Bounce Rate Optimization in Google Analytics – Complete Guide

 

The number 1 way to optimize your website conversion rate is by asking the right questions.

Why is my conversion rate so low?

That is a wrong question.

Why is my bounce rate so high?

That is the right question.

Your conversion rate is low because majority of people come and leave your website without completing the actions/goals you desired (like making a purchase).

If people are not sticking to your website then it is highly unlikely that they will make a purchase or complete any other conversion. User engagement is the key to make your business more profitable.

Unique visitors won’t make your business more profitable, engaged visitors will.

If you can figure out, exactly why people come and leave then you are going to get a high conversion rate. One of the most effective way to optimize your conversion rate is to optimize your bounce rate. Bounce rate is one of the most useful metrics available in Google Analytics.

Through bounce rate you can effectively measure the quality of traffic on your website.

If you are getting crappy traffic through a marketing channel (SEO, PPC, Email, Display etc) then bounce rate will be the first to shout and alert you. Then it depends upon you how you interpret this metric and take actions.

Before I dive deep, we all need to be on the same page which means refreshing the basics first.

 

What is a visit (or Session)?

In order to understand bounce rate, it is very important that you are absolutely sure about the metric called ‘visit’ (or session). In Google Analytics a visit means a ‘web session’.

Web session is a period of interaction between a web browser and a web server. It is also a group of hits recorded for a user in a given time period.

A web session ends when a visitor closes his browser, remains inactive on a website for more than 30 minutes or at midnight.

A Visitor can start two or more web sessions in a single day or over the course of days/weeks/months. That’s why the number of visits/sessions reported by Google Analytics is almost always higher than the number of reported visitors.

 

What is a single page visit?

Single page visit is a web session in which a visitor views only the single page of a website and then leaves the website from the landing page without browsing any further.

 

Layman definition of a Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits (or web sessions) in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further.

 

Geek definition of a Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits in which only one GIF request is sent to the Google Analytics server. I will explain it later what GIF request means and how it impacts your bounce rate.

 

Types of Bounce Rate

Google analytics calculates the bounce rate of a web page and bounce rate of a website.

google analytics bounce rate

This view is no longer available in GA :(

 

Bounce rate of a web page= total number of bounces on a page (in a given time period) / total number of entrances on the page (in the same time period).

For example in the chart above:

  1. The bounce rate of the page 1 = [total bounces (2070)/total entrances (2424)] *100 = 85.40%
  2. The bounce rate of the home page ( / ) = [total bounces (171)/total entrances (416)] *100 = 41.11%

Bounce rate of a website = total number of bounces across all the pages on the website in a given time period / total number of entrances across all the pages on the website (in the same time period).

For example in the chart above:

The bounce rate of the website = [total bounces (4039)/total entrances (5400)] *100 = 74.80%

Note: As you can see from the calculations above, bounce rate of a web page/website has nothing to do with ‘Time spent on a web page/website‘ (a common misconception about marketers and webmasters).

 

What are Bounces?

In Google analytics, bounces are number of single page visits resulting from a page and in each visit only one GIF request is sent to the Google Analytics Server.

 

What are Entrances?

In Google analytics, entrances are number of times visitors entered your site on the page.

 

GIF Request and Bounce Rate

Each time a page is loaded into a web browser, the Google Analytics tracking code (GATC) make a request for an invisible file called _utm.gif so that it can send the page view data to Google Analytics Server via this file.

The E-Commerce tracking code (ETC) can also make request for this file so that it can send the e-commerce data to Google Analytics server.

In addition to GATC and ETC, the Event tracking code, Virtual Pageviews and social interaction analytics tracking code can also make request for this file.

The GIF request is quite long.

Following is an example of a GIF Request in case of Classic Google Analytics:

http://www.google-analytics.com/__utm.gif?utmwv=4&utmn=769876874&utmhn=example.com&utmcs=ISO-8859-1&utmsr=1280×1024&utmsc=32-bit&utmul=en-us&utmje=1&utmfl=9.0%20%20r115&utmcn=1&utmdt=GATC012%20setting%20variables&utmhid=2059107202&utmr=0&utmp=/auto/GATC012.html?utm_source=www.gatc012.org&utm_campaign=campaign+gatc012&utm_term=keywords+gatc012&utm_content=content+gatc012&utm_medium=medium+gatc012&utmac=UA-30138-1&utmcc=__utma%3D97315849.1774621898.1207701397.1207701397.1207701397.1%3B…  

If you are a super geek and wish to understand the various parameters passed via GIF request then head straight to the official Google Analytics documentation on GIF request

In short, the _utm.gif file can send following type of data to the Google Analytics server:

  1. Page view data (like visits, visitors, avg. time on site etc)
  2. E-Commerce data (transaction ID, Item code, item value etc)
  3. Social Interaction data (like facebook likes, tweets etc)
  4. Details of the tracked events (like click on the video play button, click on an external link etc)

 

When a single page visit is not treated as a Bounce?

