Bounce Rate

Quick definition

A bounce rate is the percentage of website or app visitors who view one page or one piece of content and then leave the site.

Key takeaways:

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a website or app who leave the site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate may indicate that visitors are not finding what they are looking for on your site, or that your content is not relevant to their needs. However, it can also indicate that users are getting exactly what they need in their first touchpoint with your domain and are leaving satisfied.

Improving your website's bounce rate can be a challenge, but it's worth the effort — a lower bounce rate can lead to more engaged visitors and higher conversion rates.

How do you calculate bounce rate?

Bounce rate is calculated by dividing single-page visits (bounces) by total visits or entries (exact metrics and terminology vary by analytics platform).

What constitutes a bounce in Adobe Analytics?

A bounce in Adobe Analytics is defined as a session made up of a single hit, or server call, from the website to Adobe Analytics. A session is the time a person spends on your website, while a server call is the action where this information is received and captured by the software.

But not all analytics platforms calculate bounces the same way. In fact, one of the great debates in digital analytics is whether a user clicking on or interacting with an element of a landing page constitutes a bounce if the user never makes it to the next page.

Let's say there's a form on a landing page that the user starts filling out, but they don't finish the form or submit it. Is that a bounce? They clearly were engaged with it enough to interact with the form and provide information, but they never actually got to the next page.

A video also presents complications for calculating bounce rate. If there’s a video on the landing page and the visitor watches it before leaving, does that constitute a bounce or not? In Adobe Analytics, when the user clicks “play” on the video, another call gets sent to Adobe Analytics, so the visit is no longer considered a single-page session.

Does bounce rate take into account the amount of time spent on a site?

Bounce rate does not factor in time, but a company can calculate an adjusted bounce rate to also include visits that fail to result in a minimum time on site.

A media company, for example, might be interested in the length of time spent on a site because it could indicate whether a consumer finished an entire article or watched an entire video before bouncing. That might be part of how that company defines success, in addition to possible other user actions.

What is the difference between a bounce rate and an exit rate?

Bounce rate measures the percentage of people who visit a single landing page before leaving a digital property. Exit rate, on the other hand, is not specific to a single page visit.

Someone could come to the site, browse 10 pages, and then leave. The last page before the visitor leaves the site or the app is the exit page.

An exit rate represents the percentage of all page views in which a certain page was the last one viewed during a session, while bounce rate to refer to single-page visits either specific to a URL or averaged across multiple pages.

A high exit rate for a page can help flag pages that aren’t effectively driving users deeper into the website, but it can also validate that users are leaving the website from a thank you page after a transaction for instance.

Similarly, a high bounce rate can be a signal of potential issues with the webpage, like long page load times. It can also merely confirm that users aren’t navigating to additional pages – a high bounce rate on a single-page website doesn’t have a negative connotation.

Analysts must ultimately dig deeper to find out why users are exiting, relying on bounce rates, exit rates, and additional metrics as guideposts to determining causality.

How can organizations connect bounce rate to a larger strategy?

An industry or sitewide average bounce rate is a good starting point to page-level performance, signaling what content is and isn’t effective at engaging visitors and converting them to the next action.

If a certain page on your site has a high bounce percentage, you can formulate a content or design strategy that appeals to that audience segment.

You can use bounce rates alongside methods like split testing (also known as A/B testing) to figure out why customers are leaving or staying, and to optimize sites to better serve customers.

For example, if you notice that two similar website pages have disparate bounce rates, you can perform a split test to mimic certain elements of the high-performing page on the low-performing one to identify changes that will drive improved engagement and conversion.

What are some limitations of analyzing bounce rate?

One limitation of using bounce rate as an indicator for success is that it doesn’t offer a reason why people leave your site from the landing page, so you might draw the wrong conclusions.

For example, an outdoor gear company might create a special landing page for an email campaign. This page focuses on rock climbing equipment and is targeted toward the portion of its audience that scale rocks, but the marketing team sends the campaign email to the entire audience. Out of the company’s whole audience, only 5% of customers are interested in rock climbing, but other customer segments click through the email because they like the brand or saw the discount and want to know more.

When the audience segment who doesn’t care about rock climbing realizes the page is only offering or promoting climbing gear, they are more likely to leave the website. The bounce rate on this hypothetical landing page is high due to an email segmentation missed opportunity, not to be misconstrued as a sign of bad user experience or an unpopular product.

If, however, the users who didn’t bounce from the aforementioned landing page spend hundreds of dollars each on climbing equipment, revenue may be a more pertinent KPI than bounce rate.

It’s generally recommended to define your conversion goals (e.g. engagement, conversion, revenue) and then view bounce percentages in the context of those factors.

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