What Is Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

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Written by: Tom Donohoe
Last updated: July 1, 2018

Google Analytics is a powerful tool used by over 30 million people. But understanding all the metrics can be challenging. One of the most confusing is bounce rate.

And if you’re reading this article I bet you’re wondering:

“What Is Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?” I’m here to help! In this article, I’ll explain bounce rate in-depth and how you can improve it to suit your business.

Let’s jump right in.





Chapter 1

What Is Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?

Google defines a bounce as a single-page session on your site. And bounce rate as single-page sessions divided by all sessions.

Here’s an example of what Google Analytics considers a bounce:

A person visits the homepage of your website, stays on the page for up to 30 minutes and then exits without trigger any requests to the Analytics server.

If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry it’s confusing and in this chapter, I want to break it right down into plain English.





A dead simple explanation of Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

The definition above can be challenging to wrap your head around. And worse still, I don’t believe it’s a meaningful metric that by default doesn’t provide much value.

a screenshot of bounce rate metric in the google analytics user interface

I’ll explain how to make your bounce rate metric more useful later in this guide. But first, let’s take a more in-depth look at Google’s definition.

To explain bounce rate in plain English, I’ll tell you a short story:

Brian is searching the web for shoes, and he clicks on a result for an online shoe store. When Brian lands on the website, he scrolls up and down the page for 5 minutes.

During Brian’s visit, he never interacts with the website (e.g., clicking something) other than reading the content. Therefore, not sending any ‘hits’ to Google Analytics after the initial page view. Finally, Brian exits the website without visiting another page.

Without any customisations to Google Analytics, Brian’s visit would be a bounce. The session duration would be 0 seconds as there were no extra hits for analytics to calculate the session length.

This is why the default Google Analytics bounce rate is fundamentally flawed. Brian was engaged by being there for 5 minutes reading the content. But Google Analytics still consider his session a bounced session.

Don’t worry there are ways to solve the problem. You can set up events to record interactions with your website that Google Analytics doesn’t by default. When these events are fired, Google Analytics will no longer refer to the session as a bounce.

Later in this guide, I’ll suggest a few events that I recommend to put in place to make the bounce rate metric more useful.




Chapter 2

What Is a Good Bounce Rate in Google Analytics?

The question that always follows what is google analytic bounce rate is what a good one is?

Here’s the deal:

There’s no straightforward answer. Even Google themselves say, “It depends” and this is because no two websites are the same.

In this chapter, I’ll explore what a good bounce rate looks like.





So, what is a Good Bounce Rate In Google Analytics?

In most cases, when speaking about a “good” bounce rate lower is better, unless it’s really low like 10%-20%. If you see this in your reports, then you’ve likely got duplicate tracking code issues.

an illustration of how duplicate tracking code can impact bounce rate

On the flip side, high bounce rate is usually considered a “bad” bounce rate. But it could be high because people are finding what they are looking for and then leave.

So, you see it does depend.

How to judge if you have a Good Bounce Rate

A “good” bounce boils down to your Google Analytics configuration. In my opinion, it comes down to doing two things well:

  1. Measuring important interactions for your business with an ‘interactive’ event.
  2. Measuring any vanity metrics with a ‘non-interactive’ event.

You might be wondering:

“What is an interactive event and why does it matter?” An interactive event impacts the bounce rate calculation. So, if one is fired during a session, it will no longer be considered a ‘bounce.’

When you set up events, you can decide if you want them to be interactive or non-interactive. In my opinion, this allows you to create a good bounce rate. Set up interactive events to make sure that when people take an action that matters, it impacts your bounce rate.

For example, imagine you’re working for a news website. Would you consider a session a bounce if someone spends 5 minutes reading an entire news article and then leaves your site?

I’d say no. Because the users have been satisfied, sure you want them to visit more pages to get more ad revenue. But, in Google Analytics that session would have been a bounce.