In order to truly understand bounce rate optimization it is very important that you are absolutely clear about what is counted as bounce and what is not counted as bounce by Google Analytics.

In any scenario in which more than one GIF request is made in a web session (also called visit), the visit will not be treated as bounce by Google Analytics even if the visit is a single page visit.

 

In following scenarios, Google may not count a single page visit as a bounce:

 #1. Event Tracking

A visitor lands on your website, triggers an event which is being tracked via event tracking code and then leaves the website from the landing page.

For example a visitor landed on a web page of your site, clicked on the video ‘play’ button (which you are tracking via event tracking code) and then left the website from the landing page without browsing any further.

The reason why Google will not treat this single page visit as a bounce is because two GIF request were made during the web session.

One GIF request was made by the Google Analytics tracking code (to send the pageview data) and second GIF request was made by the event tracking code (to send the details of the tracked event like number of clicks on the video ‘play’ button).

Needless to say, if you have implemented event tracking code on web pages, it can dramatically reduce bounce rate of your web pages and even your whole website. So you need to keep this in mind when you are analyzing the bounce rate of a web page.

 

#2. Social Interactions Tracking

A visitor lands on your website, triggers a social event which is being tracked via social interaction analytics tracking code and then leave the website from the landing page.

For example a visitor landed on a web page of your site, read a blog post, shares it via social sharing button (which is being tracked) and then left the website from the landing page without browsing any further.

The reason why Google will not treat this single page visit as a bounce is because two GIF request were made during the web session.

One GIF request was made by the Google Analytics tracking code (to send the pageview data) and second GIF request was made by the social interaction analytics tracking code (to send social interaction data).

 

#3 Auto execution of tracked events

In case, a tracked event is automatically executed each time a page is loaded by a web browser then the single page visit won’t be considered as bounce, as more than one GIF request has been made.

For example if you visit a web page and the video embed on the page automatically starts playing and you are tracking the click on the play button via event tracking code then more than one GIF request will be made: one request will be made by the Google Analytics Tracking Code and one GIF request will be made by the event tracking code.

So bounce rate of such web pages will always be 0%.

 

#4. Multiple Google Analytics Tracking Code on a web page

If a web page contains more than once instance of Google Analytics tracking code (like one tracking code in the header and one in the footer) then at least two GIF requests will be made.

Consequently even the single page visit won’t be treated as bounce. So make sure you have only one Google analytics tracking code on your web pages.

 

When a single page visit is treated as bounce?

In following scenarios, Google may count a single page visit as a bounce (provided only single GIF request has been made during the visit):

1. More than 30 minutes of inactivity on a web page (as a web session generally expires after 30 minutes)

2. A visitor closed the browser window after viewing a single page of your website.

3. A visitor clicked on the browser ‘Back’ button after viewing a single page of your website.

4. A visitor entered a new URL in the browser navigation bar after viewing a single page of your website.

5. A visitor clicked on an external link (which is not tracked by event tracking code) which takes him to another website after viewing a single page of your website.

6. Each time a web session gets killed – If a visitor is navigating from one web page to another and the web session gets killed for some reason then in this scenario the single page visit can be treated as bounce.

In following situations a web session can get killed:

#1 A visitor navigates to a web page which contains different Google analytics tracking code (may be the tracking code of some other website).

#2 A visitor navigates to a web page which does not contain Google analytics tracking code.

#3 A visitor navigates to a web page which contains Google analytics tracking code but the tracking code is not correct or is not executed for some reason.

 

How to analyze and report Bounce Rates?

You analyze and report the bounce rate in the similar way you analyze and report the conversion rates by segmenting your bounce rate and reporting bounce rate for each traffic source.

So the questions that you should be asking now are:

Q1. What is the bounce rate of the traffic from organic search campaigns?

Q2. What is the bounce rate of the traffic from PPC campaigns?

Q3. What is the bounce rate of the traffic from a particular referral?

Q4. What is the bounce rate of the traffic from email campaigns?

and not

Q What is the bounce rate of my website?

 

How to interpret Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate can horribly mislead you if you don’t know how to interpret it.

A high bounce rate is not always bad and sometimes even very low bounce rate can be bad.

