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Category: Analytics

What is Bounce Rate? Avoid Common Pitfalls

February 12, 2012

Bounce Rate doesn’t lie, but it can definitely DECEIVE you!

Did you know that a high bounce rate isn’t always bad? This post will help you better understand bounce rate and avoid common analysis mistakes.

Read on to understand;

  • the difference between bounce rate and exit rate,
  • that context matters when it comes to bounce rate,
  • and how bounce rate can cause you to make bad decisions.

What is bounce rate?

Avinash KaushikThe definition of bounce rate is the percentage of people who arrive on your site and leave without visiting a second page. More importantly, Bounce Rate was designed to tell you if you have the right audience coming to your pages and if you are meeting their expectations.

Or as Google analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik frankly sums it up from the user’s perspective, “I Came, I Puked, I Left.”

What is Exit Rate?Goal funnel visualization to identify step where people are exiting

To fully understand bounce rate, it is important to understand the difference between bounce rate and exit rate.

Bounce rate applies to a visit entry/landing page (i.e. the first page a person visits) and exit rate applies to the page a visit exits/leaves on. More specifically, think of exit rate as a way to identify where people are exiting mid-stream from your conversion funnel.

If most visits exit/leave at step 3 of 5, (as shown in the checkout goal funnel visualization (on the right) where the weak link is the billing information page), then you can identify that something is likely wrong with this specific step. Now you know where to start your optimization efforts.

Keep in mind that we do expect high exit rates on the final step pages such as step 5 of 5 in a checkout funnel. This doesn’t mean it can’t be and shouldn’t be reduced, but it is not a critical concern.

Now let’s get back to bounce rate…

Bounce Rate Scenarios

These four visitor actions will be identified as a bounce from your site and typically signal that the visitor’s expectations were unmet.

  1. Clicks the back button (most common)
  2. Closes the browser (window/tab)
  3. Types a new URL
  4. Does nothing (session times out after 30min)

Be aware that there are two common tracking issues that will improperly inflate your bounce rate that you need to be aware of to ensure your data is more reliable.

Clicked an external link

There are times when a visit is identified as a bounce but it isn’t necessarily negative. For example, during a visit a user clicks on a link that brings the user to an external site (this could be a partner link that you actually want people to go to or it could be another one of your own domains). One of the most common scenarios we see, is an account login that requires secure authentication and is on a separate domain. This definitely shouldn’t be counted as a bounce.

To better identify this, we recommend tracking outbound links and ensuring that you are properly tracking traffic across your various domains. Note that in Google Analytics, you can choose to have an outbound link that is tracked as event be an interaction or non-interaction event. This choice will determine whether or not a link click affects bounce rate.

Improper Analytics Tracking Configuration

If your site is improperly tagged with tracking code, you may be looking at inaccurate bounce rates. For example, if landing page X has different tracking code settings than page Y and a visitor moves from X to Y, the result will be that page X (and possibly even Y) will have an inaccurate bounce rate. The session is killed between these pages and will be incorrectly reported as a bounce. If you aren’t sure that your tracking is correct, get it audited by an expert analytics consultant.

What is a good/average bounce rate?

It depends. The average website bounce rate is 40% (source: Google). But this is completely meaningless, because what constitutes a good bounce rate varies by:

  • industry
  • brand credibility
  • type of site
  • type of page
  • step in the funnel (where the page is in the site)
  • stage of the customer lifecycle
  • user intent
  • and many other potential factors.

But I digress and would like to give you some high level bounce rate examples for your reference.

Google Analytics Benchmark Averages for Bounce Rate

  • 40-60% Content websites
  • 30-50% Lead generation sites
  • 70-98% Blogs
  • 20-40% Retail sites
  • 10-30% Service sites
  • 70-90% Landing pages

When is a High Bounce Rate Acceptable?

When the visitor has a POSITIVE EXPERIENCE! There are many visitor interactions that are often undervalued and ultimately lead to desired conversions in either the short or long-term. This is hard to gauge when you are new to web analytics. I have shared some examples of acceptable high bounce rates below that should accelerate your ability to identify other examples.

