What is Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is calculated as the number of single-page sessions on your site divided by all sessions.

What Is Bounce Rate, and Why Does It Matter?

If you’ve dipped your toes into Google Analytics, you may have noticed, among the statistics presented on the audience overview tab, the “bounce rate” for your site. This figure, represented as a percentage, is a vital statistic. 

Tracking your site bounce rate is an important practice. In fact, Search Engine Journal ranks it as the third most important user experience key performance indicator (KPI), just under “time on page” and “page views.” 

But what precisely is a bounce rate? This guide will give you all the insight you need to understand why bounce rate is important, how to measure and track it, and steps you can take in your SEO strategy to improve it.

Bounce Rates in Google Analytics

A bounce occurs when a user visits a single page on your site, then exits that page without visiting any other pages. As defined by Google, it is a single-page session on your site. In Google Analytics, a bounce is recognized when a user opens a single page, then exits without triggering any further requests to the Analytics server. Since there were no subsequent requests to allow Google to measure the length of the session, the session duration for this visit is registered as 0 seconds.

Your “bounce rate” is calculated as the number of bounces on your site divided by all sessions. This statistic lets you know how many sessions on your site involve engagement with only one page.

Note that the concepts outlined above are also commonly applied to email marketing campaigns; an email that is opened and does not lead to further action from the recipient may be considered a “bounce.” As with web development and SEO, a high bounce rate in an email marketing campaign may signal that optimization is in order.

Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate

While your bounce and exit rates are key statistics to track in regards to site engagement, it’s important not to conflate these two terms. As explained above, your bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions on your site. Conversely, the exit rate measures the number of people who exit your website after landing on a specific page, divided by the total number of page views that page received. 

This percentage lets site owners know how many sessions on a site — including visits from other pages on your site — ended when visitors exited that specified page. 

A page with a high exit rate can be identified as problematic if, by design, it should not. A checkout page on an e-commerce site is expected to have a high exit rate. A piece of bottom-funnel marketing content should not. If the latter is losing visitors with a high exit rate, that page may need to be optimized.

Is Bounce Rate a Ranking Factor in SEO?

There has been a long debate over whether bounce rates affect SEO. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed that bounce rate is not a ranking factor for Google

However, it’s a bad idea to disregard this metric based solely on those facts. This is because bounce rate indirectly affects several SEO factors such as dwell time, time on site, and conversion rates. These have an impact on your site’s rankings in the SERPs.

The strongest ranking factors continue to be strong links and quality content. Your bounce rate does not necessarily impact your rankings. It may, however, indicate areas in need of optimization.

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What Is a Good Bounce Rate?

You don’t need to optimize your website specifically with your bounce rate in mind, but it can be a good indication of the quality of the user experience. Generally, a 40% to 55% bounce rate is average, while anything over 70% warrants investigation for most types of sites. Note, however, that there is no one “ideal” bounce rate that all web developers and marketers should aspire to. This is because bounce rates vary from industry to industry.

Bounce Rate Differences by Industry & Device

Your bounce rate may differ based on your website’s purpose and industry, your traffic acquisition methods, and the preferred device (mobile vs. desktop) of your target audience. As noted above, e-commerce sites generally have higher bounce rates than average, while news sites are generally lower. For an apples-to-apples comparison, you have to compare bounce rates within your industry.

Further, because different traffic acquisition methods are associated with vastly different bounce rates, it’s possible that relying too much on high-bounce channels could inflate your site’s overall bounce rate. This wouldn’t necessarily call for optimization, nor for a change of course.

Finally, note that user behavior trends differ depending on the device they use to access web content. As most web developers who work on mobile-first sites can attest, mobile users are more likely to bounce from a page after retrieving the information they need. As such, mobile pages are more likely to have higher bounce rates.

If your site is built on mobile-first design principles, you may have separate pages for mobile and desktop users. An easy method to compare bounce rates for mobile and desktop users is to refer to your site data on Google Analytics under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. In the fifth column over, you should see the bounce rate for each page. By simply comparing the bounce rates for mobile and desktop pages, you may glean more about user behavior and where you should optimize.

How to Fix Bounce Rate

There are countless reasons that your bounce rate might be higher than you’d like. As such, there are many potential solutions. Review the following tips with your site in mind. If your site has room for improvement in the following ways, you can likely improve your bounce rate by addressing them:

  • Address Slow Page Speeds: Visitors — particularly those on mobile devices — want to access content as quickly and intuitively as possible. Moz notes that “pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates … (and) negatively affect conversions.” If you have high bounce rates and slow page speeds, they might be related. Reduce redirects, optimize images, enable compression — do what you can to get your site loading faster.
  • Improve Your Site Navigation: If readers can’t easily access the information or services they need, they will likely bounce from your page. Navigation should be as simple and intuitive as possible, particularly for mobile users with smaller screens. Remove elements that clutter the user experience or make it difficult to locate content.
  • Do Not Use Distracting Ads or Popups: Few things can send visitors scurrying away from your site faster than annoying or distracting ads — particularly when they prevent visitors from seeing the content they came to your site for. These can also hurt your SEO efforts; in 2016, Google explicitly stated, “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” Axe these to see your bounce rates (and potentially your rankings in the SERPs) improve. 
  • Make Good Use of Internal Links: Dead-end pages are a major no-no in web design. An effective marketing funnel keeps visitors interested by offering authoritative content that links to supporting information and relevant converting pages. If your visitors are bouncing from certain pages, ensure that they are properly incorporated into your site with relevant internal links. This will also help you spread link equity throughout your site in link building campaigns.
  • Create a Consistent Content Publishing Schedule: Fresh content keeps visitors engaged and can improve your SEO. You cannot treat content marketing as a one-off task; if you don’t yet have an ongoing strategy in place, it might be time to consult content marketing experts. Publish authoritative and informative content on a regular basis to keep visitors on your page for longer. Create an editorial calendar to get started on the right path.