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#Conversion optimization

The Bounce Rate Bible

by Rémon Bloemberg 13 minute read
The Bounce Rate Bible

Imagine a particular marketing campaign costs a crazy amount of money. Then it does absolutely nothing to convert visitors or improve sales… Things didn't go as expected. A scratch of the head and a log-in to Google Analytics reveals a high bounce rate. Eureka! You’ve found the answer!

But, how does knowing about the high bounce rate help you? Further complicating matters, each page has its own bounce rate. How can you make sense of what went wrong or what to do to make things right?

This is getting confusing…

It doesn’t have to be! We’re here to terminate your anxieties. Ultimately, bounce rate relates to how well a page performs and how a user interacts with it.

Bounce rate is incredibly important, especially for ecommerce and publisher sites. Basically, it provides insight as to how well site visitors engage with your site and how well your site performs.

In this guide, you’ll gain a better understanding of what bounce rate is (and what it is not). Additionally, you’ll learn why bounce rate is important as it relates to different industries, devices, countries of services, etc. We’ll explore specific ways to improve bounce rates and take an in-depth look into how bounce rate specifically influences ecommerce.

What is bounce rate

Bounce rate refers to a single-page session. Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions. Single-page sessions have a duration of 0 seconds.

Per Google Analytics: "a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session."

iron-out-page-load-time-in-relation-to-bounce-rate

As you’ll learn, bounce rate is not always a bad thing. But, in some cases, a high or low rate could mean your site has issues related to UX and technical SEO.

The good and bad of bounce rate

Good or bad

So, a high bounce rate is bad and a low one is good. End of story, right? Well, it’s not that easy. It depends on the goals and intended success of your site. And, it can be considered on a page-by-page basis.

If you want site visitors to view more than one page of your site, then a high bounce rate would be bad. But, if you just wanted to inform people of the release of an upcoming product, with nothing else for them to do but be informed, then it’s not a bad thing.

So, it really is relative, and the reason to get a technical expert who can analyze bounce rate data and if needed, turn it into actionable site improvements.

What’s a good bounce rate?

It’s not exactly like getting a report card in school. But there are some basic thresholds to consider when measuring a page’s bounce rate.

A bounce rate over 60% is high or worth looking into.

A bounce rate that is lower than 30% is pretty good. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean good conversion rates or sales.

Bounce rate and exit rate

People may get confused when it comes to bounce rate and exit rate. Bounce rate refers to a session wherein a visitor landed on the page and then left the site without any further interaction. An exit refers to when a visitor leaves a site after interacting with one or more pages.

Here is how Yoast visually illustrates and calculates exit rate versus bounce rate:

iron-out-bounce-rate-calculations

So, it’s really just data until you can put it in context. A bounce rate could reflect visitor disinterest. A high exit rate might equal poor conversion rate optimization. Bounce rate data needs context.

What causes users to bounce

When it comes to specific pages, like product and service pages, conversions are most important. So, consider why visitors may leave a page:

  • The page loads slowly
  • Too many ads and other distractions on the page
  • The site looks outdated or has horrible accessibility
  • Content features poor grammar and errors
  • The page looks sloppy on mobile
  • Google Analytics is not properly set-up
  • They land on an error page

Pages with the highest exit volume

In Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages. These are pages that visitor abandon the most. This is a good place to start to better understand user behavior (whether someone landed on a page and then left or came from another page of the site and left). Check the “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” option in the “Admin View settings."

iron-out-exit-pages

Use the All-Pages report to analyze bounce rates per page. Moreover, an Audience Overview report gives the bounce rate for your entire site. Be sure to check different versions of your site content. For example, perhaps mobile versions of your site don’t perform as well.

Time on site

What’s the average time visitors spend on a page? If you’re a publisher, it could be upwards of five minutes. If you’re an ecommerce brand, it may be much less. Regardless, evaluate each page given the goals of the site.

Users (vs. new users/ page views)

Compare how many repeat and new users come to your site. This helps determine whether users are doing the kind of things you want them to do, whether it’s filling-out a form or clicking through to multiple pages. A high number of repeat users could be a good signal, but, again, it depends on your goals for the user.

Pages/session

How many pages does a visitor visit per session? There’s more to consider, like time spent on each page, but looking at pages per session gives a webmaster an indication as to how easy or difficult it is to navigate throughout the site.

Number of sessions per user

Okay, a visitor comes to your news site. They like what they see. How often do they come back per day, week, month? It’s important to keep track of repeat visitors and their number of sessions. When it comes to ecommerce, this information determines how a brand may interact with a potential customer.

Avg. session duration

What’s the average duration of a session? An ecommerce brand will want to know this to determine how well the layout, calls to action, and navigation facilitate sales. For a news publisher, this determines whether stories captivate readers enough to keep them reading one or more articles.