Acceptable examples of pages with high bounce rates:

Don’t think we don’t believe in reducing bounce rates everywhere. Just know that you must prioritize your efforts. You shouldn’t prioritize one of these example pages over top landing pages in your conversion funnel that have high bounce rates.

  • Contact us – This is a common and accepted page to have a high bounce rate because the visitor just wanted to access basic information such as phone, email or address. (Bonus Tip#1: For retailers, restaurants and other localized services, we want Mobile users to easily get location info, but if you want to offer a targeted offer that reduces bounce rates and improves tracking go for it. The key is to not lose focus of their intent, situational needs and potential bandwidth limitations.)
  • Checkout – The checkout pages are not desired landing pages and thus entry traffic to these pages is often low, but the corresponding bounce rate will be high. This is not a concern.
  • Customer support pages – This is a tough generalization because it depends on the quality of the support forum, but we often see high bounce rates on quality support sites. This is usually a good thing because the visitor answered their question and don’t need to call customer support. (Bonus Tip #2: Instead of assuming that people are calling you from a specific page, setup integrated analytics call tracking like Marchex or Mongoose Metrics. Here is an interesting article on analytics integrated call tracking.)
  • Blog articles – On a high traffic blog that uses CPM Ad Monetization to make money with a high returning visitor rate, an 89% bounce rate or higher is acceptable and expected. The blog offers an interesting article and the visitor leaves after getting value from the article. Of course, we would like to keep the visitor on the site but at least we understand that an 89% bounce rate is not a critical issue in this scenario.

Not all visitors are ready to commit

Remember that your purpose is to serve the customer and every visit doesn’t need to generate a lead or transaction.

Marketers should embrace this and understand that customers have many interactions with a company which should be seen in a positive light, even when the business doesn’t see immediate direct value. These touches support the visitor’s needs throughout the complete customer lifecycle and lead to desired goals and most importantly, acquisition, retention and brand affinity.

Further, these visits can be tracked and measured with engagement goals that take into account and demonstrate the value of frequency, recency, loyalty and etc. Better yet, attribution modeling can demonstrate how these early stage visits lead to transactional conversions.

How do you determine when bounce rate is bad?

Do you know how to determine a good or bad bounce rate? Are you sure?

After being an analyst for many years, I can tell you that I misinterpreted bounce in my early days and I run across many people who don’t spend enough time in analytics tools to know how to accurately interpret this metric. The primary reason is context.

For example, you might see a high bounce rate on a high traffic page and rush to the judgment that it is performing poorly and needs to be improved. When in fact everything is fine.

How can this be, you ask? I have provided a case study below of a bounce rate that would be easy to misinterpret on the content/pages report.

Avoid this Common Bounce Rate Pitfall

Did you know that a 100% bounce rate isn’t always bad? This could mean that only 1 person bounced from your page while thousands funneled through the page and had a great experience.

When bounce rate is being analyzed in the ‘Pages’ report, you need to be aware that bounce rate loses important context because it lacks the entrances metric. Instead, leverage the ‘Landing Pages’ report to view the bounce rate relative to the number of entrances.

Better yet, build yourself a custom report that shows the number of bounces in addition to the bounce rate as well as other metrics that are important to you.

When will a bounce rate deceive you?

Consider this case study on bounce rate deception. You see a high bounce rate on the content ‘Pages’ report.

The bounce rate is 63% and only 13% of visits exit on this page. Considering that this page is not a primary entry point and is a supporting tertiary shopping funnel page, we are more concerned with people exiting at this point versus bouncing. And approximately 1 out of 10 people exiting, is actually great on this high commitment page.

Pages Report showing page with High Bounce Rate
Pages Report showing page with High Bounce Rate

Cross-Reference with Landing Pages Report

Let’s cross-reference the bounce rate with the number of visits who entered on this example page. As described below, we calculate that only ~2% of total pageviews for this page bounced! That doesn’t sound near as bad as 63% does it?!

Landing Pages Report showing High Bounce
Landing Pages Report showing High Bounce

Bounce rate analysis details:

The bounce rate only applies to visit entrances which was a total of 229. 63% of 229 is only 144 visits out of the total 8,634 pageviews.

Again, this is the equivalent of only 1.7% of total pageviews that actually bounced.

