Client Questions: Is my Bounce Rate really important?

August 12, 2011


Hello, world? It's your website calling. Make me more functional, please.

I love getting requests like these because they make perfect blog posts – they’re useful, relevant and full of information that people may know but do not follow on their own. Today, we’re talking about bounce rates – what they are, how you find them, why I pay attention to them and what first small steps you can implement to lower yours.

What is a bounce rate?

Your site’s Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that hit your website on a given page and don’t visit any other pages on your site.

How do I find my bounce rate?

I track bounce rate in a handful of ways. The two primary ones are via Alexa (which skews low) and Google Analytics (which skews high).

Wait, Jaime. So, you’re saying that they’re both inaccurate?

Yep. Sorry guys, that’s what you get with free tools. I usually split the difference for my own sites, or add 15% for Alexa ranking statistics for site owners who don’t share their numbers with me. Many paid statistic tracking tools, like Omniture, are more accurate. And cost more, too. You get what you pay for.

How do I lower my bounce rate?

That’s a whole new post, but a couple of quick tips: make sure that your site isn’t erroring out – either in different browsers or just because of poor coding – when users get there. Also keep an eye on your load time – the faster, the better. Finally, using keywords that tie to relevant content will allow for a better response rate, increasing engagement and, thus, bounce rate.

What is a good/bad/terrible bounce rate?

I set personal goals for myself at under 40%, and that’s pretty doable. While the numbers change between genres, styles of websites and ultimate calls to action, you basically want to be below 50%. Anything over that needs improvement and anything much higher – 75% or higher – needs a strategy session. You need to start rethinking your plans.

Another quick tip about bounce rates, courtesy of HMTWeb, is this: bounce rates and exit rates? Not the same thing. Defined above, you know a bounce rate is where a person only goes to one page on your site then either leaves or times out, never going to a second page. An exit rate is just that – the rate at which people leave your domain from a specific site page. Bounce rates are exit rates, but exit rates are not necessarily bounce rates. Get the idea?

Now, why do marketers pay attention to bounce rate? Because it shows how engaged your reader base actually is. Is your site too text heavy and hard to navigate? Maybe it’s messy and unorganized. These are things that all play into the user experience (the User Interface – or UI – is the term I’ll be using) and if you have a cluttered UI, your conversion rates and overall engagement levels will drop significantly. We want to see conversions if we’re paying for placement on your site. It’s crucial.

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