My Bounce Rate Is Too High — Interpreting Bounce Rate for Websites
The bounce rate for websites is one of the most popular and misunderstood Google Analytics metrics to measure site health
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
The bounce rate for websites is one of the most popular, and misunderstood¹ Google Analytics metrics to measure site health.
Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions a page of your website has where the viewer doesn’t perform any action on the page.
This can also be applied to blog posts, for the duration of the article we’ll say page. However, a page is static, evergreen content, whereas a blog post is often more dynamic, easier to update, and you create new posts regularly.
When it’s high, site managers worry about the quality of their site, and the impact the rate will have on their SEO. It’s true you should try to keep your bounce rate low, but as it turns out, sometimes there’s less to worry about than you think.
What High Bounce Rate Means
A high bounce rate isn’t always bad. You shouldn’t ignore it, but when you first look into it, you’ll discover two things the bounce rate could immediately indicate²:
- Your pages are low quality.
- Your reader found what they were looking for, and left, meaning your page was of decent quality or better.
This might be a rather annoying set of bullet points to read when you’re diagnosing a metric because it looks like a high bounce rate could be a sign of a good or a bad webpage.
And that is very much the case. You can’t use bounce rate on its own to figure out what’s going on with your website.
Because context is everything when it comes to bounce rate, you’ll have to take a look at a few extra things to figure out how successful or unsuccessful your site is.
What Makes a Page Low Quality?
The most obvious thing to think about when a page is low quality is the writing. However, pages can be well written and still have high bounce rates.
Your problem isn’t necessarily that you have a high bounce rate, your problem is when you have a high bounce rate because your site is low quality. Here are some things to look for that can make your page count as low quality³:
- The purpose of your page is for the reader to do something else on the site, but people leave without interacting. For example, if you have a landing page, you want the reader to choose content to look at. If your landing page has a high bounce rate, you have a problem because your page doesn’t work as intended. If you want the reader to do something else and they don’t do it, but they still stay on your site, that would be a win for bounce rate, but not necessarily your goal.
- The page wasn’t found. This is also bad for SEO.
- The page includes broken links to other content. Same as above, this is bad for SEO.
- The page loads too slowly. Nobody likes slow loading webpages, and neither does Google. An easy thing to check is the use of GIFs, images, and embedded videos. Make sure they load quickly and aren’t too big.
- Bad content. The content has clickbaity titles, misleading information, or it seems like it’s more about doing well with SEO than informing you of something.
- It’s not a responsive design. Google likes sites that display well on computers and on mobile devices. If your site doesn’t look good on mobile as well as the web, this would cause a problem.
- It’s ugly or difficult to look at. It’s hard to navigate. If your site is difficult to use or read you will have a high bounce rate.
- The page is poorly written. The content isn’t informative, or it’s misleading. It might have bad grammar, be difficult to read, or too short. It could be badly formatted.
If you spot these problems on your website, then worry about your bounce rate.
Keep in mind these are basics to get you started. Determining whether a page is of low quality can get much more detailed and complex. In the beginning, this list is all you’ll need to start improving if you have an issue.
How Do I Know if My Pages Are High Quality?
To find out if you have high-quality pages, you often need to consider bounce rate alongside other metrics such as where your traffic comes from and the intended purpose of a particular page.
Let’s cover some content quality basics that you should check that you have, and then get into the context specifics.
Your page is high quality if:
- It’s easy to read, informative, and answers your reader’s questions.
- It does what you intended it to do. If it’s a landing page, it makes people click through. If it’s a tutorial, the reader learns what they needed to learn.
- It loads quickly. You’ve optimized your images, GIFs, and embedded content.
- It’s on a site with an attractive layout.
- The site uses a responsive design. Google prefers sites that are web and mobile-friendly.
- It provides clear calls to action to guide the reader towards what you want them to do. It might be clicking to sign up for something. It might be downloading an ebook. Whatever it is, it’s clearly stated, and it’s easy to do.
Now, what about specific types of pages? What do you do when you have a tutorial or a blog post for example? This is where you add other metrics to determine quality.
Metrics for Blog Posts and Tutorials
Check traffic to your blog posts and tutorials. Typically, traffic that heads straight to these pages of your site will increase your overall bounce rate.
Why? Because people get what they needed from the blog post or tutorial and go. To check that you have good blog posts and tutorials, you can examine two things: where Traffic comes from, and time on the page.
If you have a lot of direct traffic where people go straight to a specific page, this behavior is a sign that they have the page bookmarked, or they remember the page and type it in.
If a lot of traffic arrives on a page this way, it suggests the page is routinely being used for reference. The high bounce rate isn’t an issue here, because the user is collecting the information they wanted, and getting on with their work.
If you have long view times on a page, this means people are reading the content. They might be going through everything, or trying out the tutorial you’ve provided.
If they leave after this, bounce rate again isn’t an issue, the page is doing what it’s supposed to do.
If you want more details about how users interact with your pages, you can add a tool like Hotjar, Crazy Egg, Mouseflow, or others. These tools show you where people click on your content alongside details like whether they scrolled to the bottom of the page or not.
High Bounce Rate Due to Misconfiguration
If you have a bounce rate that reaches 90-100% across a lot of the site, there is a chance you have Google Analytics misconfigured.
Lowering Bounce Rate
Just because you don’t need to worry about a high bounce rate for blog posts and tutorials, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still strive to improve. Experiment with ways to improve and optimize your existing content. Experiment with rewrites.
This work helps you create higher quality content over time. In general, bounce rate can be improved, even for blog posts and tutorials by adding things like:
- Occasional pop-ups inviting the user to do something on your website — (like sign up or exchange contact information in exchange for a useful guide).
- Calls to action — you can add calls to action on your blogs and tutorials.
- You may also like sections — make it easier for your users to continue reading similar useful content.
- Embedded videos — if they’re relevant, if the viewer clicks on the video and watches it on your page, it lowers your bounce rate and increases time on site.
What to Avoid
Avoid taking the easy way out and using hacks to force artificial interactions. And avoid completely explaining away the high bounce rate. Your gshould be a continuous improvement for all aspects of your website, but without freaking out over your bounce rate.
For reference, here are some average bounce rates:
- Blogs — 70–90% bounce rate
- Content sites — 40–60% bounce rate
- Service sites — 10–30% bounce rate
Blogs you’ve seen everywhere, this is dynamic, regularly updated content that provides news, instructions or entertainment for readers. It’s used to inform, establish a brand, and engage readers.
Content sites might offer similar information to blogs, but the content is static. It’s designed to establish authority by explaining everything about a particular topic in detail.
Service sites describe a product or professional service being offered. A website might have all of these content types included, and sometimes they may overlap. You will need to take time to determine what the pages on your site are doing, and which category suits them best.
Developer Advocate and Comedian