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The truth about KPIs: is a low bounce rate good?

The bounce rate in Google Analytics is a great indicator of your site engagement and page performance. But the truth is a high bounce rate isn't always a bad thing. In this blog, we'll explore the reasons for a high or low bounce rate and how you can use it to gain an insight into your site performance.

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Bounce rate is a really important metric when you're looking at page performance on your website.

In fact it's one of the things that people commonly think is a standard KPI measurement.

But bounce rates, while important, can't really be looked at in a straightforward, "high is bad, low is good" sort of way. There's actually quite a lot of nuance.

So, how do bounce rates work, what's a good bounce rate, and what can they really tell you about your website's performance?

In this guide we'll discuss:

So, let's get started!

What is bounce rate

What is a bounce rate?

A "bounce" is when someone lands on your website, doesn't click onto any other pages, and then leaves.

Typically, people assume that these bounces occur when users haven't found what they were looking for, or maybe your site wasn't what they expected when they clicked onto it.

How to find your bounce rate in Google Analytics

If you're working out how to check your website bounce rate, your first stop should be Google Analytics.

Bounce Rate is one of the standard measurements you can use in Audience Overview to track the average bounce rate of all users on your website.

However, what I find more insightful is to navigate into Behaviour, Site Content and All Pages.

Google Analytics all pages bounce rate
Compare pages by bounce rate and other key metrics in "All Pages"

Here you can sort pages by their individual average bounce rates, and you can look at the average time spent on the page and number of people who land on, and exit from the page. 

All of these combined give you a much better picture of how well individual pages are performing.

What is a high bounce rate

What is a high bounce rate?

If you're trying to find out what a good bounce rate for a site is, it's important to know that what you might consider a "high" or "low" bounce rate will be different across different types of website, different types of page and different types of search. 

According to research by customedialabs, these are the average bounce rates for different types of website:

  • 20% – 45% for e-commerce and retail websites
  • 25% – 55% for B2B websites
  • 30% – 55% for lead generation websites
  • 35% – 60% for non-ecommerce content websites
  • 60% – 90% for landing pages
  • 65% – 90% for article driven websites, such as news and blogs

But remember that even these rates are averaged out across the website, which is why it's so valuable to be able to break the information down by individual pages.

Common reasons high bounce rate

Common reasons for a high bounce rate

Before you make any decisions, the first question you need to ask is: why is my bounce rate so high?

You see, there are a lot of reasons you could have a high bounce rate on your webpage, and the big secret here is that not all these reasons are actually negative.

Sometimes a high bounce rate can actually be an indicator of success for your page.

When is a high bounce rate bad?

A bad bounce rate can often be a result of your website being difficult to use or that you're targeting the wrong people or keywords in your marketing.

Some common issues are:

  • Slow page speed. A slow-loading page is likely to make people frustrated and leave immediately.
  • Non-responsive. Luckily this is becoming less common, but a non-responsive or even a poor mobile experience is another big reason users abandon your webpage.
  • Wrong search intent. This is such a common issue, but often overlooked. If your page is ranking for terms that don't really fit the content, then you're likely to have lots of people clicking your link, and not finding what they're looking for.

    This is one of the big reasons that keyword research is so important for SEO, so you can target keywords that bring the right people to your pages for the right reasons.
  • Poor UX. Sometimes it's no clear CTA, sometimes it's a wall of text without headers, sometimes it's an unending series of popups. Whatever is spoiling your user journey, it's likely to make your visitor head back instead of clicking around.

When is a high bounce rate good?

There are times when a high bounce rate is actually an indicator of your page performing well. Here are some scenarios that could be a sign of a high, but positive bounce rate.

  • Really great landing pages. Sometimes your bounce rate is really high because your page is just too good! If you've got on-page conversions set up on your landing page, a high bounce rate could mean that users are completing your goal, and simply don't need to click anywhere else. Job done!
  • Contact pages. If a user is looking to get in touch with your business and lands on the contact page, it might be that they've got all the information they need. Now, they'll call your business directly to continue their enquiry.
     
  • Single page site. If you have a single page website, you're pretty much guaranteed to have a very high bounce rate!
     
  • Complete content. A high bounce rate coupled with a really high session duration could be a sign that you've written an incredible article that covers everything someone may want to know about a subject. In that case, it might have been everything a user needed from your website. If your content is simply for brand awareness or reputation reinforcement, then that could be a success in itself - even if it creates a higher bounce rate.
Is high bounce rate good or bad

Is a high bounce rate good or bad?

