What does your bounce rate actually tell you?

In the world of metrics, bounce can be a dirty word.

A high bounce rate. It’s something that sends a shiver down any digital marketer’s spine.

According to Google, a bounce happens when a user leaves your site after a single session without taking any further actions. Google Analytics Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik, once described the act of bouncing as:

“rather than I came, I saw, I conquered, the action is I came, I saw, Yuck, I am out of here”

And that’s certainly not the reaction you’d hope from a potential customer. But is a bounce in itself always a response to a ‘yucky’ page? Not necessarily.

When it comes to bounce rates, it’s worth asking yourself these key questions…

Did they get what they came for?

Just because a user bounced off your page, it doesn’t mean they were disappointed by what they found. In fact, it can often be the opposite.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes for a second. Imagine you’re searching for the address of a shop you’re interested in visiting. After a quick Google search, you land on a page telling you the right location – you’re satisfied, so you exit the page and head to the store later on.

A bounce could well mean you’ve provided the answer your audience is searching for. If you’ve designed your page with conversion in mind, however, a bounce isn’t ideal – but we’ll touch on that later.

Are they ready to commit?

For informational pages (like a blog), a bounce doesn’t mean you’ve lost a potential customer. If they’re only just getting acquainted with your brand, they’re probably not ready to commit to a purchase just yet. They could need a little more time to consider.

And don’t forget, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to retarget them at a later stage. There’s no reason to give up on your bounced audience – they could turn into loyal customers down the line.

When did they leave?

Contrary to what Kaushik said, a bounce doesn’t always mean a user took one look at your site and thought ‘yuck’.

A user could be on your page for up to half an hour before they bounce. That means they could view your page for 29 minutes and 59 seconds and still ‘bounce’ from your site. And within that time, they could have gained valuable insights from your blog – and maybe even shared the link with a friend.

Top tip: add ‘scrolling’ as an event on Google Analytics to see if your audience is reading all of your content.

What does a bounce mean for you?

Despite popular belief, a bounce doesn’t always mean a user hasn’t taken any actions at all. If you haven’t added an event in Google Analytics that triggers a response, a user might have carried out several actions before leaving. Plus, there are positive interactions you can’t actually track.

For example, they might:

  • Follow you on social media
  • Copy your URL
  • Bookmark your page
  • Share your page on social media
  • Watch a video
  • Download something
  • Recommend your site offline

It’s always best to track everything that you’d count as an interaction. That way, you can avoid falling into the trap of a misleading bounce rate.

So, what’s the deal with bounce rates?

A bounce in itself isn’t necessarily negative. But if your page is geared towards a specific action and has a consistently high bounce rate, you could be missing a trick. And while a bounce doesn’t always mean there’s a problem with your page, you’ll still ideally want to keep your audience hanging around.

Keep your audience happy and your bounce rate low with these tips:

Improve your site speed

A slow-loading page is one of the top reasons people quickly exit a page. Plus, site speed is something Google uses to rank your page – so a fast-loading page is essential.

Keep your content relevant

Clickbait headlines and irrelevant keywords could initially lure your audience in. But if your content fails to answer their question, they’ll probably bounce. Likewise, if your page doesn’t relate closely to your brand or products, it’s likely your audience will stray.

Gear the page towards an action

If you’re measuring the conversions on a page, it makes sense to keep your call-to-action in a prominent position.

Optimise your navigation

An easy-to-use menu and simple navigation will help your audience choose where to go next. A messy page with software glitches is likely to increase your bounce rate.

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