May 2020, Brent J. Dreyer, Managing Partner, DataEM.com
We can all agree, there is a lot of buzz around Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Customer Experience (CX). One of the metrics used to measure CRO and CX is the Bounce Rate. By definition, a bounce occurs when someone comes to your website, looks at one page, and leaves. This can happen for several reasons, including;
The page takes too long to load
The subject matter is not what the visitor expected
The website is crowded and confusing
The visitor clicked on a banner ad by mistake (typically on mobile)
The visitor is a robot scanning the website one page at a time
For any of the reasons above, people will enter your website, take a quick look and leave. This action is recorded as a bounce. The bounce rate is represented as a percentage, calculated by the number of times that a bounce happens, divided by the number of website sessions. For example, if 10,000 people visit your website and 5,000 look at one page and leave, this would be a 50% bounce rate (5,000/10,000).
As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate of 50% is considered average. A bounce rate lower than 50% is considered acceptable and anything higher than 50% requires attention. Exceptional websites will have bounce rates below 20% and they typically include subscription services where people go there with a purpose and login. Poorly performing websites will have bounce rates in excess of 70% or 80%. These sites typically have a large amount of paid search traffic with many issues.
The above all seems plain and simple, but there are assumptions leading to myths about bounce rates, three of which are summarized here.
A High Bounce Rate Means People Don’t Like Your Website, Your Homepage
BUSTED: A website’s bounce rate is typically reported as an average for the entire website. Often, only a small percentage (less than 20%) of all website visitors will enter your site through the homepage, and many times that is not the cause of a high bounce rate. It is not unusual to see websites with a bounce rate of over 70%, with a homepage having a bounce rate of less than 40%. For this reason, bounce rates need to be examined across all pages on your website to pinpoint the possible problems.
Bounce Rates Measure All Visitors Leaving After Viewing Only 1 Page
BUSTED: Contrary to popular belief, and definition, there are visitors that can remain on your website yet be counted as a bounce. How? This happens when cookies are being blocked in a visitor’s web browser. Websites track visitors by dropping cookies in their web browsers. When first-party cookies are blocked, the website analytics will see them come into your website, registering it as a session, but they cannot be tracked to any subsequent pages. Consequently, they are recorded as a bounce.
High Bounce Rates Reflect Lower Conversion Rates
BUSTED: On the contrary, high bounce rates can reflect higher “actual” conversion rates. The conversion rates on your website are calculated by dividing the number of people that purchased something (converted) by the number of web sessions (visitors). If 10,000 people visit your website and 100 make a purchase, that is a 1% conversion (100/10,000). There is nothing in this equation about how many people bounced.
The bounce rate impacts the “actual” conversion rate, but this is often overlooked when comparing website performance. Consider this: two websites (A and B) both have 10,000 visitors a month. Site A has a bounce rate at 80%, and Site B is at 20%. Both websites have a conversion rate of 1%, indicated by the 100 people that make a purchase (1% of 10,000). Despite the discrepancies in bounce rates, both websites appear similar, with 1% conversion rates, as both are generating 100 sales. But let’s take a closer look.
Website A has 8,000 of its 10,000 visitors leaving after viewing one page, an 80% bounce rate. Out of the 2,000 the stay, 100 people noted above will buy. The effective conversion rate is 5% (100/2,000) and not the 1% which most people would look at. Google Analytics calculates a conversion based on transactions divided by sessions, which would show 1% here and not 5%.
Website B has 2,000 of its 10,000 visitors leaving after viewing one page, a 20% bounce rate. Out of the 8,000 that stay, 100 people will buy. The effective conversion rate is 1.25% (100/8,000). Again, this is not the 1% which most people would look at in their web metrics.
In summary, when looking at a website’s bounce rates, be sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Examine the bounce rates for each page and explore the primary sources of traffic into those pages. Know that some visitors actually remain on a website but with their cookies off, they will be counted as a bounce. Finally, know that the typical calculation of a conversion rate does not consider the bounce rate. Rather than using total sessions (visitors), a better reflection of the conversion rate looks at the number of purchases as a percentage of visitors that remain on a website, those that have not bounced.
DataEM is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) Consultancy. A CDP can ingest customer data from any source, create unified customer profiles (Golden Records), model behavior, and share that data with any source that needs it. Bounce rates are one of the many E2E (end to end) metrics used to identify problems and improve performance.
Contact BrentJDreyer@DataEM.com to help you analyze your bounce rates, improve your conversion rate optimization, and improve your customers' experience.