Metrics Corner: Understanding Bounce Rate

If you’ve ever built a web site, managed a site, analyzed a site, or heck, even just surfed the web, you’ve probably heard the term bounce rate before.  It’s a term with a usually negative connotation and the majority of articles surrounding the topic will often be titled something like “How to Reduce Your Bounce Rate.”

There’s a general misunderstanding of what exactly bounce rate is and how you should be treating it.  The goal of this article will be to clear up some of that confusion.  First I’ll explain what exactly bounce rate is.  Next, I’ll go over a few ways to subjectively view bounce rate for your particular needs.  Finally, I’ll highlight a few tips on how you can reduce your bounce rate if your analysis determines that’s the best course of action.

What is Bounce Rate?

Google Analytics defines bounce rate as the percentage of single-page sessions.  That is, the percentage of sessions in which someone came to your site and immediately left your site without ever viewing another page.  Some analytics software will go one step further and define it as the percentage of people that visited your site without ever interacting with the page in some manner – clicking a button, filling out a form, etc.

How to View Bounce Rate

There are a number of factors that contribute to bounce rate and it’s important to understand them.  Bounce rate can be a bad thing.  It might mean that your site is too difficult to use, too slow to load, too complicated to navigate, or just plain not what the visitor was looking for.  Any and all of these factors can lead a visitor to click a link, get fed up, and bounce off to another site.  These items can be corrected and I’ll highlight some methods to accomplish that shortly.

However, bounce rate is not always bad.  If a visitor comes to your site and finds exactly what they were looking for, they may leave simply because they had no need to view another page.  If your site is meeting your goals and the goals of your visitors, that’s a good thing!  That’s why it’s important to view bounce rate within context.

Traditionally, blogs have a higher than average bounce rate.  This is because blog articles are frequently shared and normally rank very well for organic SEO traffic.  A visitor clicks a link on a search engine results page or on a social network, reads the article, and leaves.  This is why context and site goals are very important.  If your goal is have your article read, bouncing immediately after it’s read may be accomplishing that goal.  If, however, your goal is to convert your visitors – perhaps via an online form, a call-to-action button, or some other means – than you may want to make some changes to reduce your bounce rate.

How to Reduce Bounce Rate

Again, there are several factors that contribute to bounce rate and you’ll need to do some digging through analytics to see which ones may be impacting your site.  That said, here are a few of the more common factors and what you can do about them:

1. Your Site is Too Slow!

Is there anything worse than a slow loading site?  I not only have to wait for the content and pictures to load, but you expect me to wait for your ads as well before I can even scroll the page?  According to KISSmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.  If your site is north of that, you may be losing your visitors to frustration.

You can test your page speed using a tool such as Google’s PageSpeed Tools (  This, and similar tools, will show you how long your site takes to load and some of the things you can do to fix it.

The main culprit is usually large images, non-minified CSS, and excessive JavaScript.  Reducing these can have a significant impact on your page speed.  For more information, check out 3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Help Your Website.

2. You Have Too Many Ads or Popups

Ads and popups not only slow a site down, but they can annoy site visitors.  Ads are an accepted part of most websites but they should be implemented with the user experience in mind.  Too many and your visitors will leave frustrated, too few and you may not meet your site goals.

Be mindful of ad placement.  Ads appearing in the middle of an article can disrupt the flow of an article.  Popups can present valuable offers to your visitors, but overuse can be aggravating and cause visitors to bounce before they ever entertain your offers.  Analytics will help you determine what’s working and what’s not.

3. Your Site Navigation Sucks

If a site visitor can’t find how to navigate to another page, they only have one option – leave.  If your site navigation is not intuitive, you may be causing users to abandon your site prematurely. Again, this is an area that analytics can help with.  Review the heat maps on your problem pages to see where people are clicking.  You might also consider running an A/B test between different designs to see which one works better for your visitors.

4. You’re Targeting the Wrong Visitors

If you’re giving your content misleading titles or sharing on social networks with the wrong audience, you might simply be attracting the wrong type of visitors.  If your visitors are not looking for what you have to offer, no amount of improvement will help keep them on your site.

Try breaking up and segment your content.  Review your analytics and optimize your pages for user intent.  Figure out what your targets are and review your site demographics to make sure your pages are performing properly for those targets.

5. Offer Help

If your visitors get lost, is it easy to find help?  A prominently placed search box or a sitemap can be very helpful.  Make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for and it will help keep them around.

Review your error pages.  Does your 404 page contain useful information with links to help or just a bland error message and a cutesy photo?  Think from the users perspective – what do they need at their fingertips should they get lost – then add it!


Developing a list of goals for your site is not only important, it’s necessary.  You can’t optimize if you don’t know what you’re optimizing for.  Once you have a clear list of goals, you can define your targets and optimize your pages for those targets.

Bounce rate is only one metric that can help you determine how efficient your site is running and viewing your bounce rate with the proper context is imperative.  I hope to cover several more important marketing metrics in this Metrics Corner series, so stay tuned!

Do you have a question or comment on the information presented?  Let us know in the comments below!