What is Bounce Rate in Google Analytics + 15 Ways to Improve it

What is bounce rate in Google Analytics and 15 ways to improve it

We all like to think of our content and landing pages as the best, however sometimes, the bounce rate tells a different story.

But what exactly is the bounce rate? How is it calculated and what are the industry standards? And most importantly, how do you improve it?

That is exactly what you’ll discover in this post so read on.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of visits where users landed on a page and did nothing there. They didn’t continue their journey to another page, didn’t click on the menu, or submitted the form.

They just landed on the page, stayed there for a few seconds and left the site. And in the web analytics world, this is considered a bounce.

If you sum all bounced visits together and divide them by the total site/page visits, you get the bounce rate.

A more formal definition of bounce rate is the percentage of single interaction visits of a page or a website.

In web analytics, this metric is a good indicator of how useful or relevant a page is to its visitors.

How is bounce rate calculated in Google Analytics?

Google Analytics defines the bounce rate as the percentage of sessions in which users triggered just a single request to their servers. The most common requests are pageviews, events, and transactions.

So when a user views a single page without sending additional events or pageview requests, Google Analytics marks the session as a bounce.

On the other hand, if the user viewed multiple pages or triggered an event, Google Analytics will not count that session as a bounce.

The formula by which Google Analytics calculates the bounce rate is: Bounced Sessions divided by All Sessions times 100.

Bounce rate formula

So if a landing page has a bounce rate of 70%, it means that during 70% of sessions that started on that page, users exited the site without interacting with the page or viewing other pages from the site.

The same is true for traffic sources, campaigns, or other dimensions.

If a traffic source has a bounce rate of 80%, it means that during 80% of sessions generated by that traffic source, users exited the site without viewing other pages or interacting with the landing page.

You can view the bounce rate metric in most Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports.

Google Analytics bounces report

What is a good and bad bounce rate?

As a general rule, a high bounce rate means that the landing page is not relevant to its visitors. So users leave the site without any further interactions or page views.

However, this statement should be taken with a grain of salt as the bounce rate also varies by user intent.

If a user is looking for specific information like support’s phone number, then it’s natural for him to exit the site after finding it.

So in this case, the page will have a high bounce rate but this is not bad. That is how it’s supposed to be.

The fine line between when a bounce is considered bad and when it’s not, is the user intent.

So the narrower the user’s intent, the less likely for a high bounce rate to be considered a bad thing.

Meaning if the user is only looking for a specific thing without being interested in anything else, and he found it on the page and exited, a high bounce rate should not be considered bad.

The fine line between a high bounce rate that is considered bad vs when it’s considered normal is the user intent. Click To Tweet

To minimize this uncertainty, it’s a best practice to fire an event on page scroll or time on page. So when a user reaches 75% of the page or stays for 2 minutes on the page, an event is fired and Google Analytics no longer considers the session as a bounce.

In this way, the bounce rate is normalized and shows only the actual users that didn’t interact with the site.

So what is a good bounce rate? This varies a lot by industry and website type but from my experience, the average is between 45% and 60%. So on average, anything lower than this is good while anything higher is bad.

Benchmarks and industry standards

Since bounce rate varies by industry and traffic size, it’s best to compare yourselves with sites from the same industry and with similar traffic size.

In this way, you’ll be sure that you’ll compare apples to apples.

In the chart below, you can see the average bounce rate broken down by industry for sites that get 5000 to 9999 sessions per day.

If you’ve enabled benchmarking for your Google Analytics account, you can also view this data in the Audience -> Benchmarking report.

Bounce benchmarks by industry

As you can see, the lowest bounce rate is among websites from the shopping industry, which have an average rate of 43%. This should come as no surprise as when users visit an online store, they usually browse through multiple pages, looking for products.

On the other hand, the highest bounce rate is among sites from the science industry. Sites from this category have an average rate of 64%.

From this analysis, we can see that both good and bad bounce rates are relative. It all depends on website type and user intent.

What can be defined as a good bounce rate for a news website can be classified as bad for an online store.

