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Bouncing all over the gaff - Just what is Bounce Rate anyway and what can you do with the info?

08/09/2014 Posted by Brendan O'Sullivan | Comments(0)

Key Areas:

Business Development, Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Tutorials
Bouncing all over the gaff - Just what is Bounce Rate anyway and what can you do with the info?

In last weeks blog I talked about Google Analytics what it was and why you should care (see here).

This week, we'll take a brief look at your default dashboard, and in particular look at one of the key pieces of information: Bounce Rate.

ga screenshot

The above graphic shows a typical default GA home dashboard. A lot of the immediate data visible is very self explanatory. You see your graph showing your traffic for the period, the number of sessions (each visit to your site is a session), average number of pages viewed per session, the number of Users, average session duration, number of Pageviews served up and, the Bounce Rate.

The bounce rate basically refers to how quickly someone lands on a page in your site from a search then immediately leaves your page and site.

So for example, say 100 people come to your website from an online search or via a referral link. Now say 40 of those people land on your home page and then move off it without visting any other web page on your site. This means your site has a 40% bounce rate.

You spend time and money trying to drive people to your site, the last thing you want is for people to visit and leave before reading a thing. Hence the ideal bounce rate is 0%, probably impossible to achieve, but still you should always be focusing on reducing whatever bounce rate your site currently has.

Google (and the other search engines) will use bounce rates as a part of their algorithm to deem how important a page/site is, so the higher the bounce rate the worse it is for your organic positioning in search results. As such the bounce rate statistic of your site is pretty important.

Wait, wait, don't go!

The key question you need to ask yourself is WHY are these “bouncer” visitors leaving your site so quickly?

Lets look at this practically for a second. How are people getting to your site? Probably through either a google search, an adword campaign, or a referral link from another site.

Probably the MAIN reason your bounce rate is high is because for some reason those ads/search criteria aren't matching exactly what it is your sites landing page is saying OR it's not blatantly obvious from the landing page, what exactly it is the link promised your site would achieve.

A very interesting second reason why bounce rates are high is because you give the user EXACTLY what they need on the landing page and they've no reason to remain. So if a person is looking for a quick answer to a question and your page answers that question then they've no reason to stay. This is a much more infrequent reason for high bounce rates, but an interesting case none the less, and something you may need to consider.

It is critical for you as a site owner to remember that your site MUST make an immediate impact.

You often hear about how people judge a site within milliseconds. So before they read any information they're judging your site based on the immediate impact of colour use, general visual structure of the site, and key imagery on the site. Then they'll arrive at the content. This is a key reason why good design is critical to a sites success.

Once they've gotten past the design part, they're onto the content. Every second it takes for your site to load up, results in a higher chance of the persons attention being dragged away from your site. Anything that delays that landing page from getting it's message out to the visitor increases the chance of them bouncing, and needs to be addressed.

Lets take a practical example.

If a potential customer searches for “holidays to the Algarve”, and you've optimised a page on your site to handle this and/or created an Adwords campaign to drive traffic for this search to a page on your site, then you'd better make it really clear, really quick from the landing page that this page is all about holidaying in the Algarve.

Remember, the person is interested in holidaying in the Algarve, they're not interested in holidaying in Europe in general. They've made their minds up they want the Algrave. So bringing them to a general landing page that handles all the holidays you do across Europe isn't good enough, the page must have the Algarve front and centre.

Once they're on the page, you need to keep them there as best as you can and drive them to the conversion goal you have for this particular search, (e.g. book a holiday, contact you, etc). You keep them there by ensuring that the content is highly relevant, navigation is simple, logical and direct, and the flow of the content brings them naturally to the conversion goal.

Another take on the above example would be where you have your landing page fully optimised for that holiday to the Algarve, and your only call to action on the page is a telephone number. So you make your deal so good, that the person straight away reads the page and calls you, books the holiday and you're done. This type of page will result in a high bounce rate as the person got exactly the information they needed from your landing page and never had to go to another page on your site they merely called the number listed. This is great for your sales, and shows how in certain (albeit very rare) cases a high bounce rate can actually mean a highly successful website page. However Google or the other search engines won't see this as the case. As far as they're concerned your bounce rate is high which means it's not pertinent to the search criteria and you get a low ranking!

Site Design

You might have your content correct, but there are other factors you need to consider. Site design, as pointed to earlier, is a massive element of this. Your site design must be relevant and attractive. People just won't tolerate a poorly designed, or stale/out of date design. You need to keep the site design relevant and modern. Good design will instill a strong level of trust and confidence, and also help to appeal to the “Magpie” character of your visitor, i.e. “it's pretty I'll keep looking”.

Don't underestimate the effect of experimenting with basic elements on your site such as the colour and size of action buttons, or the look of your headings and how you break text up. Tweaking elements of your site like this can and do impact on your bounce rates. (You may be able to do a certain amount of this with your CMS but chances are you'll need to bring in a designer / developer from time to time to change key design template area's of your site).  Also GA has some terrific tools for allowing you to test the effectiveness of different page designs. We'll visit that in a later article.

Also you can't ignore the fact that the general trend is towards mobile access being the first port of call for your visitors. Your design needs to take this into account. Your site needs to adapt to the device it's being accessed on. Site visitors are starting to expect this as standard site behavior now and new technologies make it easier than ever before to develop websites that render across all devices beautifully.

Other things to avoid are pop-ups where as soon as someone hits your site a pop up add is shown which dramatically decreases the time it takes for them to reach your message.

Your page may also be loading data / objects, for things like twitter feeds etc. These can slow down your page load significantly. Talk to your developer about lazy loading to radically increase loading speed.

So to sum up:

  •  Log onto Google Analytics and keep a regular eye on your bounce rates
  •  Be vigilant over what way your key landing pages have been optimised and make sure that your key search critera/ adword campaigns match exactly the message of the landing page.
  •  Keep your navigation simple and direct: don't confuse your visitor.
  •  Make sure your core call to action is relevant to your visitor and there's a strong natural flow to the content to bring your visitor to that action.
  •  Keep your design relevant and attractive.
  •  Avoid slow loading landing page.

In a future article I'll go into more detail on all of this but for now it's critical you understand the core idea behind bounce rates, why they affect your online business and the key things you need to think about to reduce the rates.

About the Author

Brendan O'Sullivan

Brendan O'Sullivan is a computer science graduate of DIT and has been working professionally as a software/web developer, Systems Architect and IT consultant since 1993. After spending 3 years with IBM, he went on to found Sulware in 1996. He has worked with a vast array of companies from large multi nationals to small family run businesses. Brendan also holds technical directorships with a number of other Irish based companies.

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