Most people incorrectly assume that it is 63% of 8,634 (5439) pageviews, which would be a major concern. This is roughly a 37x difference in the assumed severity of the issue.

(Note: entrances are similar to pageviews but be aware that this technically isn’t an apples to apples metric analysis.)

Final Tip on Bounce rate – Segment!

Keep in mind that user expectations and intent varies based on many factors. To avoid bounce rate from deceiving you, we highly recommend segmenting your data. In aggregate, the bounce rate can look good or bad, but be just the opposite or be hiding substantial problems.

Here are a few segmentation examples to consider that can help you better evaluate your site and marketing performance.

  • Location – If your company is a local business serving San Francisco, you should expect a high bounce rate from outside of California. If you are a local business, definitely segment your traffic to understand how traffic is performing within your local area and avoid it being skewed by irrelevant visits.
  • Device – A desktop user, tablet user and a mobile user often have different intent. For example, we expect more people to bounce on a mobile device than a desktop/tablet user, because mobile users are often looking for specific info like an answer to a question versus casually browsing or shopping. Keep in mind that bounce rates are higher on sites that don’t provide a mobile optimized site experience such as responsive design.
  • New vs Returning – A returning visitor has different intent than does a new visitor. It is common for new visitors to have a higher bounce rate than returning visitors since they are less familiar with your brand. You should segment your traffic to optimize individually for new visitors and returning visitors.
  • Medium – People coming to your site from the many possible mediums such as website referral, email, social, direct, organic, paid, display, offline, pr, and etc have different expectations set and will often have substantially different bounce rates. Segment by medium and you will likely be shocked to see how the bounce rates vary.

Want more tips on segmentation and how to setup segments? Check out this post: Don’t be misled by averages – Use advanced segments

Any more questions about bounce rate or exit rate?

If so, leave a comment. If nothing else, we hope this post will prevent you from being fooled by the bounce rate on the ‘Pages’ report.

In case you didn’t get enough on bounce rate and exit rate check out these related posts:

Make it a great day!

  • Great Post

  • Corinna

    What a thoughtful and concise article – a pleasure to read, and I am seriously thinking about hiring you guys!

  • Awesome. Glad you enjoyed the bounce rate article, Corinna and Jaipur. 

  • I also thought this was a great post.  Excellent analysis providing a lot of context to the way people should understand bounce rate.  +1 Kayden.  🙂

  • Thanks Yehoshua! I am honored to have such kind comments from the Analytics Ninja. 

  •  Bounce rates have always confused me but after looking at this article and analytics average benchmark rates, I’ve been able to clear many doubts. Thanks for providing such a useful resource.

  • Ralf Haberich

    Bounce Rate is not always evil, sometimes even good: 

  • This is a great post with some very useful information. I’ll start looking at the exit rates on funnel pages. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this wonderful post. I’m a new webmaster and this helped me understand better what bounce rate means. Keep it up Kayden! 🙂

  • Craig

    I have a high bounce rate on my home page but we are a cab firm with the telephone number on the home page so according to this blog this is acceptable and I now understand thanks a lot

    • Wow, you’re totally right. I never would’ve thought about bounce rate like that before but in your circumstance it sounds like many of those are just direct-converting into money in your pocket which is great!

    • You could always track mobile click-to-call on that number or use a special tracking number on your site to confirm that this is the case!

  • Adeyemi Adisa

    Great post, well thought out and really helpful!

  • @cd254c96c15cd875249a51254da6f7a3:disqus Yes, a bounce is an exit as well and factors into that calculated percentage. Here’s a good help article that gives a scenario that explains it well:

  • can you tell me exit rate really effects on conversion rate?

  • Raheel

    Thank you so much, Kayden. You relieved most of my frustration about the metrics of my blogs. Keep smiling like you do in your pic! 😉

  • aria khrisna

    I have a blog with
    9.92% bounce rate. so does this mean people like it.

  • Thanks Kayden! This was really helpful. I’m just starting to care about this stuff, and it’s pretty confusing.

  • Very helpful! Thank you!

  • I have a bounce rate of 4.9% on one post, then a 90% rate on a post I wrote 2 days later. the more controversial & edgy-the lower rthe rtate I found. Anybody else get this?