For example it is common for Blogs to have a high bounce rate. As people read the blog post and then leave the website.

If the bounce rate of your website is very low may be like 10% than there may be some issue with your tracking code implementation or may be some other website issue in which more than one GIF request is made in a single page web session and hence Google is not considering such visits as bounce.

Whenever you interpret bounce rate of any traffic source, keep following things in mind:

1. User Intent/ behavior

How people usually interact with your website. How your website should be used according to you

If your landing page doesn’t satisfy a visitor’s query then also he will bounce from the landing page.

On the other hand,  if your landing page does satisfies a visitor’s query then also he can leave the website (provided you don’t give him another reason to continue browsing) and hence the bounce.

 

2. Type of website

Different types of websites have got different bounce rate.

For example if your website is a blog then it is common for your visitors to read and leave and hence high bounce rate.

If you have a single page website then bounce rate will always be 100%.

If you run a website which is purely built in flash and you don’t track flash events through event tracking then also your bounce rate will be very high as in majority of cases people don’t need to browse another page of the website.

 

3. Type of landing page

If a visitor lands on the ‘contact us’ page then he is most probably looking for contact information and therefore it is highly unlikely he will continue browsing. So bounce rate is going to be high.

 

4. Quality of the landing page

If you landing page is not visually appealing, full of ads, cluttered with text, looks spammy, doesn’t have clear ‘call to action’  then bounce rate is going to be high.

 

5. Type of content

If you have got hard to consume content on your landing page then a visitor may bookmark the page and return to the website later to read it in his spare time.

 

6. Type of Industry- Bounce rate varies from industry to industry. In some industries high bounce rate is considered to be normal.

 

7. Type of Traffic – If you are getting wrong type of traffic on your website like traffic which is not your target audience then the bounce rate is going to be high.

 

8. Type of Marketing channel

Different marketing channels send traffic which tends to have different bounce rate. For example bounce rate of the traffic coming via social media sites is generally higher than the traffic coming from organic search.

 

9. Visitor Type– It is common for new visitors to bounce more than the returned visitors as they are not familiar with your brand.

 

10. Device Type

Bounce rate can vary from device to device. For example if your website is not mobile friendly then the mobile traffic to your website is going to have high bounce rate.

Related Post: Adjusting Bounce Rate by Calculating Time spent on the Page

 

FAQs

I have been asked following questions several times. So I think it is worth, sharing them:

Q1. What is the difference between bounce rate and exit rate?

Bounce rate applies to the entry page (the first page a person visits when he lands on your website). Whereas, exit rate applies to the exit page (the page from which a visitor leaves your website).

In case of exit rate it is not necessary for a visitor to leave the website from the entry page. He may have browsed lot of web pages prior to his exit. Check out this help article from Google Analytics for more details.

 

Q2. What is a good / bad bounce rate?

Bounce rate depends upon on so many factors from user intent, visitor type, website type, industry to landing pages and device that it is impossible to label a bounce rate as good or bad without deep data analysis.

 

Q3. What is an average bounce rate?

It depends upon many factors as discussed above.

 

Q4. How to reduce Bounce Rate?

To learn about reducing bounce rate, check out this article:

11 Powerful methods to reduce bounce rate in Google Analytics.

You can also reduce bounce rate of a web page by making 2 or more GIF request from the web page or in a web session.

Unless you don’t have a legitimate reason to do this I consider it as a black hat analytics technique and don’t recommend it.  It also proves that how easy it can be to manipulate bounce rate of a web page/website.

 

Q5. How I can exclude event tracking from bounce rate calculations?

If you don’t want your event tracking implementation to effect the bounce rate calculations of your web pages / website then set ‘nonInteraction’ to true or 1.

For example:

<a href=”http://www.abc.com/gu/dw/seo-beginners-guide.pdf” onClick=”

ga(‘send’, {
‘hitType': ‘event’,
‘eventCategory': ‘guides’,
‘eventAction': ‘download-seo’,
‘eventLabel': ‘seo-beginners-guide.pdf’,
‘eventValue': 10,
{‘nonInteraction': 1}

});

“>Download SEO Beginners Guide</a>

 

Other Anaytics Posts you may find useful:

Subscribe to my blog
Join my free newsletter and learn to avoid the analytics mistakes everyone seems to be making over and over again.

 

 

About the Author:

Please feel free to endorse/forward my LinkedIn Profile to your clients, colleagues, friends and others you feel would benefit from PPC, Web Analytics or Conversion Optimization.

For any question/comment Contact me