Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Understanding and Utilizing Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is typically an underutilized tool in the web analytics world.  It is traditionally used as a quantitative measure.  However, as you come understand how a bounce rate is calculated and the factors that play into this calculation, you can begin to utilize the bounce rate in a qualitative manner.

A bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who enter a website then promptly leave without engaging with the site.  This is calculated by dividing the number of visits for one page only by the total entries to the page.  A high bounce rate indicates the material on the web page is either irrelevant to the user or it is difficult to find the desired information.  Google recommends a bounce rate between 40 and 60 per cent.

It is important to understand the factors that affect the bounce rate.  First, there are five situations that count toward a bounce rate.  A visitor is considered to have “bounced” from a website if he/she 1) Clicks the back arrow, 2) closes the browser, 3) times out of a session, 4) clicks on a link that takes him/her to another site, and 5) types in a new URL.  If a user immediately clicks the back arrow or closes the browser, these are fairly clear indications the page wasn’t relevant to him/her.  However, there are other factors to consider with the remaining three situations.

A blog is likely to have a high bounce rate because posts are often listed in a long stream on the landing page.  Therefore, a user enters the site, reads the latest blog posts then moves on to another site.  This user, based on the rules outlined above, is considered to have bounced, even though he/she was involved in the site.  In another case, if you design your website with contact information, such as a phone number or email, on the landing page, you risk a higher bounce rate.  This is because the user can read through the main page then immediately pick up the phone or click on the email address to make contact.  Note that clicking on an email address will open a message window, which is not part of the site, therefore it does not count toward engaging in the site.  Once he has made contact, he has accomplished what he came to the site to do so he can leave without clicking into the site.  This would also be considered a bounce.  Another note, if there is a subdomain link on the webpage, clicking it will also increase your bounce rate. 

Many of these factors can be solved by changing the layout of the website.  It is essentially to have a visually pleasing layout that guides the eye through the material.  It is also essential to ensure the material in the website is relevant for the intended audience.  Other ways to improve your bounce rate include getting rid of popup ads, working on improving the ranking of your website, reducing external links, and building a clear navigation path through your website.  Overall, the more you understand the factors affecting your bounce rate, the better you can utilize the bounce rate to improve your website and user experience.