  • Larry Wolf

    great article! Very insightful and it gave me new perspective on bounce rate analysis!

  • Really helpful information about bounce rates, especially the insight into cross referencing page views/visits to get the real bounce rate for a page.

  • Great article Kayden. Really does an excellent job explaining bounce rate and how to interpret it.

    I thought it worth mentioning to your readers that bounce rate is one of many metrics Google uses to determine who ranks on top. Google wants measurable confirmation that your page has satisfied visitors. So it’s a good reason to review your bounce rates and, more importantly, ensure you’re interpreting them correctly.

  • Awesome Kayden post on very useful topic on Google Bounce Rate!!!

  • Tristan Haskins

    Read, bookmarked, shared and re-read. What more acclaim could I give to this article. Cheers Kayden.

  • rajdeep bose

    Bounce rate applies to a visit entry/landing page (i.e. the
    first page a person visits) and exit rate applies to the page a visit
    exits/leaves on. More specifically,
    think of exit rate as a way to identify where people are exiting mid-stream
    from your conversion funnel.

  • Abhiram Pathak

    Awesome information dear, I like it. All information is really attractive. Its help to decrease the bounce rate of a web site. Thanks for your valuable information.

  • Career Sidekick

    Super helpful article. I came cause my blog was getting 90% bounce rates. This helped me understand the situation a lot better though rather than panicking and over-reacting.

  • Dattatray Walunj

    Great post. Thanks Kayden.

  • Jonny Niche

    Bounce rate being high because they are clicking AdSense is the best reason.

  • Raudzah

    Good article. Very Clear explanation on Bounce rate with great example…

  • Dipanmoy Roy

    Liked it 🙂 Understood Exit rate properly and especially liked the Bounce rate analysis

  • This is an excellent article and truly reassuring. I was getting very worried by my bounce rate as it is in the 83-85% bracket but it has, up to now, been primarily a blog. When I look at the figures that you provide in your post, I can see that those figures are not out of line for a blog. From this month, I will be adding my store so I will expect to see those figures start to drop.

  • Guest

    Very Good Article You Have Very Much Described Each & Everything I Really That About Landing Pages And Ya I Always Check My Landing Page Bounce Rate If It More Then 20% Then I Will Surely Take Action About Recently One Of My Affiliate Marketing Bounce Rate Was 70% Then I Took Action It Bye Reducing Page Speed & Done Image Optimization

    Thanks Again
    It’s Very Nice Article
    Have A Great Day

  • One Word: Fabulous Kayden!

  • Enjoyed the post. It helped me understand how to better interpret my new websites stats in a way that isn’t misleading and gives great color on exit rates and and where along the funnel your perspective clients are leaving.

  • Mira L

    Great post! Thanks!

  • Thank you so much for provide kind of information.

  • Big Boy Travel

    This is great and reassuring! I have been getting over 5000 people a day on my travel blog with a bounce rate of 70%. My length of visit and % of returning visitors are quite good, but I always worried a little about the high bounce rate. This article looked at the data in a way I was just missing before, thanks!

  • Muthuraj

    Informative. The way it is explained is really awesome.

  • Michiko

    I work as a programmatic trader and this article is something I use to educate newbies on site interaction. great stuff!

  • Thanks for clear explanation. I was worried about high bounce rate on my website. Now i know why.

  • Seo service

    Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who arrive on your site
    but leave without bothering to visit the second page. For example,
    let’s say you’re looking at your Organic Traffic. You follow the row
    across and see that Google is delivering a 75% percent Bounce rate. This
    simply means that 75% percent of people coming from Google to your site
    are visiting just one page (probably the landing page only) and leaving
    almost immediately.

  • John Allred

    Good Read, Nice and brief and almost covering all important information regarding Bounce rate, I appreciate your writing. Thanks.

  • Jenna Cheng

    Thanks Kayden, this article is very helpful! Do you know if it’s possible to track which pages led to bounce rates? We are trying to understand what causes bounce rates.

