Bounce Rate in Google Analytics Explained

What is bounce rate in Google Analytics?

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

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

In the context of Google Analytics, a session is a group of hits recorded for a user in a given time period.

A hit is a user’s interaction (pageview, screenview, event, transaction, etc) with your website that results in data being sent to the Google Analytics server.

A user can generate one or more sessions.  A user can start two or more GA 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.

A single page visit is a Google Analytics 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.

Following is the more technical 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.

Each time a page is loaded into a web browser, the Google Analytics tracking code (GATC) makes 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 Ecommerce Tracking Code (ETC) can also make a request for this file so that it can send the e-commerce data to the Google Analytics server.

In addition to GATC and ETC, the event tracking code, virtual pageviews and social interaction analytics tracking code can also make a request for this file.

The GIF request is quite long.

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

https://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 the following type of data to the Google Analytics server:

  1. Page view data (like visits, visitors, avg. time on site, etc)
  2. Ecommerce 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)

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How to interpret the bounce rate metric?

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

A high bounce rate is not always bad and sometimes even a 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, for example, 10%, then that must be because of some technical issues. There could be some issue with your tracking code implementation or maybe some other website issue which is resulting in more than one GIF request being sent to GA server in a single page web session.

Hence Google Analytics is not considering such visits as a ‘bounce’.

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

  1. User intent/behavior
  2. Type of website
  3. Type of landing page
  4. Quality of the landing page
  5. Type of content
  6. Type of industry
  7. Quality of traffic
  8. Type of marketing channel
  9. Visitor type
  10. Device type

1. User intent/behavior

How do people usually interact with your website? If your landing page does not satisfy a visitor’s query then the visitor will bounce from the landing page. A visitor can also bounce even when your landing page satisfies a visitor’s query but you did not give him any reason to continue browsing.

2. Type of website

Different types of websites tend to have different bounce rates. For example, if your website is a blog then it is common for your visitors to read and leave and hence a high bounce rate. If you have got a single page website then the bounce rate could be as high as 100%. If you run a website that is purely built-in Flash and you do not track Flash events then your bounce rate could be very high.

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 the bounce rate of the web page is going to be high.

4. Quality of the landing page

If your 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 your website later, in order to read it in his spare time.

6. Type of Industry

The bounce rate varies from industry to industry. In some industries, like the publishing industry, a high bounce rate (70% or higher) is considered to be normal.

7. Quality of Traffic

If you are getting the 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 a different bounce rate. For example, the 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 website visitors to bounce more often than the returning visitors, as they are not familiar with your brand.

10. Device Type

The 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 a high bounce rate.

How to analyze and report the bounce rate metric?

You analyze and report the bounce rate metric in the same way, you analyze and report the conversion rates i.e. by segmenting 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 traffic from organic search campaigns?

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

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

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

Q5. What is the bounce rate of traffic from mobile devices?

and not

Q What is the bounce rate of my website?

Why bounce rate is an important metric to consider?

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 the wrong question.

Why is my bounce rate so high?

That is the right question.

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

User engagement is the key to making 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 one step closer to getting a high conversion rate.

One of the most effective ways to optimize your conversion rate is to optimize your bounce rate. Through the 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 loud and alert you. Then it all depends upon you, how you interpret this metric, and take actions.

The bounce rate can be a powerful metric to measure the quality of traffic to your website or landing pages.

Other articles related to Google Analytics Bounce Rate

Frequently Asked Questions About Bounce Rate

Does a bounce count as a session?

In Google Analytics, a bounce is counted as a session that triggers a single GIF request to the Google Analytics server.

Does bounce rate include scrolling?

Yes provided the scroll tracking is being tracked via Event tracking and the nonInteraction' is set to false. By default event tracking negatively impacts the bounce rate calculations.

Does Bounce Rate Affect SEO?

No bounce rate does not directly affect your website rankings.

How can I exclude event tracking from impacting bounce rate calculations?

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

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