Extremely low bounce rate

Low bounces in Google Analytics

The common wisdom tells us that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

And this also stands true for exceptionally low bounce rates.

If your site has an extremely low bounce rate, then it usually indicates a defective tracking implementation. Without a proper Google Analytics audit, it’s hard to know the cause behind this but common reasons include misconfigured events and double pageview tracking.

Double pageview tracking usually occurs when pageview hits are sent both from GTM and from the site.

In most cases, a plugin installed via the CMS or the code added directly on the site is to blame.

Or, it could be that multiple tracking plugins are used, which causes the pageview hits to be sent multiple times.

Just to be clear, by exceptionally low bounce rate I mean 20% or less. So if this is the case for your site, then you should absolutely consider auditing your tracking implementation.

Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate

If bounce rate was not confusing enough, Google Analytics has another metric, which for some users is just as confusing. And that is because both metrics are based on the same user action – a user leaving the site.

Of course, we are talking about the exit rate.

Exit rate in Google Analytics

Exit rate is the percentage of users that left a page no matter if they landed on it or not.

This definition may sound familiar to bounce rate but it has a subtle difference. Exit rate includes all exits from a page while the bounce rate includes only exits from single-page sessions.

That is the main difference between these two metrics and the reason many people confuse them.

Exit rate from all pages report

The main difference between bounce rate and exit rate is that one includes All Exits from a page while the other includes Only the Exits from Single-Page Sessions Click To Tweet

So if a user landed on a page and exited without interacting with it, both the exit rate and bounce rate for that page would be 100%.

Bounce rate vs Exit rate

However, if the user continues his journey to a second page, the bounce rate would be 0% for both pages. At the same time, the exit rate would be 100% for the second page and 0% for the first page.

Exit rate on two pages

The formula for calculating exit rate is total exits from a page / all pageviews from that page times 100.

Google Analytics exit rate formula

Another difference between these two metrics is their scope. Bounce rate is calculated both at session and page level while exit rate is measured only at the page level.

This means that you can view the bounce rate in almost all reports from Google Analytics, while the exit rate is only available in reports where the page dimension is used (All Pages, Content Drilldown, Exit Pages, Page Timings, etc).

How to reduce high bounce rate?

There are many factors influencing why visitors bounce but most of them can be classified into 4 categories: technical, content, design, and traffic related factors.

These factors are page load time, content readability and relevancy, navigation, mobile usability, ad targeting, cross-browser compatibility, etc.

All these factors influence the overall user experience which, as a general rule, is inversely proportional to bounce rate.

User Experience chart

Meaning if the user experience increases, the bounce rate decreases, and vice versa. If the user experience doesn’t meet users’ expectations, more of them bounce.

So to reduce the number of visitors who bounce, you need to maximize the user experience by optimizing these factors.

Below you can see 15 ways how to reduce the high bounce rate of your site, based on these factors.

15 ways to reduce high bounce rate

1. Provide quality content

One of the best ways to lower your bounce rate is to write quality content. This means your articles need to be unique, valuable, and engaging.

Providing clear and actionable advice, proofreading, engaging readers with bucket bridges, and linking to relevant articles are all essential for your content to shine.

At the same time, you should aim for clarity and conciseness, as online copy should be succinct.

And since readers are always looking for the newest information, you should strive for novelty in your content.

This also means you’ll need to keep your old content up to date as nothing makes visitors leave as outdated content.

So if you have old content on your site, it would be a wise idea to review it regularly.

Once you’ll follow these pieces of advice, you won’t just provide high-quality content, but you’ll also create a need for readers to further explore your site.

And in this way, you’ll get fewer bounces from your site.

2. Improve page readability

If content quality is the most important factor in lowering your bounce rate, then text readability is its indispensable companion.

Page readability

No matter how good your content is, if the formatting is wrong, people will not read it. They’ll just skim through it a few seconds and leave.

And that’s to be expected as nobody wants to spend time reading unformatted paragraphs that seem to be glued together.

So it’s utterly important to make your content easy to read.

