Understand your site’s bounce rate

by Martin Reed on 6 August 2007 in Articles

What is your bounce rate?

The ever increasing use of Google Analytics is resulting in a new obsession amongst website developers: that of the bounce rate.

In this article I will explain what is meant by the term ‘bounce rate’ and why it is important to understand.

What is meant by bounce rate?

Put simply, the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who only view a single page of your website. When people talk about their bounce rate, they are often referring to the bounce rate of their home page.

If a visitor does a search for your site and arrives on a page that answers their query, they may then leave – this will be considered a bounce, even though there is nothing wrong with your website.

This blog is all about building online communities – therefore our aim is to get visitors involved: that means getting them to explore our sites and view more than just a single page!

The importance of your bounce rate

If you have a high bounce rate, it suggests that the content of your site may not be relevant to your visitor. It may also mean that your content is uninspiring or that your site navigation is not up to scratch.

Remember that visitors make a decision about whether to continue exploring your site in less than a second; you need to lure them in and make sure they check out more than just the page they arrived on!

Don’t panic – simply understand the meaning of your bounce rate

Your content will not be appropriate to all your visitors – therefore you should expect to see a certain number of visitors come and go without exploring your site further. If your blog consists of lengthy, targeted articles then a visitor may have obtained all they need just from the single page your article was published on.

In general though, we should always be aiming on reducing our bounce rate – particularly for community sites. A community site with a high bounce rate is not a community site that will succeed.

As a general rule, I would say that a community site should aim for a bounce rate of under a third. If your bounce rate is higher than 33%, but under 50% then you shouldn’t panic – rather you need to dig around and find the reason why people are leaving your site so soon.

If your bounce rate is over 50%, then something is wrong. You need to determine the issue with some degree of urgency if you want to attract and retain members – ask friends to take a look at your site and provide feedback. You should also visit webmaster forums and ask for a site review/evaluation.

Keep an eye on your bounce rate; you do not want your visitors bouncing away to a competitor – you want them to stick to your site like glue!

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Ashley August 6, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Great post! Hopefully most online marketers/blogger keep this information top-of-mind, but little reminders are always helpful!

Kersson August 6, 2007 at 10:57 pm

A very informative post. I think, if your bounce rate is high also means that your website’s content is very good because you are giving the visitors exactly what they want to know from the first time. Perhaps your articles should not be so clear and the meaty content should be splitted into several pages.

Dennis August 7, 2007 at 12:14 am

what do you use and how do you determine your bounce rate? What is an acceptable rate?

Michael Simonsen August 7, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Thanks for the info. I was wondering what exactly bounce rate was. It would be nice if there was a way to know exactly why people bounced. I think it is usually just that people like to keep moving on the web. Bouncing is what they are sitting down to do.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 8, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Ashley – I think it always pays to be aware of your bounce rate. It is yet another piece of information you can use to understand you site and how your visitors interact with it.

Kersson – You are right that a high bounce rate may mean your content is excellent as a user if finding all they need. However, it is unlikely that a visitor will be fully satisfied if they are only viewing a single page on your website.

Can you clarify what you mean when you suggest my articles should be less clear?

Dennis – Your bounce rate is worked out for you if you use Google Analytics. I am not sure about other analytics programs, though.

An acceptable rate is what you determine it to be; I gave my suggestions for a community site in this article, although a target rate would vary according to your own site’s content, design and purpose.

Michael – I agree; knowing why a user has left would be great information. I think that by analysing traffic logs further you can gain further insight as to possible reasons.

For example, you find your bounce rate shoot up at the same time as you receive a large amount of traffic from a new source. This would suggest poorly targeted traffic.

Generally speaking, users are not finding what they are after, or are confused as to how to navigate your site if your bounce rate is overly high.

Rockwell August 9, 2007 at 6:55 am

20.96% – not bad?

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 9, 2007 at 11:31 am

Rockwell – I think that is something to be proud of! What is your URL?

Jay August 9, 2007 at 3:37 pm

29.75% for BulldogBreeds.com. But, having a forum skews the bounce rate to the low end.

