Is your bounce rate really bad news?

Bounce rate is the measure of traffic that comes to your website and views one page before clicking away. It is often used as a baseline to quantify how engaged traffic coming to your site is. Some digital marketers swear by it and this may rock the boat a little, but is bounce rate as important as analytics experts claim?

Now, before you increase the bounce rate of this post, hear me out.

What if you have a fantastic blog that drives the majority of your new traffic? The visitor engages with your content and then they click away, back to Twitter or LinkedIn, where they likely came from. Is that a bad thing?

Bounce rate on its own is just one measure and only tells half the story. If you focus just on bounce rate, then you only see half the picture and you may fall foul of false metrics. So here are some other considerations to add alongside bounce rate that you can bring into your reports.

Recency and frequency of visits

A recency and frequency report will identify how many visitors return to the site after viewing content. This will give you an idea of whether visitors are engaged.

These reports are good if you have short, pithy content. In this case, your bounce rate might be higher than anticipated, but if visitors are coming back regularly and often, then that’s not a bad thing. (You can find some of my other favourite GA reports here).

By using an advanced segment as well, you can also can identify visitors that have met a specific set of criteria that define them as an engaged user. This criteria can include pages per session, time on site and conversions.

Using this information you can see how long it usually takes someone to visit your website before converting or meeting a goal criteria. This will give you a better identifier of when a visitor becomes an engaged advocate of your content.

Adjusted bounce rate

An adjusted bounce rate gives you information as to how long people spend on your site and tracks it as an event. By including an event tracking link with the Google Analytics tracking code you can look at visitors that spend longer than a specified time on your site. If you looked at bounce rate alone, you may be disappointed, but knowing that they spent three minutes on the page suggests a positive story.

The analytics world is divided with the use of adjusted bounce rate though. One of the flaws is that you don’t know whether the visitor is spending time on your page. They may just have a separate tab open with your page counting it as a page view. This Moz article goes into more detail about the pros and cons of adjusted bounce rate and how to implement it on your site.

Monitoring engaged and non-engaged traffic

Creating a monthly awareness dashboard will allow you to measure website performance based on specific criteria. Within your website this can be broken down into 3 groups:

  • New visitors: These are the new users being driven to your website.
  • Returning visitors: The users coming back to your website.
  • Conversions: The users that come to your site and perform a goal.

With new visitors, you could break the report down into engaged and non-engaged visitors based on criteria you set (pages per visit, sessions duration or average time on page). You can also include traffic sources to know where the most engaged traffic comes from.

The returning visitors section of the report is similar to the recency and frequency report that I suggested earlier. This will allow you to see who your most engaged visitors are on the site. Furthermore, you can get a better indication of how your site is performing by measuring pages per visit and average time on site of engaged visitors.

Finally, looking at conversions as well will allow you to monitor the quality of traffic coming to the site. Splitting this up into new versus returning visitors will allow you to assess your content and signposting, so you can better measure your traffic through your conversion funnel.

What can you do to improve bounce rate?

Sometimes with bounce rate the best option is to bite the bullet and admit your website needs some fine tuning. Some really quick wins include:

  • Internal linking between pages within the main body text
  • Increase signposting across the site to encourage visitors to move from page to page, especially within a blog
  • Use stronger call to actions throughout the website to encourage conversion
  • Use ‘you might also like’ pop-ups to encourage the visitor to do the next action in your conversion path
  • Use ‘you might also like’ signposts after downloads on ‘thank you’ pages to encourage additional engagement
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly and reads well on a mobile device
  • Test your website across all devices and all browsers to make sure it displays as you intend it to

So, bounce rate on its own shouldn’t be taken as a poor performance. All metrics need to be taken in context, especially bounce rate and in most cases, looking at several metrics together gives a better indication of how engaged your visitors are and interesting your website is.

I’d love to hear from you about your bounce rate successes and failures. You can get in contact with me on Twitter (I’m @jj_stockwell) or on LinkedIn.

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