A high bounce rate isn't necessarily bad, which is why you need to be careful about using it as a KPI, because you need to know the context for that figure.

So, before you start work on reducing your bounce rate, it can help to remove (or reduce) some of the reasons your high bounce rate may be down to positive reasons.

Good ways to do this are to create dedicated "success" pages for landing page forms. Not only does this create a secondary click, turning a "bounce" into a 2-page visit, it can also be helpful for tracking your conversion rate too.

By adding Google Analytics tracking code and setting up events, you can track the number of completed submissions in your account, making it much easier to see how well your page is performing. 

When you're trying to mitigate the high bounce rate of brilliant content, a great method is to introduce internal linking. Not only is that great for SEO, but it also provides a better user experience, showing your user that there's more valuable content they might be interested in on your other pages.

Another good option is to include a call to action on the page. It could be to click into related articles, a form to contact you, a signup for an ebook version of the article or something similar. By giving the user options that push them through to another page, it means they are less likely to "bounce" and complicate your data.

Is a low bounce rate good?

Is a low bounce rate good?

Again, you need to know why you have a low bounce rate before you can make that assertion.

For example, one common reason that your bounce rate is low is because your website is only ranking for your brand or company name.

That means that almost everyone who comes to your website was looking specifically for you in the first place, so it makes sense they'd want to stick around. But you might be missing an opportunity to reach more customers who are interested in your products or service.

Another reason for a low bounce rate could be a low number of users in the first place. As with most things, the more data we have the easier it is to analyse what's actually going on with a website, and low visitor numbers can mask or exaggerate problems. 

How to lower bounce rate

How to lower your bounce rate

Once you've adapted your website so that you're reducing the positive bounces, then you can focus on the negative ones.

One of the most significant ways to lower your bounce rate is to make sure you've got a fast loading, mobile optimised website. 

There aren't many users willing to wait more than a few seconds for your website to load, and a good mobile experience is an absolute necessity too.

Poor search intent can be harder to identify, but it is really important. Bad search intent often happens when you've targeted a keyphrase that you think your target audience will use, but they are actually using it with a different intention.

For example, let's say you're a plumber and you're targeting the keyphrase "fix a sink". It's possible that a lot of the people entering that search aren't actually looking for plumbing services, and are actually trying to find help videos or a guide on how to fix it themselves.

It is technically a relevant keyphrase for your business, but what your website offers isn't matching the searcher's intent.

The best way to manage these problems is with good keyword research. Making sure that your landing pages are ranking for the most relevant terms that produce the most conversions. 

Our last common issue with bounce rate is poor user experience, and this can take many different forms such as:

  • No clear CTAs. If someone can't see where to click next, they're not going to click at all!
  • Poor content structure. Opening a page that's simply a wall of text with no headings or breaks is a real put off. Same goes for pages where the content is hidden, or is different to what was expected.
  • Too much going on. If your page is peppered with CTAs, focal points and content all vying for attention, it's likely to confuse a user so much that they're more likely to click away than click onwards.
  • Autoplaying media. Having audio or video on your website can be a great way to increase engagement - but not if it's autoplaying. Autoplaying media slows your website down, and can be a big annoyance to those who aren't in the right situation to listen.
Exit rate vs bounce rate

Exit rate vs bounce rate

In lots of cases, it can be more useful to track the exit rate of pages, instead of the bounce rate.

An exit rate is the percentage of users who left the website from a particular page - regardless of where they started their journey on your website. 

An exit rate is incredibly valuable if you're trying to identify friction points in your user's journey, as it tells you the pages where higher percentages of people dropped out of the process.

This can often be more useful than a bounce rate, which only looks at the people who entered the website onto a page and left straight away, not the total number of people who abandoned the site from that page.

In summary: bounce rate and your website KPIs

So, now you know what a bounce rate is and how to improve the bounce rate of a website. But most of all, you now know why you can't blindly use your bounce rate as a KPI.

Because a high bounce rate isn't always bad, and a low bounce rate isn't always good, using it as a measure of your website's performance requires a much more in-depth understanding of why your bounce rate is the way it is.

So make sure that when you're analysing your website's performance, you know all the factors that affect your bounce rate, before including it as a KPI.

And if you'd like to speak to an expert about KPIs, website performance and how to make sure your online presence is as efficient and effective as possible, we'd love to hear from you!

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Hannah Laird

Client Manager