Josh August 9, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Hmmm … I don’t use GA. I’ll have to look into this, thanks. As it is now, I literally would have to go in and hand count my single pageview visitors. Just eyeballing it now, it doesn’t look too pretty.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 10, 2007 at 11:05 am

Jay – You’re right; I would expect a lower bounce rate for a forum compared to a blog, for example. It is still important to get this rate as low as possible though. I think you are definitely on the right track so far.

Josh – I highly recommend Google Analytics. The information it offers is overwhelming and highly detailed.

How To Wake Up Early August 12, 2007 at 7:20 am

As my blog is only 3 months old, i’m trying to make it known through participation in social networks and sites like digg, stumbleupon etc. The nature of these networks though is that they generate not just good traffic but extremely high bounce rate. So this is tradeoff you have to accept. Once you’ve built sufficient traffic, inbound links and visitor base, you can slow down on social networks and focus on content. This way your bounce rate will definitely improve.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 12, 2007 at 11:01 am

How To Wake Up Early – Thanks for your comment (what is your real name by the way?!?). I have used StumbleUpon’s advertising system to send traffic to this blog in the past; I found my bounce rate went through the roof – not a good thing!

I still question the value of being ‘Dugg’ or ‘Stumbled’ – it seems the traffic is very short term indeed, but I guess exposure is still exposure nonetheless!

Wally August 15, 2007 at 5:54 am

I’ve experienced the same with using StumbleUpon. Also being an user of StumbleUpon, I often find myself keeping my mouse pointer on the “Stumble” button on the toolbar. If the site isn’t catchy in the first few seconds, I just click and stumble to another site!

And if the site doesn’t load immediately, I’d just stumble again. It’s so easy to just click and see what’s going to come up next. The landing page needs to be something *really* attractive, unusual, or captivating for me to stay for more than a few seconds.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 15, 2007 at 11:30 am

Wally – Thanks for giving us details of your experiences from a user’s perspective. Your description certainly explains why sites such as StumbleUpon tend to hurt your bounce rate.

I think what you say about a site needing to be captivating within the first few seconds is a universal requirement these days.

jonathon January 16, 2008 at 12:31 am

is there a way to work out the bounce rate in webalizer, i don’t wish to use googles Analytics because of the input code.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 18, 2008 at 5:31 pm

jonathon – I don’t think Webalizer offers such information as it doesn’t give you specific information about the time each user spends on a given page of your website.

Why don’t you want to install Analytics? It is really easy to copy and paste some code into your site.

Adil Seo May 24, 2008 at 2:23 am

It again boils down to the same basic factor – Content. I use Mint to track my website’s bounce rate. What I like about Mint is that it gives you an hourly and page-by-page details of visitors bouncing off your pages. I edit and improve the contents of the pages which have a higher bounce rate. After doing this the bounce rate has reduced for those pages.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 25, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Adil – I have heard good things about Mint, but haven’t seen the point in using them when Google Analytics is free. What does it offer that GA doesn’t?

Online Revenue May 30, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Thanks for writing about this topic. I’d like to hear some more about tactics to reduce bounce rates.

In my experience, including relevant links at the bottom of a post really helps moving the bounce rate in the right direction. Writing content that should be relevant to the page description should be a no brainer of course.

George March 1, 2009 at 5:15 pm

To be honest, I’ve never checked out what bounce rate is for a website because I’m simply running a business and put my experience online as a blog, that’s it. I’m sure that if the website’s content is unique and useful, earlier or later the visitors will come and if a blog owner won’t promote the content, Google will help because it favours the unique and useful content.
I don’t want to say here that the bounce rate is not important but rather to say that the beginner bloggers should not get hooked on it. If they work hard enough, they will be rewarded with high bounce rate automatically as more and more people visit their website.

Farrhad A July 7, 2009 at 7:08 am

Earlier when Webmaster Peers was new, the bounce rate was 75% now it has come down to 50%. I guess now that it has members and some activity is the reason people continue browsing.