Here’s a solution, depending on the business they would set up an event to fire when they are happy with the engagement of the user. That could potentially be if they scroll down 50% of the page. Or if the reader was engaged for more than 1 minute engaged on a single page.

The Perfect Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

If you’ve set up the bounce rate metric to be useful for your business, you can then compare it between pages. Then identify the outliers to try fix issues with those pages.

For example, if your site is averaging a 40% bounce rate, and your home page is showing a 65% bounce rate, then it’s an outlier. You should run some tests to see if you can bring in back closer to the average.

So, my idea of the perfect bounce rate is one that is customised to your business. And that lets you optimise your website to improve the user experience.

If you’re after a percentage (I’m very reluctant to give one out) but anywhere between 35%-60% is a solid range to target. But again it depends on the business and your objectives. You should focus on your site-wide average and improving pages that are above it.




Chapter 3

Events to Consider for Adjusting Your Bounce Rate

The best way to customise the bounce rate metric for your business is using events. I’ve stressed the importance of this throughout the article so far.

Want to know the best part?

I’m going to run through several different events for you to consider setting up.





How to adjust your bounce rate with events

When it comes to adjusting your bounce rate you need to go back to the objectives of your website. And it’s hard for me to give you a solution that works for your situation.

With that said, I find that the following solutions work for most businesses:

  • Scroll tracking events, which measure when users scroll through a certain percent of your content.
  • Time on site events that fire when a user has been on your site for a certain amount of time.
  • User interaction events for example, if a user watches a video.

The one size fits all solution

When trying to adjust bounce rate to be more useful, you should consider your own business first. But the following solution is pretty impressive and works in most situations.

Credit to Simo Ahava for creating an excellent guide on how to set up adjusted bounce rate. You should read the guide, then tailor it to your business and put in place on your website.

Simo Ahava guide to adjusting bounce rate metric

Simo’s solution combines time on page and user engagement via scroll into one event. So, if someone visits your site stays on the page for 30 seconds and scrolls it won’t be counted as a bounce. But if it doesn’t meet these criteria it will be considered a bounce.

You should adjust the time to something that aligns with your objectives. If you’re a pure content site, 30 seconds might not be long enough. Select a time that gives a good indication if users are reading and engaging with your content.




Chapter 4

Tips on How to Lower Your Bounce Rate

Making sure your bounce rate metrics are useful to your business is one part of the puzzle. Next, it’s about taking action on your data to improve it.

Now:

There are several techniques you can use to lower your bounce rate. In this chapter, I’ll run through some of the most common that you can test to see excellent results.





Speed up your websites loading time

People aren’t patient when it comes to the speed of your website. Industry leaders, such as Google, evangelise that we should aim for page load times under 2 seconds.

And for a good reason:

Research indicates that a page that loads within two seconds has an average bounce rate of 9%. Once the load time hits 5 seconds, it jumps right up to 38%.

bounce rate percentage changes by seconds taken to load a page

To improve your website speed, you need to benchmark your existing performance. There are plenty of free tools on the market to help:

I recommend running your website through all them and making a note of your current page speed. These tools will also give you a couple of recommendations of what you can do to improve your load speed.

It’s out of the scope of this article to deep dive into page speed optimisation. But, I will share with you some great resources follow.

Mobile-first web design

More people access the internet on mobile than desktop, and this isn’t anything new. The smartphone is dominating the world.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your website provide an excellent user experience?
  • Is using responsive or mobile-first web design?
  • Is the content optimised for mobile consumption?

If the answer is no, then you can do some work here to lower your bounce rate by improving your mobile experience.

In Google Analytics, you can discover the percentage of users who access your site on mobile. And better still compare the bounce rate to desktop users.

You can do this by visiting the audience > mobile > overview.

how to check bounce rate by device in google analytics

Cross-browser compatibility

Support for web language features differs between browsers. And this can have an impact on your bounce rate.

