During a recent project, our team uncovered some not-so-obvious insights about a client’s declining web traffic—why website visitors became more lax about making purchases, visited fewer pages per session and changed their browsing patterns, all of which had a negative impact on the website’s performance and the client’s sales.

As our client learned, minor changes to your website can dramatically influence your visitor engagement, for better or for worse. A key indicator of visitor engagement is bounce rate. In this post, I’ll talk about why bounce rate is important and how you can monitor bounce rates on your site.

This article is just the starting point for a new series on bounce rate and revenue. Over the next five weeks, we’ll talk about how to keep visitors engaged, generate more sales and increase your overall conversion rate. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Let’s get started.

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Before we dive into improving your website and increasing the revenue you’re able to generate, we need to clarify the basics:

  • What is bounce rate?
  • How does bounce rate relate to revenue through your website or online store?
  • What is the league average bounce rate?
  • How do you measure bounce rate?

The answers to these questions will help you understand why you should care about bounce rate in the first place, and then in the coming weeks, I’ll give you some ideas on how to use bounce rate to your advantage.

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate indicates how many people leave your site after visiting only one page. A high bounce rate means a large percentage of your site visits are one-and-done. If you want users to click around and explore what your site has to offer, you don’t want a high bounce rate.

Some analytics programs track the amount of time each visitor spends on a single page—if they spend less than, say, one minute, it’s counted as a bounce. Google Analytics is one such program that allows you to see the number of bounces. (Here is quick tutorial explaining how to set up Google Analytics for your site.)

There are a number of factors that contribute to a high bounce rate. For one, visitors might leave your site without navigating around if the site has design or usability issues. Alternatively, users might leave your site after viewing a single page if they find the information they need and therefore have no need (or interest) in going to other pages.

All the following ways of leaving your site constitute a bounce:

  • Hitting the back button
  • Typing in a different URL
  • Closing the window or tab
  • Clicking on an external link

There’s not a way to lower your bounce rate that will be 100 percent effective for all websites. That’s why over the course of this blog series, I’ll give you a number of suggestions that you can apply to individual pages on your site. Then you can monitor any changes and apply other ideas depending on your results.

How does bounce rate relate to your online revenue?

You want your users to stay and interact with your site. The more engaged your users are, the more likely they are to buy your product, sign up for your email list, contact you for more information or simply return to your site in the future. In other words, a lower bounce rate means more conversions. Conversely, the higher your bounce rate, the less engaging your site and the fewer conversions you’ll get.

Many sites require visitors to navigate through multiple pages before they can check out, purchase or subscribe. In that case, a bounce means a lost customer.

Some sites make money by selling ads; therefore, bounces are bad for revenue as page views per visitor (along with RPV, revenue per visitor) is a very important stat for advertisers.

Bottom line: Bounce rate can show you areas of opportunity for increasing your online revenue—and where you might be falling short.

What is the average bounce rate?

Most websites have bounce rates somewhere between 26 percent and 70 percent.

As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26–40 percent is excellent. 41–55 percent is roughly average. 56–70 percent is higher than average, but may not be a cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for every kind of website outside of blogs, news, events, etc.

A bounce rate below 20 percent or over 90 percent is usually a bad sign. Why would a low bounce rate be bad? A low bounce rate hints at a problem with your analytics setup. On the other hand, a super high bounce rate indicates a problem with your website. (The only times I’ve seen those ranges have been on sites with broken analytics programs.)

For the most part, bounce rate is an indicator of how well your site is performing. A site that has a high bounce rate will normally generate little revenue, as it is offering a poor user experience.

There is an exception to this rule. Websites that solve problems or answer questions (think Yahoo Answers) are clearly going to have a ridiculously high bounce rate: People come to the page, get the answer they were looking for, and leave. Also, single-page websites have no other pages to navigate to, so naturally they’ll have a high bounce rate even if they serve visitors well.

How do you find your bounce rate?

Finally, let’s learn how to measure bounce rate for your website.

This is where your analytics come in. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up for your site, it’s high time to get that done and start collecting your bounce rate stats. Here’s a great guide for getting started with Google Analytics.

A basic analytics report will give you the site’s overall bounce rate, with options to dig deeper and find out the bounce rates for individual pages. In Google Analytics, you’ll find all this by going to Content > Site Content > Pages.

Bounce Rate in GA

Last 6 months bounce rate on my personal blog vitaliypodoba.com

Now that you know how to find your bounce rate, you’ll be able to regularly monitor it in order to see how your site is performing. When your bounce rate starts climbing, you’ll know it’s time to make some changes.

What you should do now

All of the above is good to know, but I want to leave you with a checklist of things you can do right now to improve your website. That’s why at the end of every lesson you’ll find this “What you should do now” section with short tasks you can apply to your website.

What you should do now:

  • Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on every page of your site. (If you have a WordPress site, you can use the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin.)
  • Check your overall bounce rate and compare it with bounce rates in your industry.
  • Find out which page on your site has the highest bounce rate and list possible reasons: Are visitors finding what they need then leaving? Is your site difficult to navigate?

When you’ve done these steps, I invite you to post a comment below. If you’re not sure whether your bounce rate is good or bad, tell me your numbers and I’ll tell you what they mean. And feel free to ask me any other questions you have about bounce rate.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to avoid getting the “wrong” kind of traffic to your website, which can increase your bounce rate. Stay tuned!