All That Bounces Is Not Bad

If you have any connection with web analytics then, I am sure, you have heard about the bounce rates (see Bounce Rate Demystified and Typical Bounce Rates). A lot of analysts and a few web analytics tools are obsessed with the bounce rates. High bounce rate is considered bad. If you are one of those who is obsessed with the bounce rate or think that all that bounces is bad then this blog post is for you.

This post was originally published on 10/28/2009.  After 9 years of writing this post, I still get questions about Bounce rate that are answered in this post so I am updating to make this post live again.

I do believe that bounce rate is a great starting metrics when you are trying to optimize your site but be careful and make sure that you are measuring the true bounce rate. Below are the three factors that lead to the misreporting of the bounce rates

  1. Links to external sites – Many sites have links to the external sites such as sponsors, micro sites etc. Considering those external links as exits will count visits as bounces even though the visitors are doing exactly what you want them to do (e.g. click on those links that you provided them). See below a screen shot from First Tech Credit Union, there are few external link s contributing to the bounces.

  2. Online Ads – If you serve ads on your site you are providing links to external sites. Visitors who land on your site, see an ad that grabs their attention are going to click on it (isn’t that what you want so that you can command higher rates for the ads?). It is not really a bounce because visitors are taking the action that you want them to take. See the screenshot from Techcruch which is full of ads and I bet this page (and other article pages) has a very high bounce rate.
  3. Destination Pages – Pages that provide the information that the visitors are looking for is what I call destination pages. Usually you will see the visitors arriving from bookmark or search to the internal pages on your site that provide the visitors with the information that the visitors are looking for. Since those pages serve the visitors’ need you are likely to see high bounce rates on those pages. Those bounce are not bad. Some might argue that you should try to drive visitors into the other sections of the site but I can bet that in most of the cases you won’t see significant drop in bounce rate no matter how hard you try. Below is an example of a page on First Tech Credit Union that could have a very high bounce rate. I arrived at this page by searching for the “Phone number for First Tech in Redmond”. When I arrived on this page I got what I was looking for and I bounced.

Are you considering these factors when analyzing the bounce rates on your site? Questions? Comments?

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2 Replies to “All That Bounces Is Not Bad”

  1. Hi Anil. I agree. I recently commented on a case (a portal) where the high bounce rate was closely linked to many visits that were landing exactly on the right page, according to the keyphrases that brought them. They were basically finding right away what they were looking for. And you know what? It is very very hard to convince visitors to linger some more and "explore" once they consider they first intent/need to be satisfied.

    This whole definition of Bounce Rate as "I saw I puked I left" is way too simplistic. This is certainly one measure that's got to be put in context and interpreted carefully.

  2. Very interesting way of qualifying bounces. I used to have a heated debate with my boss about the high bounce rate of our home page, and he would argue that people are clicking on our links, and therefore it's good.

    He was right!

    This post inspired me to create a custom advanced segment for Google Analytics called "Good Bounces", and it is based on the three criteria mentioned here.
    A brief about how the segment was created:
    – Bounces had to be more than 0 (obviously the visitor had to bounce)
    AND: any of the following should happen:
    – An adsense ad had to be clicked
    – OR: Advertisement had to be clicked (needs a special event action to be defined)
    – OR: landing pages is one of … (you need to define the pages which are ok for people to bounce from, like contact pages etc.)
    – OR: user clicked on an external link (also needs to be defined as an event)

    I'm sure there are probably better ways of doing this or defining it based on your site's needs.

    Here is the link if you want to use/edit

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