Let’s say a user lands on a page on your website and then exits the page without viewing additional pages. This is what the industry refers to as a bounce. Therefore, bounce rate would be the calculation of the percentage of visitors who visited a particular website and navigated away from it after only viewing one page.
Different than exit rate, bounce rate is based only on sessions that started and ended with a certain page, as opposed to the last page in a session with multiple page views. Bounce rate is also commonly confused with pogo sticking, the act of a user clicking on a search query and quickly navigating back to the results, signaling to search engines the page did not provide the information sought after, thus weakening its rank.
The implications of a high bounce rate have been the subject of fodder for some time now as marketers look for answers to understand and optimize their rankings in the SERPS (search engine results page) on the likes of Google and Bing. However, with no clear proof of bounce rate’s impact on SEO, its real significance is determined by fulfilling the intended purpose of the page. In other words, everything is relative.
(According to Google’s John Mueller, Gary Illyes and Matt Cutts, Bounce Rate is not a good ranking signal. It’s a noisy signal that is spammable and thus not used by Google.)
Consider what bounce rate means in the context of the following scenarios:
- A user lands on an article consumes the piece of content and leaves (positive)
- A user clicks on a social post to a product page, doesn’t find what they were looking for and navigates away (negative)
- A user looking to contact a business clicks on a search engine result fills out a contact us form, completes it, sees a ‘thank you message’ displayed on the same page, and then closes the browser (positive)
Given this, the measurement should largely depend on the goal of the page. For media companies or publishers looking to gauge the efficacy of their content, bounce rate should be altered to reflect how much time a user spends on the page, signaling whether they’ve consumed an article before exiting. Meanwhile, eCommerce brands aiming to push users through the conversion funnel as quickly and seamlessly as possible might weight this metric more straightforwardly.
Bounce rate helps identify where you might be targeting people with irrelevant landing pages. It is not a good metric for understanding engagement level.
Due to the common misconceptions around what bounce rate actually means and it’s overall impact, marketers often measure bounce rate the wrong way, not fully attributing engagement on the page during a single visit. Instead, the following scripts can be fired to track significant events made on behalf of the user:
- Event fires when the page loads
- Event fires after a certain amount of scrolling takes place (halfway down the page)
- Event fires when the user reaches the end of the content or post
- Event fires when the user reaches the end of the page itself
But, while people abandoning your site is a natural occurrence, much like shopping cart abandonment, brands should be asking themselves the following questions in order to best thwart users from bouncing for unintended reasons:
- Are experiences across the user journey coherent?
- In the face of on-the-go consumers, is the user simply distracted?
- Is the content engaging enough?
- Is the content relevant?
- Does the page load fast enough?
- What is the user experience like?
- How can I ensure users take the next step with my brand?
- Where are users falling off in the funnel?
Only after digging into the answers can a marketer begin to optimize for bounce rate, which in a nutshell means delivering seamless and contextual experiences that match the user’s expectation of what they had predicted would come next in the sequence of potential interactions with a brand.