Sure you can use more visitors, but you’re seeing traffic steadily rising week after week. Or perhaps you’re paying for traffic using Google Adwords or some other form of advertising and you’re getting plenty of visitors to your site. Once visitors come to your site, do they like what they see? Are they sticking around to read your content, buy your products or participate in your discussion forums? Well the answers to many of these questions can be found in a little discussed statistic known as BOUNCE RATE.
Bounce Rate measures the percentage of time that a visitor comes to your site and doesn’t visit any further pages. In other words, they don’t like what they find on your site and do not even give you the courtesy of clicking one link. You can drive all of the visitors in the world to your site, but in most cases, if they leave right away, you are clearly doing something wrong. Different kinds of sites, have different “bounce characteristics” but in most cases, a high bounce rate is a bad thing. If your goal is to get people to click on Adsense ads, perhaps you are looking for a high bounce rate. Many blogs will have high bounce rates. Why? Visitors come to the blog to read the latest post which usually appears on the home page. Once a visitor reads the post they will leave, so you weren’t really expecting them to continue reading older posts. For most sites, however, we want to see a low bounce rate.
How to Find Your Bounce Rate and What Does it Mean
The easiest way to identify your Bounce Rate is by using a web analytics package. For this discussion we’ll focus on Google Analytics because it’s what most of us use and it’s free. If you’re not currently using analytics software, I strongly recommend that you install Google Analytics immediately. On the opening Dashboard view analytics displays the site’s Bounce Rate under the Site Usage section. In the example below the Bounce Rate is 39.66%. In other words, almost 40% of the visitors who come to this site leave before choosing to view any further pages.
Is this rate good or bad? You’ll rarely find a discussion on the web of what constitutes an acceptable Bounce Rate, but on this site we are pretty happy with this rate. I would suggest that any Bounce Rate over 70% is really bad, 50% or so is acceptable, and below 50% is good. You need to be aware of your Bounce Rate over time, and strive to get it as low as possible. Google Analytics has several views to show you what your Bounce Rate is over time. For example, if you simply click on the word ‘Bounce Rate’ in the Dashboard view above, you’ll see the following bar chart.
By changing the date range (in this case I went back a year) and by choosing the monthly icon toward the top right, I am able to see the Bounce Rate trends from month-to-month.
This view is very informative. While the Bounce Rate of just under 40% looks pretty good, we can see that it has been steadily rising over the year which does give us cause for some concern. At the very least, we should be asking ourselves what might be causing this increase.
- Has the site been redesigned over this period?
- Has the quality of the content gone down?
- Perhaps the site is the same, but it’s getting stale to visitors and it’s time for a change.
Bounce Rate by Source of Traffic
One great way to help you get to the bottom of what is going on, is by looking at how the Bounce Rate is affected by the SOURCE of your visitor traffic. Again, Google Analytics to the rescue. If you choose ‘Traffic Sources’ in the left-hand navigation and click on ‘Referring Sites’ you’ll see a table like the one below:
Notice how the Bounce Rates differ dramatically depending on the source. Stumbleupon traffic shows the highest Bounce Rate at almost 77%. Sites like Stumbleupon and Digg usually produce the highest Bounce Rates since visitors to these sites tend to like to quickly look around and move on. They are also not usually your most targeted visitors, so don’t be overly concerned by high rates from these referring sites. It’s normal.
You will want to study this table carefully to see if you can spot trends. Are there sites that are producing significantly lower Bounce Rates than normal? If so, can you figure out why this is? Most likely your content is satisfying the needs of these visitors. What can you learn from this? Are there ways you can create similar content, design and navigation to satisfy visitors from other sites in the same way?
Bounce Rate by Page
Not all visitors come to your site from the homepage and therefore, every entry page on your site is an opportunity to make a good or bad first impression. Most of us spend the most time designing our homepage and consequently it usually is the most attractive on the site and well thought-out. It’s not surprising that the homepage will often have a good Bounce Rate. You can determine the Bounce Rate of your various pages by clicking on Content in the left-hand navigation of Google Analytics and then choosing the Bounce Rate link in the body of the page.
I left out the page names here, but you can clearly see that the Bounce Rates vary widely from page to page. This is a great way to pinpoint the pages that need the most attention.
Google has a good video on bounce rate which I re-posted on NewOfferings. In my next post I’ll discuss some of the things you can do to help bring down the Bounce Rate. But the long and short of it comes down to this… If you want people to stay on your site you must make a good first impression and give them good and clear options to make them want to click and discover more on your site.
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Great article and information. Google analytics is a great tool. Bounce rate issues are very important indeed and usually the starting point for many site owners to improve upon.