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Why a High Bounce Rate Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

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This post is part of a series called Demystifying Google Analytics.
When a Bounce is Not a Bounce

In this introductory post to “Demystifying Google Analytics” we’re going to look at what a “bounce” actually is, then show why, in many situations, this may be a metric we should expect to be high!

First, Let’s Look at What a “Bounce” Is

A bounce is what we call a visit where someone:

  1. arrives at a page on your website, and
  2. leaves that page without looking at any other pages on your site.

In other words, a visit is called a bounce if the visitor only looks at one page on your site during that session.

The “bounce rate” is the percentage of visits that were bounces during a given timeframe. We can look at the bounce rate for any given page, or for the site as a whole.

Bounce rate over time
Bounce rate over time

I’ve noticed that a lot of people get really hung up on their bounce rate–not just with websites I’ve dealt with personally, but on the web as a whole. There are plenty of well-meaning blog posts that will advise you on the range in which your bounce rate “should” fall. In general, bloggers seem to see a high bounce rate as something to be avoided.

However, There’s More to It

But as with all metrics and statistics, it’s not that simple. Consider these examples:

  • Fred is a huge fan of Envato Tuts+ Web Design. He’s read every post in the archive, and follows the site on Facebook and Twitter. Today, a new post was published: Fred saw it on Facebook, clicked the link, read the whole tutorial, and closed the tab. This counts as a bounce.
  • Monika has bookmarked a particularly handy post on Envato Tuts+ Design & Illustration that she finds herself referring back to every month. Whenever she loads it, it’s just to look something up, so she has no need to click the navigation links or check out the related posts. Every time she loads it, it counts as a bounce.
  • Juan is having a problem with his Mac; he Googles the issue, and finds a forum thread that points to a tutorial on Envato Tuts+ Computer Skills. He loads the tutorial and follows the instructions... and it fixes his problem! He can get back to work now, so he closes the tab. This counts as a bounce.
  • Mary visits a different tutorial website and clicks the first post on the front page. It’s not what she’s looking for, so she closes the tab without even scrolling past the fold. This does not count as a bounce for either the front page or the post itself.

Bounces have nothing to do with how long a user has spent on the site, how far they’ve scrolled down the page, or how many times they’ve visited before. A bounce is simply a visit that lasted one page.

How Does This Apply to Envato Tuts+?

Our posts generally aren’t trying to capture users and funnel them through to a checkout page (unless you count the Envato Tuts+ Courses banners–and even then, clicking one of those counts as leaving the site anyway!), so bounce rate is not as critical a statistic for us as it is for an e-commerce site. That’s not to say it’s worthless; we just have to consider it in context.

For instance, if the first part of a tutorial series has decent search traffic but a high bounce rate, that means that people are finding the post just fine, but not clicking through to the second part of the series once they get there. This could imply that they didn’t find the first part interesting enough to want to keep reading, or that the link to the second part isn’t obvious enough, or that the post’s title doesn’t reflect its content well enough (so the people clicking through to it from Google quickly discover that it’s not what they were expecting and leave the site).

Bottom Line:

The bounce rate of your website can be informative (particularly when looked at for a specific post), but don’t get hung up on whether or not it’s in the “ideal” range.

Next Time...

In my next post, I’ll talk about cases when the bounce rate is used to measure something other than the bounce rate.

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