BarryB | October 29th, 2009 - 1:31 am
A metric that’s increasingly discussed is “bounce rate” – this is largely due to the fact that it’s featured as a statistic on the first report page of Google Analytics accounts. What is bounce rate, how is it useful and are there similar metrics that are useful for understanding your website?
In February 2009, the Official Google Blog released a two part post named The Power of Measurement (1)(2). In it, the idea of bounce rate is introduced by Avinash Kaushik and described simply as
It [bounce rate] measures the number of people who landed on your site and refused to give you even one single click!
In a later post Avinash went on to outline
It [bounce rate] is usually measured in two ways:
* The percentage of website visitors who see just one page on your site.
* The percentage of website visitors who stay on the site for a small amount of time (usually five seconds or less).
So what’s that telling you? A high bounce rate means visitors are coming to your site, not seeing what they needed or expected and they leave. There are three main ways bounce rate is useful:
- Assessing Referrers – If you’re running any advertising or link placements, bounce rate is helpful for understanding which referring sites are sending low quality or mis-targeted traffic. (Go to Traffic Sources, Referring Sites to view the top offenders.)
- Weak Pages – You can also look at your individual pages’ bounce rates and determine if their tagging is mis-targeted or the content could be improved. (Go to Content, Top Landing pages to view the pages with the highest analytics bounce rate.)
- Poor Design – A high overall bounce rate can also be an indication that your website navigation is unclear or your calls to action are weak. Does your site really make it easy for visitors to find information and/or talk to you? The answer to this question is usually found in A/B testing of one design’s bounce rate vs another.
We’ve addressed the basics of the Google Analytics bounce rate statistic, but are there other website metrics that can serve similar or complementary purposes? (For argument’s sake, let’s say you are not using an analytics package that doesn’t feature this statistic.)
- Avg Time on Site / Avg Time on Page - most reporting systems will tell you how long the average visitor spends perusing your site. A low number usually indicates less engaged (potentially confused) visitors. Of course, you can drill down to the individual page statistics and look at each page’s avg time on page for a deeper view.
- Avg Page Views per Visitor – a very high level metric. Think of it this way: if you have a page views per visitor of 1, your bounce rate is 100%. Very generally speaking, the higher your average page views per visitor number, the more engaged or interested your website visitors are.
- Time on Site or Page Views by Referrer - like the two metrics directly above, this information can help identify referrers sending low quality traffic.
Overall, bounce rate is both a measurement of visitor quality and of your website’s targeting. Traffic sources or landing page content should be inspected accordingly. If you aren’t drinking the Google kool aid and don’t use Google Analytics, there are similar metrics available in nearly all traffic measurement packages. Use information like bounce rate, time on site and page views per visitor to initiate improvement measures, test those improvements and re-test to maximize the return you receive from the traffic your website receives.