measure, evaluate and control to increase conversions

30 second summary:

  • Bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits or visits where the person left your site from the entry (destination) page
  • This metric helps measure the quality and relevance of visits
  • The exit rate is a metric that identifies the number of exits from your site and, as for the entries, it will always be equal to the number of visits when applied to the entire website
  • Use this metric in conjunction with particular content pages to determine the number of times that particular page was last viewed by visitors
  • Pages that don’t meet visitor expectations, don’t provide clear navigation, talk about features rather than benefits, and unusable content increases bounce rate

Google Analytics provides valuable insights into how visitors find, interact with, and leave your website. This intelligence is critical to improving both the user experience and the profitability of your website. Google Analytics provides many useful metrics to help you do this, and two of the most useful are Bounce Rate and Exit Rate.

The difference between a bounce and an exit can be confusing, especially if you’re new to analytics. The goal of this article, therefore, is to demystify the two and explain why they are important. It also acts as a guide to interpreting bounce and exit data and how to lower them in order to improve your website performance and increase conversions.

Making an entrance that matters

Before you can understand and calculate your bounce rate, you need to know a little about entry pages, also called landing pages and entry pages. Google defines an entry page as:


This metric identifies the number of hits to your site. It will always be the same as the number of visits when applied to the entire website. Therefore, this metric is most useful when combined with particular content pages, at which point it will indicate the number of times a particular page has been used as an entrance to your site.

In short, an entry page is the first page a visitor lands on when visiting a website. Inputs are, as we shall see, a key factor in calculating the bounce rate.

How to view your inputs?

In Google Analytics you can easily view your inputs by following these simple steps:

  1. Go to “Behavior”, in “Reports”
  2. Click “Site Content”
    site content
  3. Click “All Pages”
    all pages
  4. View your “Inputs”
    view inputs - step 4 to understand bounce rate

Inputs are particularly useful as they can show you which pages are bringing the most visits to your site. They can also tell you otherwise and help you identify weaker pages with lower bounce rates.

Well, what is a rebound?

A bounce is a one-page visit. A bounce occurs when a visitor enters and exits a website without viewing any pages other than the entry page.

And what is the bounce rate?

For example, if 100 visitors enter your site via page “A” and 20 of them leave without clicking on another page, page “A” would have a bounce rate of 20 percent.

what is a bounce rate - site level averages

The figure above shows the site level averages.

Some of the reports generated by Google Analytics will provide site-wide averages. The screenshot above was taken from the “Top Content” report which can be found by clicking on the Content tab in the Google Analytics dashboard.

The first thing you might notice is that when you add the average bounce rate and average output rate together, the result is 100 percent greater. If bounce rate and exit rate are measures of how many people are leaving your site, how can the total be greater than 100 percent. The answer is that it cannot.

You might be led to think that bounce rate is calculated as a percentage of page views. This is a logical thought as it is figured in the report. However, when added together, the bounces and exits would again be greater than the total pageviews.

Bounce rate is not based on the number of visitors or the number of page views, but on inputs.

Why do people bounce?

People bounce due to many reasons, the key to reducing your bounce rates lies in identifying and addressing the most common ones:

1. When pages don’t meet expectations

Let’s say, for example, you are looking for a new air fryer. So Google “buy air fryers free shipping”. An ad appears saying “Air Fryers with Free Shipping”. Then click on it. But when you click on the ad, instead of a landing page on several air fryers, you’re on the site’s home page. What are you going to do? Go back to Google and do a new search to find a page that talks 100% about air fryers.

2. When design is bad

Having an ugly design can also lead users to bounce back. People largely judge websites first, based on design, and secondly, based on content.

3. When the page offers users what they are looking for

Yes. Not all rebounds are “bad”. A bounce can, in fact, be a sign that your page has provided users with exactly what they were looking for.

For example, for the past few days I’ve personally searched for a low carb chicken soup recipe and landed on this recipe page. This landing page had everything I needed to make the recipe: ingredients, detailed instructions, and pictures. So, as soon as I cooked the soup over medium-low heat, I closed the page.

Despite the fact that this single page session is “technically” a bounce, it’s not because that website has suffered from bad UX or bad design. It’s just because I have what I needed.

Identification of pages with high bounce rates

Notice the figure below showing the site-wide entrances and bounces.

identify pages with high bounce rates

To get the real numbers that contribute to the bounce rate you need to dig a little deeper. The screenshot above was taken from the “Top Landing Pages” report, which can also be found by clicking on the Content tab in the Google Analytics dashboard.

As you scroll through the report, you can also view the bounce rates for individual pages.

Display of bounce rates for individual pages

The figure above shows the bounce rate at the page level.

The “Top Landing Pages” report helps identify pages with high bounce rates that may require further investigation.

You can clearly see from Figure three how the bounce rate is calculated for a single page: (283 bounces / 303 entries) * 100 = 93.39939939934% which the analysis rounded to 93.40%. As interesting as it is, it tells us nothing about what is driving the bounce rate and what steps to take if they are needed to lower it.

Bounce rate due to poor user experience

Pages that don’t meet visitor expectations, don’t provide clear navigation, talk about features rather than benefits, and show content that isn’t usable – all of which increase bounce rate. Not all visitors to your site use desktop computers with ultra-fast connections and will leave your site if a page takes too long to download. If you’ve linked too zealously to your site, even links from unrelated pages can increase your bounce rate. These are all things you can test and correct to some degree.

Missing timestamps and forgotten page time

Google Analytics reports the time visitors spend on pages by comparing timestamps. When a visitor lands on a page, a timestamp is created that records the precise time they arrived.
If a visitor arrives at page “A” at 1.45pm and clicks and lands on page “B” at 1.47pm, two timestamps will be created. By subtracting the time in which the visitor arrives at page “A” from the moment in which he arrives at page “B” we arrive at the time spent on page “A”:

13.47 – 13.45 = 2 minutes spent on page “A”.

If at 1.50pm the visitor completely leaves your site, no timestamp is created and there is no way to tell how much time the visitor spent on page “B”.

Why hasn’t a timestamp been created? If the page was outside the scope of your analytics account, for example on another domain, the timestamp is not accessible from your analytics account. Therefore, the time spent on that page cannot be determined for that pageview.

Likewise, the time spent on a page by the visitor entering a site and bouncing without visiting any other page is also not measurable.

Cookies, sessions and timeouts

Google Analytics uses cookies to track visitor activity on your pages and report those activities to their server. Cookies allow Google to distinguish the activities of each visitor individually and to track sequential visits to pages made by the same user during his time (session) on your website. This information is then reported to you when you log into your Google Analytics account.

Any bounce or exit is the result of a session timeout. In Google Analytics, a session will expire after 30 minutes of browser inactivity. If a visitor browses to another website, the session will still continue for up to 30 minutes before recording a bounce or exit. As long as the visitor returns before the session expires and clicks on another page on your website, neither a bounce nor an exit will be considered.

  • Every single visit to your site culminates in a session timeout
  • A session that expires after a single pageview is classified as a bounce
  • A session that times out after multiple pageviews have been classified as an exit

Take a look at the open tabs in your browser right now – how many have been open for more than 29 minutes without any activity? Although the page remains open in the browser, some of the sessions associated with the individual pages may have already expired causing an exit or a bounce. Closing the browser, disconnecting from the Internet or pressing the Back button will also cause a session to time out, which will happen likely be logged as a bounce or exit in someone’s Analytics.

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