Bounce rate criteria

Since bounce rate needs to be discussed in context, consider the following:

  • Device
  • Channel
  • Industry
  • Country

Device

Is a web visitor using a smartphone or laptop? It’s important in understanding how bounce rate influences user experience and the success of your business. When it comes to mobile, browsers want speedy load times and solid user experience.

Channel

A pay-per-click experience is different from a content marketing journey. You would expect (and hope) a user who clicked on a PPC ad to spend little time on a page before making a purchase.

However, a person who is researching a product may conduct an organic search, come upon a search result’s page, click on your blog article, spend time on the page, and then bounce. Upon completion of research, they come back to your site to make a purchase.

Since many brands leverage multiple channels of marketing, it’s crucial to analyze bounce rate per channel for a fuller understanding of sales potential.

Industry

Industries host unique goals and desired user behaviors. As mentioned, a major news publisher probably wants visitors to spend a lot of time on particular pages before moving on to other pages throughout the site. But, an ecommerce brand has a different set of desires, mostly wanting visitors to spend less time on pages while making one-time and repeat purchases.

There’s no real golden number for any industry, but some have provided bounce rate benchmarks.

iron-out-industry-benchmarks

User behavior varies across industries, and that really dictates whether certain on-site and on-page actions are good or bad.

Country

For some brands, considering traffic from a country outside its own is a moot point. But, for others, it’s a business opportunity. Let’s consider that you sell goods exclusively in the United Kingdom, but your Google Analytics reflects a high bounce rate from Spain.

Getting traffic from Spain could be because there are not enough search results within a searcher’s area or in their preferred language. So, Google serves pages from your site to satisfy a search query.

Let’s assume a user clicks on a search result then finds you’re based in the UK, do not offer multilingual versions of the site, and do not ship products to Spain. So, they leave your site.

But you could start offering products to those in Spain, providing them the proper version of your site and pages based on location and language.

Improving bounce rate

As discussed, a high bounce rate may not necessarily be a bad thing. But, some bounce rates are due to poor page performance and bad user experience. Improving bounce rate deserves an entire post itself, but consider the following suggestions related to technical SEO:

Compress images

You want your page to load quickly. Slow load times is a major reason visitors bounce. However, images are incredibly useful and necessary when it comes to ecommerce, complementing on-page content, etc.

Use great web hosting

Poor web hosting can influence site performance and spoil a brand’s chances at making a great impression. Therefore, your host and resources play an important part in considering bounce rate.

Remove unused plugins

What’s slowing down page performance? It could be a plugin or other element. Remove unneeded resources.

Reduce ads

Ecommerce sites may host a lot of ads. But, you don’t want to create hurdles for users or reasons for Google to consider the page as inadequate. Reducing ads can improve branding, time on the page, and bounce rates.

Personalize experiences

Ecommerce shoppers and content consumers are used to being recognized by vendors via personalization. So, a lack of personalization could dissuade visitors from staying on a site.

Make sites safe

Ecommerce sites collect personal information from users. A user could bounce from a site that looks untrustworthy or unsafe. SSL certifications and trust seals assuage uneasy or anxious consumers.

Responsive pages and sites

Web shoppers want a great user experience. That means making certain pages or entire sites responsive. As with personalization, once responsive design is set in place, it’s important to regularly audit pages and check bounce rates in Google Analytics.

Bounce rate and ecommerce

You can’t explore bounce rate without ecommerce entering the chat. Measuring the bounce rate of ecommerce pages helps inform related developer projects, marketing campaigns, and omnichannel strategy.

High bounce rate and ecommerce

As established, a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. But, you’ll want to take a look at bounce rate on service/product pages versus those on informational or non-transactional pages.

So, a high bounce rate on an informational page about a product could mean that the content seems wrong, it’s not offering quality information, or it’s poorly written. Or, maybe there’s an issue with images loading on the page.

Good bounce rate for ecommerce

Traditionally, ecommerce sites have lower bounce rates. So, think of 45% as a decent rate and anything below 25% as pretty good. But, that’s just an industry benchmark, for ecommerce is too broad of an industry to provide a useful benchmark for all types of businesses.

For example, the online journey of one seeking a luxury watch differs from those buying a hose to water their garden.

Bounce rate and exit rate for ecommerce

This was explained above, but it often relates to ecommerce, so it’s important to revisit. The two metrics are closely related, but it’s vital to understand the difference.

Exits are recorded whenever someone leaves a page (after visiting any number of pages beforehand). So, in the context of ecommerce, this could mean that a visitor came to your site through a brand search, read a few articles about a product, and then left the site.