  • Cherchali Maria

    Great Article, however, How to tell to Google that the high bounce rate of my web site is good, or how to specify that my web site is kind of yellow pages, Contact us or a dictionary ?
    Thank You In Advance 🙂

  • Seo service

    Bounce Rate – It
    represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave the site
    rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

    Exit rate – It is the percentage of
    visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific
    page, after possibly having visited any other pages on the site. The visitors
    just exited on that specific page

  • how to catch more fish and turn it into dinner

  • Jocelyn Fry

    Very helpful. Thank you.

  • Vitor Bellote

    Nice reading! Thanks a lot for helping us!

  • Shady Hassan

    Is there a relation between bounce rate and page views

  • Excellent post Kayden! I know that clients often get frustrated with me when my answer to this bounce rate question is always “it depends”. I think this post perfectly summarizes how dangerous it is to isolate bounce rate (or any given metric) as a measure of success, and how to best utilize bounce rate within the funnel and understand the scenario that may be occurring.

  • Rik

    I have had a 100 percent bounce rate and 0 second duration since August. I know this is incorrect as I have been on the site myself and gone to every page. I have done this more than once but it has never registered this activity on analytics.
    I asked our website host to check the site for a problem but they couldn’t find a problem. From the article it looks to me like a tracking code problem! Our bounce rate used to be about 70 percent before August. Any suggestions where to go next with this

    • Keep in mind that your activity could be filtered out in your analytics. But it sounds like you have a tracking issue. I recommend you have someone review your analytics tracking to determine if there is a misconfiguration.

  • Are there average statitsitics for drop off rates in bheaviour flows? Like what is normal?

    • Behavior flows are typically highly unique and dependent on industry and specific site/app design. Once you have identified your segmented behavior flows you can compare them to each other, compare them over time, and possibly leverage heuristic evaluations to determine if the drop off rates across the flow are within reason or likely worse than expected. Unfortunately no easy answer and requires a trained consultant to help you optimize your flow or funnel per segmented behaviors.

  • Rik

    I still haven’t got to the bottom of this yet. Before August visitors either bounced or visited 2 or more pages. We haven’t changed the site or any settings but the bounce rate has gone from70% to100% overnight. BT host our website and their Search Marketing team are looking into it for me. We have a Adwords account and some of these bounced hits are from the ads which doesn’t make sense as the landing pages are relevant to the ads. If I visit a website that is relevant to my search I will usually look at another page even if all the info I need is on the landing page. I know some of the bounces will be visitors who just get your telephone number and then leave the site. I will post and let you know the outcome once the problem is resolved.

  • Siddharth Vitthaldas

    I am having a hard time understanding the statement “100% bounce rate isn’t always bad? This could mean that only 1 person bounced from your page while thousands funneled through the page and had a great experience.”

    Shouldn’t the bounce rate be low in this case? Ideally i calculate bounce rate as
    Bounce Rate = no. of people bounced / no. of people visited.

    Please correct me if i am wrong.

    • This post was written to help people realize that the bounce rate can be very misleading. For example, 1000 people could have browsed to a page from somewhere else on the site, while only 1 landed on the page from a Google search. If this one person bounces, then the bounce rate would be 100%. Many people would be alarmed by this when it really isn’t a concern. Hope this helps.

  • Alaina Peterson

    Hi, I have a question, bounce rate of my website is 2-3% is it bad or what?

    • Hello Alaina,

      Low bounce rates can be good or bad, it really depends on the content and purpose of your site. If you have a blog site, bounce rate may be high because readers come into your site from some link to the article, they land, they read and they leave. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This situation may require implementing some scroll tracking and other methods of finding out what the user is doing while on the site, are they really reading the article or just dropping out?

      A bounce rate of 2-3% seems too good to be true. But again, it depends on the site. If you have some sort of portal page on your homepage where the user is forced to click on something to continue, this will generate a false bounce rate for the site since technically, they have to click and load a second page in order to actually see the site. Since bounce is defined as a single visit with only one hit, the second page they are forced to load will disqualify them from being a bounce.

      Such a low bounce rate could indicate faulty tracking as well. Perhaps you’re tracking clicks on the home page as interaction clicks. In some cases this may make sense but in most cases you may want non-interaction events so as not to disturb your bounce rate. Example would be firing impression tracking. Your page loads and it displays several products. You use enhanced ecommerce for tracking impressions but you still need to send a hit to push the data through. Your page should send all the ecommerce impression data with the pageview, but perhaps there’s a delay in displaying the products due to personalization, so you’re forced to use an event instead. Then your page will fire a pageview and some time after, fires an event. This event should be set to non-interaction since the user did not trigger anything. Having the event as interaction would cause every user to be a non-bounce visitor even if they don’t do anything on that page after it loads.