Here are some things that make content more readable:

  • Use good typography, with a big enough font size and line spacing;
  • Make sure you use a plain background and a readable font;
  • Avoid passive voice;
  • Use short paragraphs, with a maximum of 3-5 sentences;
  • Alternate short and long sentences;

Once done with the above, make sure to grade your content against the Flesch-Kincaid Test. If the score is above 70%, then the content is fairly easy for the average adult to read.

3. Reduce page load time

With the ever increase in internet connection speeds, more and more users expect sites to load fast. In fact, a study suggests that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.

So with each additional second spent loading the page, visitor’s user experience decreases and they bounce.

This is especially true for mobile users as 53% of mobile users will abandon a page if it loads slower than 3 seconds.

As you can see, these are big numbers, that’s why you need to be sure your pages load fast.

To see how fast your pages load, you can analyze the Page Timings report from Google Analytics (Behavior -> Site Speed)

Google Analytics Page Timing report

In there, you can see if the slow load time is a site-wide or local issue, affecting just specific pages.

If only specific pages load slow, then a common reason for this is large image sizes. Thus compressing images is an important step to reduce the image size and load time.

Other things you could do to speed up your site is to use a CDN service and caching plugin.

Page speed is also a Google ranking factor so by improving it, you’ll also get higher rankings in search engines.

4. Add more CTA’s on your pages

Usually, marketers place the CTA at the bottom of the page, however, most users never scroll till the bottom.

So a better option is to use your CTA’s more often on the page. This means you should use your CTA at least three times on the page, at the top, middle and bottom.

In this way, you’ll be sure that users won’t miss it.

You should also use only relevant CTA’s, which act as a clear next step users need to take. If users won’t understand this, they will exit the page without clicking the CTA.

5. Drive more engagement with images and videos

Video Player

It’s a known fact that images and videos increase user engagement, so why not use them more often?

Either if it’s an explainer video, an infographic or a screenshot of something relevant, incorporating them on your page will make the reading experience more pleasant.

And fewer users will bounce.

When adding images, don’t forget to use the alt attribute as this will give an extra boost to your SEO.

6. Attract the right users

Page relevancy is a key factor when it comes to bounce rate. If the landing page is not relevant, users will exit within a few seconds after landing on it.

After page content, traffic targeting is the second most important variable that determines the relevancy of a page.

That is why to achieve a high relevancy and fewer bounces, you should target your users carefully.

If done correctly, paid advertising is an amazing way to achieve this. With it, you can target the right users for your content, which ensures you high conversions and low bounce rates.

You can also achieve good targeting using SEO. As long as your page titles that appear in SERPs match the actual page content, you should get targeted users.

At the same time, you should also aim to get less traffic from irrelevant sources. In this way, only interested users will come to your site, making the content appear relevant to them.

As a result, you’ll get fewer bounces.

7. Use personalization

Just like correct targeting, personalization increases content relevancy. As a result, people spend more time on the page, which increases their chances of further exploring your site.

There are many tools to personalize the user experience, but from my experience, Google Optimize fits best for this.

Contrary to popular belief, Google Optimize is not just an A/B testing tool – you can also run powerful personalization campaigns with it.

And you don’t need to limit your personalization campaigns only to page content. You could also use personalization in your newsletter or other marketing campaigns you run.

8. Block bot and spam traffic

If your site gets a lot of bot or spam traffic, then it will negatively influence your bounce rate. That’s because bot and spam traffic usually have bounce rates higher than 95%.

Spam traffic from Google Analytics

The best way to fix this is to block bot and spam traffic from your server, entirely. Alternatively, you can create a spam filter in Google Analytics which excludes this traffic from GA.

9. Improve page structure and site navigation

Your site’s navigation and page structure greatly influence how users browse through the site. If the menu doesn’t contain the needed links and there is no search feature, it’s expected for users to bounce.

The same is true for sidebars, feature panels, or any other type of important page elements. If they are located below the user’s scrolling threshold, visitors will not see them and bounce.

That’s why it’s important for key page elements and other helpful information to always be in the user’s field of view. Or at leads close to it.