That’s different from clicking on a PPC ad, landing on a product page, and then leaving the site. In this instance, that’s a bounce (because it was the first visited page of the session). Bounce rates track the percentage of visitors who leave after landing on that page but don’t act.

Hard, Medium, and Soft Bounce Rates

Bounce rates can be further examined to help understand user experience and improve sales. Make bounce rates quantifiable and put data into action.

Hard bounce

A hard bounce occurs when a visitor immediately feels they’re on the wrong site, they’ve been misled, or an overwhelming number of signals (pop-up ads) make them want to leave the page. In another scenario, a page’s content is misaligned with the meta title’s call to action or promise.

Medium bounce

Some spend a bit of time on a page before bouncing, which leads marketers to wonder about page elements or how the page fits into the sales journey. For example, maybe a consumer was checking the price of an item or quickly found the answer to an informational query. Or, elements of a page loaded too slowly.

Soft bounce

Imagine a customer browsing through a retail store and a particular product catches their eye. They spend a few moments gawking at the item. But, no one is around to further engage them so they walk away. A subsequent discussion or prompt could get them to come back again, hence retargeting.

For example, maybe a particular product page has a high percentage of soft bounce rates. Upon further inspection, the price of the item needs to be lowered, the copywriting needs improvement, or more pictures are needed to entice buyers.

Relation bounce rate and Core Web Vitals

The Core Web Vitals (CWV) are a set of metrics developed by Google to help website publishers improve page performance for the benefit of site visitors. It’s undeniable that website performance matters. Fast pages generate more leads, sales, and advertising revenue.

Core Web Vitals are a set of factors Google uses to evaluate site experience and performance. The CWV consists of three speed and interaction measurements: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.

In theory, a site with good Core Web Vitals is going to have a lower bounce rate, longer sessions, more page views, etc. The things you want!

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Basically, LCP refers to how long it takes for a page to get ready for the user. This includes the loading of images. A large website may have ranging LCP scores. If it takes too long to show content the user might navigate away, resulting in a bounce.

Things an ecommerce site can do to improve LCP scores:

  • Remove third-party scripts
  • Improve web hosting
  • Establish lazy loading (images load as a user scrolls down the page)
  • Remove large page elements

First Input Delay (FID)

FID refers to how long it takes for a specific page to be ready to interact with a user. For example, this can refer to a page’s menu, if a visitor can put their order information in a field, etc. If it’s hard to interact with a specific page, this can also be a reason to navigate away, also resulting in a bounce.

Things an ecommerce sites can do to improve FID scores:

  • Minimize JavaScript
  • Remove third-party scripts
  • Use a browser cache

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS refers to the stability of a page once it loads. For example, do images break or move around as a visitor scrolls? Does something go wrong as a visitor is entering their order information? This would be bad since it also contributes to bad interaction possibilities with the page.

Things an ecommerce site can do to improve CLS scores:

  • Use set size attribute dimensions for media (video, images, GIFs)
  • Reserve enough space for ad elements
  • Add new UI elements below the fold

Core Web Vitals are not going away. CWVs are used as a method of evaluation. So, improving scores could make a huge difference regarding search results and how users engage with your site.In other words, CWV scores relate to bounce rate. Improving technical aspects of your website affects user behavior.

Conclusion

Let’s conclude by considering what “bounce rate” means as it relates to the actions of visitors and your sales. Measuring bounce rate leads to implementing methods to improve bounce rate. Improving bounce rate means you’re doing the sort of things that improve user experience.

What have we reviewed in this article?

  • Bounce rate refers to a single-page session. Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions. Single-page sessions have a duration of 0 seconds.
  • Defining a “good” or “bad” bounce rate is relative and depends on the goals of your site.
  • Bounce rate differs from exit rate. An exit refers to when a visitor leaves a site after interacting with one or more pages.
  • Many things, such as having too many ads or images that load too slow, can influence bounce rate. To help hypothesize, webmasters use analytics to take a look at time spent on page, new visitors versus repeat visitors, etc.
  • Data related to bounce rate may be analyzed further. For example, a hard bounce relates to a user journey that quickly ended upon landing on a particular site or page. Such data drastically differs from the user journey of another user who spends time on one or more pages and then leaves.

Lastly, Core Web Vitals influence bounce rate, site performance, and user behavior. A lot of brands struggle with bounce rate due to a lack of available technical resources.

For example, it may be easy for a business owner to assess that pages are loading slowly but they lack the technical understanding to know what to do about it.

Likewise, Core Web Vitals scores are just the beginning. Once you have identified which pages need attention, you’ll require the expertise to resolve technical issues.

Ecommerce vendors, publishers, and all brands benefit from partnering with those with the technical knowhow to turn bounce rate metrics into actionable, money-making solutions.