Bounce Rate Bouncers

It seems to me that organizations grade both their web site performance, and their analysts performance, based upon the bounce rate of their web site. How did this single metric become so overwhelmingly the primary indicator of a site’s performance? The biggest problem I see with this metric is that without putting it into context, it is often misinterpreted. Most folks assume if the bounce rate is high – their site is performing badly, and if it’s low their site is performing great. However bounce rates are not a good measure of site performance because it really ignores a lot of what other things are happening on your site.

Let me back up a moment – what exactly is “bounce rate”. Simply speaking, it is the % of visitors to your site that visit only one page and then “bounce” out (exit).

Now with a site like mine – a blog – I expect a high bounce rate. Most people just come to the front page of this blog (like you, dear reader), read the most current entries, and then exit. I don’t expect a lot of folks to go clicking around to other sections of my site. I’m thrilled that some do, but that is not the nature of a blog.

If you take a site like Google, you would expect it’s home page to have a very low bounce rate – people come to the Google page for a reason (most often to search, perhaps to login to their accounts, or browse into some of the other Google content categories). However the point is that you wouldn’t expect most folks that go to google.com, to immediately exit the site without going somewhere else within the Google site first.

So you can see with just these 2 examples how radically different bounce rates should work for each site. For my site a high bounce rate isn’t bad at all – it’s expected. A low bounce rate isn’t bad either, but doubtful I’ll ever get one unless I add a lot more content and pages to this site. For Google a high bounce rate on their home page would indicate a problem and in that case it may be a useful metric. Many sites these days are adding blogs to their sites, and with blogs comes increased bounce rates. If your site has a blog (or blogs), but the blog(s) are not the primary part of your ste, and you are noticing a high bounce rate I wouldn’t panic. First I’d check and see what the bounce rate is for the blog, compared to the bounce rate of the site without the blog. Does the rest of your site also have a high bounce rate (above 40-50%) on average? If so this cound warrant further investigation. If not, then don’t panic – it’s the blog that’s driving up your site’s bounce rate.

I also recommend not relying solely on bounce rate when reporting site performance, in fact you may wish to leave it out entirely. If your client really insists on having bounce rate as one of their metrics, make sure you put it into context and provide additional metrics to support that context.

Happy Bouncing!

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