A website owner's guide to Google Analytics bounce rates

Most businesses tend to pay lip service to their Google Analytics reports, scanning the top level figures such as the number of sessions per month, page views, pages per session, average duration, percentage of new sessions and bounce rate. Whilst all of these figures are important the one that seems to cause the greatest angst tends to be bounce rate as a high bounce rate is seen to be a bad thing and that’s not always the case.

So what is bounce rate? Well here’s Google’s own interpretation:

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).

Or in layman’s terms, someone visits a web page and leaves that page without interacting or clicking through to any other pages.

There are no industry standards that dictate what the general bounce rate should be and all websites are different but for your main web pages, the lower the better and that’s one of the issues of looking at the general, top level results. This figure shows the average bounce rate of all pages on your site, so some will have a higher bounce rate than other.

Is a high bounce rate an issue?

Well it can be but some pages will naturally have a high bounce rate that can skew the total average figure e.g.

  • Blog posts, where a visitor will read the blog and leave
  • Contact page, where the visitor will find the information they need, then leave
  • The About Page, where the visitor will find out what they want about your business and then leave

So if your blog posts are popular and pull in a lot of traffic it can affect your overall bounce rate. You can find out if these pages are popular by visiting your Google Analytics report, clicking >Behaviour > Site Content >All Pages.

However, a high bounce rate on your key pages can indicate a problem that needs to be looked at and can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Issues with the implementation of Google Analytics tracking code
  • Design or usability issues
  • The content of those pages doesn’t match up with the search terms or links that bring visitors to your site
  • You have a single page site and Google Analytics won’t register multiple pageviews unless users reload that page
  • You have a high level of visitors who use Microsoft edge as their browser of choice as this ships with Do Not Track enabled as a default
  • A number of users visit one page on your site, leave their browser open for +30 minutes and this defaults to a “bounce” in Google Analytics

In summary

It’s good practice to check your Google Analytics report on a regular basis where you will be able get a high level overview of web traffic. You’ll also be able to dig deeper into the report to see the trend of individual bounce rates on all pages of your site and if it appears high or there is a spike in the results then further investigation should be carried out.