience software such as Google Analytics. It can be found in GA at the site level by going to / Audience / Overview. It can be found at the page level by going to / Content / Site Content / All Pages.
The analytics bounce rate suggests that the page didn’t have relevant content and so the visitor left again. It also suggests that it might have had relevant content but didn’t give the visitor a good reason to hang around by clicking on something else.
Either way, it’s a lost opportunity to drive page views, repeat visits, and other valuable conversions. For sites that display advertising, a lower bounce rate results in more ad inventory and more revenue.
Some product analysts say that content sites have an average bounce rate between 40 and 60 percent. That range is consistent with the 20+ sites where I have access to the analytic accounts.
Sites with a higher rate have a big problem. They may want to spend effort trying to bring the number down. Sites below that range might be better off worrying about something else.
A high bounce rate also leads to another problem. Search engines that track user behavior will know a site has a high bounce rate and allegedly will use that rate to judge a site’s quality — and rank it accordingly.
In reality, bounce rate is best judged by a single page.
But what about a site with thousands of pages? Where should someone begin to tackle the rate?
1 Page at a Time
Yep, it’s by focusing on one page at a time starting with the most important and high-volume pages on the site.
Prioritize the effort by starting with the first 10 pages based on average monthly volume. But don’t start with the number one page if it already has a rate within the normal range. Focus on the ones with the highest rate.
A single popular page can have a tremendous impact on bounce rate if it’s much higher or level than the average for the rest of the site.
Bring that bounce rate down and the average for the entire site may drop as well.
Be aware that any changes to the page may not show up in the bounce rate immediately because the revised page needs to propagate throughout the Internet.
In addition, repeat visitors may still have the old page caches in their browsers.
Although the starting point may be one page, my preferred approach is the first 10 pages in the Google Analytics / Site Content / All Pages report.
These first 10 pages represent a significant amount of traffic. Some of the effort to bring down the rate will succeed by a big margin and some may not succeed at all.
How to Improve Bounce Rate
The simplest way to improve bounce rate is to make sure the content is relevant and high quality.
The second way to improve it is by having related links prominently displayed on the upper half of the page.
Again, the links should be relevant to the content on the page.
After at least several days, check Google Analytics again to see if the bounce rate has improved.
Go to the / Content / Site Content / All Pages report and click on the link of the individual page. Then at the top click on Navigation Summary and look at the Next Page Path in the lower right.
It will reveal which links are getting clicked and which aren’t. For any that aren’t getting much activity, replace them with something else and keep testing until the bounce rate improves.
One final point:
Brand loyalty is an important factor in the rate. Sites with a loyal audience (usually falling into the Direct channel in Google Analytics) will have a lower rate, while others that depend heavily on search engines will have a higher one.
The search-dependent sites may never get the bounce below 60 percent. But experience shows that any site can lower its rate.