Auditing bounce rate behavior may seem tricky, yet it is crucial if you want to optimize your website for users’ comfort and search engines.

If you buy traffic from paid advertising channels, the bounce rate can track whether users that come through these ads find what they expected. A high bounce rate can also affect your search ranking positioning; essentially, it communicates to Google that your website content appears to be less relevant to the keywords that helped customers find your website.

So far, the meaning of the bounce rate cannot be overstated. In this short guide, we foray into what stands behind this engagement metric, how Google Analytics measures the bounce rate, and what common checkpoints to audit if you want to improve it.

What is a bounce rate?

Quite often it is misunderstood as the percentage of users who stay on a site less than a certain amount of time, the percentage of non-converting users, or the percentage of users leaving the site. However, its strict definition has nothing to do with time limits, signups, or conversions.

What is defined as the bounce rate in Google Analytics or other web analytics suites like Omniture is the percentage of single-view visits (or sessions) to your site, i.e. when a user leaves the page with no further interaction. For example, a user visits the site, reads the page, and hits the back button or closes the tab without clicking on any other website elements.

In some cases, users can be counted as a bounce even when they performed some actions on the website, like signing up for newsletters, filling out forms, sharing content on social media, etc. If these actions are not marked by Google Analytics code, they won’t get tracked.

Essentially, you would want Google Analytics to follow the business logic of your site and modify the analytics setup so that important interaction points get marked. It can be recommended to add events that are activated when a user stays on the site longer than a certain threshold, clicks on social media share buttons, watches video till the end, etc.

As you audit your site performance, the usual question in this subject matter would be what is a good bounce rate for a blog or site in your category, and how to find typical bounce rates. Even though it can be difficult to find exact benchmarks for your website’s category, location, and business size, you can always compare rates across different webpages and track the bounce rate fluctuations over time.

What’s driving it up?

Analyzing drivers affecting website bounce rate is never as simple as it may seem and will always be interlinked with the nature of the website, whether it is an e-commerce store, news publisher, or another content site. Do not get distracted by the average bounce rates of your competitors, rather try to understand what’s behind these numbers and why they are different.

To find out, you have to drill down into users’ behavior, how they land on your website, and how they interact with it. For example, when visitors are only offered to put the item into a cart with no other interaction options, some users can be counted as a bounce even as they just took some time to think and compare prices.

There are a few common points to review on your website and check if they cause users to bounce:

  • Slow load speed

Users become less tolerant of seeing the moving wheel of the page loading. Normally, a webpage has to load in less than two seconds. However, a little amount of patience could be won by improving UX design: showing a sneak peek into the loaded page, humanizing interactions, adding an animation, mascot, or a joke.

  • Unattractive content, user experience design or navigation issues

Typically, we process visual information before the text, and poor photos or design can ward off users in a blink of an eye. Needless to say that today a website has to have a fully optimized and responsive mobile version.

  • Visitors can’t get what they expected from the webpage

For example, in the case of e-commerce websites, the item is out of stock or can’t be delivered to a user’s location. Another common case is when the webpage content doesn’t match the advertisement users clicked to get there.

  • Not enough information to take the next step

For example, there is not enough explanation about a subscription offered to a user. Make sure that you provide all the necessary details to make an informed decision.

  • Lack of trust signals

Visitors can also bounce if a site looks untrustworthy and there are no expected trust signals. This cause is particularly relevant for e-commerce sites without recognizable brand names.

How to improve the bounce rate

  • Prioritize your optimization activities

Go through the checklist we outlined before but set the priorities. We recommend starting your optimization work with the most important or visited pages rather than bounce pages, or spots with the highest bounce rate.

Also, some fixes can be easily performed, whereas others require more time and effort. Focus on improvements that can bring the most impact (i.e. are directed on the most visited pages) at the lowest cost.

  • Reach for consistency

Make sure that your ad creatives, promo offers, newsletters, visuals, CTA buttons, and all other website elements are consistent with each other. Consistency gives visitors confidence in their ongoing experience with your site.

  • Give suggestions to users on what to do next

Do not assume that your audience knows what to do on your site by default. Rather, you should elaborate upon the customer journey of a visitor and provide options of what to do next on each step, for example, view relevant content pieces, subscribe to a newsletter, etc.

Final thought

A high bounce rate signals that visitors find your website irrelevant to what they have been looking for and may decrease the position on the search results of your website. A thorough analysis of its drivers can help you improve how the website is presented to users, fulfill their expectations, and ultimately get them more engaged.