      • Alaina Peterson

        Hi Olaf,

        Thanks very much for your reply, I have understood your point by my website is product base related to automated testing services I am getting good visits to my website, but their is no conversion also the bounce rate is only 3 percent. Moreover, I have set filter to exclude internal traffic. Is it possible to have such a low bounce rate?

        • Hello Alaina,

          Well, like Kayden says, it depends! However 3% seems like something is wrong. It may be code related or perhaps filter related. I would suggest having someone perform and audit on your implementation to find out exactly what is going on.

  • I added external link tracking code from the site

    My bounce rate fell from around 73% to 61%. Any reasons for this ?

    • Something like this requires more of an “Audit” to find the real problem. I don’t know what their code looks like and most likely would not review it to troubleshoot – instead I would just give us our code – many things can go wrong and you have to spend time troubleshooting. HOWEVER, one thing that immediately comes to mind. If you have a site and you have no tracking on the home page for exit links but you have a prominent exit link. Then the people who land there and click on the exit link will be “bouncing”. The moment you attach tracking to that click, as long as it’s considered an interaction hit, then when the users click on the link, they fire off a “second” interaction, first being loading the page for the pageview, and thus end up being excluded from Bounces.

      A bounce is a single interaction session. User comes in and has 1 interaction hit ( pageview or event ). Then the session times out and no other hits were triggered.

      Clicking on the exit link would remove a user from being counted as a “bounce”, but not ALL users will click so your bounce rate only drops a bit –

  • Fazal ur Rehman

    Bonus tips were great

  • Jacobi Seymour

    Never knew there were so much to know about bounce rate. Excellent article Sir!.

  • What is the difference between lead generation sites and landing pages? And if say someone lands on page A, and he clicks on an internal link to page B (still within my website). Does it consider as a bounce?

  • Scott Holzrichter

    From what I read here, another way of juxtaposing bounce rate and exit rate would be to say that if the bounce rate is 100%, the exit rate for the landing page would also be 100%, and the exit rate for all the other pages, if any, would have to be zero percent.

    • @scottholzrichter:disqus You can have multiple landing pages that each have a 100% bounce rate and 100% exit rate. The percentage is calculated at the page-level. GA defines Exit Rate as (number of exits) / (number of pageviews). GA defines Bounce Rate as percentage of single page sessions where there were no interaction events. I hope that helps clarify.

      • Scott Holzrichter

        Thank you for your follow-up. I think that you effectively affirmed my comment by taking its hypothetical one step further in noting that any page directly accessible could be a landing page (not just the titular home page) and would have a 100% exit rate if it had a 100% bounce rate. I carelessly omitted noting my hypothetical was predicated on a website accessed only at a single home page. Thanks again.

  • It is a wonderful data you offered to us I really enjoy by reading your article.

  • you have explained bounce rate very well. thanks for sharing with us

  • nice post.. its interesting thanks

  • Nice article

  • Naman Modi

    This post is so packed with great stuff, that I had to make a note to come back later. I’m going to tackle a bunch of these. Some I already have, but perhaps not in the smartest way after reading this article. Thanks.

  • jefrin adams

    Great post to read keep on posting

  • I really like all the points you made. I learn something totally new and challenging.

  • Nice Post

Kayden Kelly
About the Author

Kayden is the founder and CEO of Blast Analytics & Marketing. He leads overall strategy and execution in positioning Blast as a leading analytics and digital marketing consulting company. An industry trailblazer who stays ahead of trends and opportunities, Kayden has spent nearly two decades building his expertise in all areas, with a deep focus on analytics, search engine optimization, and user experience. He is an evangelist for “the customer,” helping clients create sustainable competitive advantage by developing, optimizing, distributing, and connecting valuable content to customer needs. Connect with Kayden on LinkedIn. Kayden Kelly has written on the Web Analytics Blog.

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