For this, heatmapping and session reply tools prove to be of tremendous help.

Heatmap

With them, you’ll be able to see where users click, how much they scroll, and which page elements they use. And based on these findings, you can decide to remove the unused elements and/or add new ones instead.

After all, the common wisdom tells us that actions speak louder than words.

10. Use more internal links

Internal linking is essential for a good site architecture as it promotes on-site user movement. This is especially true for contextual links from blog posts and help articles.

A well-placed link can drive lots of clicks, and if it’s pointing to an internal page, it means more pageviews and fewer bounces for your site.

And it’s also good for SEO as backlinks, both internal and external, are a confirmed Google ranking factor.

That’s why it’s advisable to use more internal links on your pages,

As a general rule, you should aim for 2-3 links for every 100-150 words from the page.

11. Set external links to open in a new tab

As mentioned above, adding more links on your page is a good thing, but if the links are external, then users will exit the site once they click on them.

While it might be tempting to use fewer external links on your site, oftentimes this is counterproductive, as it negatively affects user experience and SEO.

So a much better solution is to set external links to open in a new tab/window. In this way, users will both view the external page and also have the existing page opened in a different tab.

Setting links to open in a new tab can be done using the target attribute.

So every time you add a new link, you need to set the target attribute to “_blank” like in the example below.

<a href="https://website.com/external-page/" target="_blank" 
rel="noopener noreferrer" >External Link</a>

This tells browsers to open the link in a new tab while still leaving the original page opened.

In this way, both you and your users win. Users get access to additional resources, while you maintain the high user experience and have fewer bounces at the same time.

For security reasons, don’t forget to also add the rel=”noopener noreferrer” attribute to your links.

12. Ensure your site is cross browser compatible

If your pages aren’t displayed correctly in some browsers, then it is to be expected for those users to bounce.

For smaller browsers, this should not be a big deal as oftentimes the issue lies in the browser’s rendering engine.

But if the malfunctioned design appears on popular browsers, then you should absolutely fix the rendering issues.

To view if there is a particular browser that has a higher than average bounce rate, you can analyze the Browsers & OS report from Audience -> Technology.

Browsers OS report Google Analytics

For actual screenshots of how your pages are rendered across different browsers, you could use tools like CrossBrowserTesting or Browserling.

The same tools can be used to test your site on mobile devices as wrong design on these devices is a common reason for a high bounce rate.

13. Implement content or product recommendations

When users are being recommended something similar to what they already look for, they are more likely to explore it.

For blog posts, this means recommending similar content, while for eCommerce sites, this means recommending similar products.

Content recommendation plugins

You could try to develop your own recommendation engine as Amazon or eBay does, but that will cost a lot of money and time.

A much cheaper and faster way to do it is to use an already existing solution.

In the case of popular CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Magento, this usually means using a plugin.

And since there is a large choice of recommendation plugins, you can be sure that you’ll find one that suits your needs.

14. Run A/B tests

After you’ve decided on a change to make on your site, you should absolutely test it before implementing it.

In this way, you won’t be guessing what’s good or bad and will have real numbers to back up your hypothesis.

The most common way to test a change is by running an A/B test. There are many AB testing tools on the internet but my favorite one is Google Optimize.

AB test

It has a powerful and easy to use visual editor, many targeting options, and is free. That’s why both my clients and I use it when running A/B tests.

15. Track user interactions on the page

Last but not least, to lower your bounce rate, make sure you are actually tracking user interactions with the page.

Tracking page elements

Oftentimes websites do not track important user actions on the page. Because of this, if users interact with the page and leave, Google Analytics will still count those sessions as bounces.

To prevent this from happening, all important user interactions with the page need to be tracked. Usually, this is done via event tracking.

This means that when a user clicks on a share button, downloads a PDF document, or makes other important action, an event is fired to Google Analytics and the session is no longer considered a bounce.

 

And these were the 15 ways how you can lower your bounce rate. I know that this was a long post, but I hope the information presented here was worth the time.

If you still have some questions or just want to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

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