If your website doesn’t load correctly on a major browser, then it can cause a lot of people to bounce. You can check this in Google Analytics by visiting the audience > technology > Browser /OS report.

how to check bounce rate by browser in google analytics

If you see a high bounce rate for a particular browser, get a developer to run some tests to see if they can improve it.

Your bounce rate can look high, but the number could be skewed by one browser that is performing terribly.

Whitespace & page layout

Often web design aim is to be visually stunning and doesn’t consider bounce rate. This approach is a mistake, the goal of a website is to retain visitors and get them to take the desired action.

Two things that can help reduce your bounce rate are white space and page layout.

White space on your website can reduce your bounce rate because it gives visitors eyes a chance to rest. It also directs visitors to look at your important content and call to actions.

Google is a perfect example of white space influencing people to take action and search:

Google.com.au homepage

Secondly, the page layout is crucial. It’s best practices to make sure that your most important content is above the fold. Above the fold means in the view of the visitor as soon as they land on the page.

The content is the reason why they are visiting your website, so make sure the first thing they see is what they want. Many websites will have a large image that takes up the entire screen when the visitors lands on the site. They then will need to scroll down to see the content.

Make the image smaller or push the heading into the image and you should see a decline in bounce rate.

Match user intent

User intent is often discussed in the context of search engine optimisation (SEO). But it also plays a role in bounce rate.

If your web pages don’t match the intent of the keywords that people found your website via, they will leave. Look at the keywords you’re targeting and make sure that the content meets the need for that keyword. By matching the search intent, it will keep people engaged on your page.

The best way to understand the intent of keywords is to analyse the top 10 results in Google. Google algorithm is always testing which results serve searches the best.

If you can understand the theme of content on the first page and then create content that is better more often than not you will meet the user intent.

Ask, Is the content on the first page:

  • Videos
  • Blog posts
  • Product pages
  • Etc

Make sure your content includes the format that is most popular in the top 10.

Recommended reading:



Chapter 5

How to Identify and Optimise Pages in Google Analytics by Bounce Rate

Now for the good part. This is where you reap the benefits of having a useful bounce rate in Google Analytics.

It’s time to optimise your website.

In this chapter, I’ll share how to use your bounce rate metric to identify pages with poor performance and optimise them.





Using Google Analytics Bounce Rate to optimise conversions

You can quickly identify pages with high bounce rates in the Google Analytics Behaviour reporting tab.

Go to site content then landing pages, and you can see your top website traffic driving pages. From here you want to switch from a Flat Table Report to the Comparison Report.

Below is a screenshot of my Analytics. And as you can see my “SEO Packages” page seems to have a high bounce rate compared to site average.

A report in google analytics for comparing bounce rate against the site average

I need to investigate why this might be. If I can reduce the bounce rate on this page, it may lead to an uplift in conversions.

Steps to review why a page has a high bounce rate

If you have a heatmap and session recording tool, such as Hotjar or FullStory, I’d first jump into that and analyse user behaviour on the page. That analysis will often allow you to identify the issue quickly.

If not, you can run through this quick checklist:

Why is my bounce rate high? A checklist for debug
  • Does the heading of the page match the top 3 keywords?
  • Does the content of the page match the intent of the top 3 keywords?
  • Is the main content above the fold?
  • Is there any issue with specific devices or browsers?
  • Is page load speed slow?
  • Is there no clear path for the user to take?
  • Is the no clear call to action for next steps for the user?

Usually, you’ll find an issue somewhere throughout this checklist. Next, I’ll test my hypothesis with an A/B testing platform. I use Google Optimise (it’s free), but other tools like VWO and Optimizely do the trick fine.

After running a few tests, you should be able to bring the bounce rate down. If not, run back through the checklist and see if you’ve missed anything.




Now it’s your turn

Now you should know what google analytics bounce rate is and how to improve it.

Get stuck into your analysis with your new and improved bounce rate metric.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.



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