SEO Basics: What is Bounce Rate on a Website?

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If you have any kind of analytics for your website, including Google analytics, one of the metrics is reports to you is the bounce rate. So what is bounce rate and why should you care?

Bounce rate is the percentage of users who view only one page of your website and then leave the website.

It’s important to note that bounce rate is not a measure of how long a user spent on your site — it only measures whether they viewed only one page, or more than one page. So it’s possible that a user could spend a half hour pouring over that page, and then leave, and it would be considered a bounce.

It’s also important for SEOs to understand that because of the way Google Analytics measures time spent on site, every bounce will count as 0:00 time on site, even if they spent an hour on that page. Again, all bounces record as zero time spent on site, regardless of the actual time on site.

Why we care about bounce rate

Bounce rate is one metric that helps to suggest how useful users are finding our site. If our bounce rate is very high that tends to indicate that our site as a whole isn’t very useful — possibly because it doesn’t contain the information the user was searching for, the information wasn’t easy enough to find, or because the site is hard to read (poor site design, cluttered with ads, etc.).

A high bounce rate can suggest several potential issues, including:

  • Bounce rate could suggest our site is optimized for a poor keyword — users entering that keyword into search engines are actually looking for something other than what our site offers.
  • Bounce rate could suggest the page of your site that shows up in search results is not the page with the information the user was seeking, so they went back to the next site on the search engine list rather than navigating through our site to find the information. This is the danger of centering all our SEO efforts on the home page of our site, rather than on landing pages.
  • Bounce rate could suggest our site could actually provide exactly the information that the user was seeking, so completely that they have no need or interest in anything else on our site (they searched for “how many centimeters in an inch” and our site said 2.54. That’s all they need.)
  • Bounce rate could suggest our site has poor navigation, and/or poor internal linking. The page could have been just fine, but there was nothing to really motivate the user to keep looking around.
  • Bounce rate could suggestyour site has poor design. A crummy looking site can have a powerful ability to chase people away.

In general we want users to view more than just one page of our site. We want our site to entice them to follow the links within our site and explore more of our content. We will very rarely get a sale or conversion from someone who only viewed one page of our site.

What is a good bounce rate?

Bounce rates vary wildly from industry to industry. What is a good bounce rate for your industry and your neighbor’s industry are going to be very different. Blogs in particular tend to have higher bounce rates, since readers tend to show up to read the most recent post, and then they’re all caught up.

We can, however, make some broad generalizations about bounce rates.

For the most part, any bounce rate over 70% is considered a high bounce rate, and a high bounce rate is bad. At that point there’s probably something wrong with our site, or we have links pointing to our site when our site has nothing to do with those links. A bounce rate higher than 70% is usually an indication of trouble.

Bounce rates under 50% are generally considered very good bounce rates indeed. It sounds a bit strange to suggest that if half the people coming to our site leave right away then we’re doing great, but it’s true. Bounce rates as low as 40% or 30% are pretty spectacularly awesome.

Most sites experience bounce rates between 50% and 60%, and these are considered perfectly fine bounce rates. It’s always a good idea to continually improve your site to reduce bounce rates, but you generally should not be alarmed at bounce rates in the 50% – 60% range.

Bounce rate is just one metric of many

End the end our bounce rate is just one of dozens or hundreds of metrics we could track for our website, and we don’t want to obsess over it too much. However, it is a metric we want to pay attention to. It does a good job of reminding us that SEO and website optimization alone are not enough — all the traffic in the world does us no good if we aren’t converting that traffic into customers.