What is Bounce Rate?

What is bounce rate, and why is it important? This article explains how bounce rates work, and looks at typical bounce rates for different types of site.

Bouncing ballWeb analytics tools such as Google Analytics can give you a lot of insight into how your website is performing.

A key metric that's useful for any type of website is bounce rate. This figure can tell you whether your visitors are finding what they want when they arrive at your site, and whether they're interested enough in your content to explore your site further.

Bounce rate is particularly useful for e-commerce sites, since it measures how well your visitors are engaging with your site, and hence how likely they are to buy your products.

In this article you find out what bounce rate is and how it's measured. You also look at why bounce rates are important to your site, and how to tell if your bounce rate is too high.

What is bounce rate?

The bounce rate measures the number of people who arrive at your site, then leave your site after viewing just one page (instead of going on to explore other pages on the site). Such a visit is called a bounce.

To calculate a website's bounce rate for a given period, you divide the number of bounces by the total number of site visits during the period, and multiply by 100. For example, say your site gets 1,000 visits in a 24-hour period, of which 300 are bounces. Your site's bounce rate is therefore (300 ÷ 1,000 × 100 ) = 30%.

You can also calculate bounce rate on a per-page basis. For example, if 1,000 visitors enter your site on a particular page and 300 of those visitors leave without viewing any other pages, then that page's bounce rate is 30%.

Why is bounce rate important?

A bounce usually means that the visitor arrived on your site, took one look at the page they landed on, decided it wasn't right for them, and left. Therefore, your site's bounce rate can give you a good idea of whether your visitors are engaging with your site. As a general rule:

  • A low bounce rate indicates that the site is attracting the right kind of audience, and that visitors are exploring the site's content.
  • A high bounce rate suggests that visitors aren't finding what they're looking for when they arrive on the site, and are going back to their search engine to find something else.

If you run an online store, for example, then a high bounce rate is cause for concern, since visitors aren't moving through the sales process. Similarly, if your site's aim is to funnel visitors to your newsletter sign-up page and get them to subscribe then a high bounce rate indicates that the site isn't doing its job properly, or that you're attracting the wrong kind of visitor to your site.

However, a high bounce rate isn't always a bad thing. For example, if your site mainly contains information such as articles — our own www.elated.com site is a good example — then your bounce rate will naturally be quite high. This is because visitors tend to search for a specific topic, find your article page, read it, and then, because they've got what they needed, leave your site (ideally by clicking an ad or visiting a sponsor).

Likewise, if the goal of your site is to get visitors to call your sales line, then a high bounce rate is OK provided that your visitors do end up calling your sales number.

That said, it's nearly always worthwhile trying to lower your site's bounce rate and engage your visitors more. For example, you might want a visitor to leave a comment on an article, or to sign up for your newsletter.

What is a "good" bounce rate?

So what is an acceptable bounce rate? As you've probably guessed from the above, it's hard to say, as it varies wildly from site to site and market to market.

As a general rule, if you're running a site that expects visitors to engage with it — such as an online store — then your bounce rate should probably fall in the 20-50% range. On the other hand, if your visitors' goals can be accomplished with a single page view — such as reading an article, or finding a contact phone number to call you — then you can expect a higher bounce rate, in the region of 60-70%.

Summary

In this article you've explored the concept of bounce rates. You've learned:

  • How to calculate bounce rate for your whole site, and for individual entry pages
  • Why bounce rate is an important indicator of your site's performance, and
  • What is considered an acceptable bounce rate for different types of sites.

In my next bounce rate articles I show how to measure different bounce rates for your site in Google Analytics, and reveal some ways to reduce your bounce rates. Have fun!

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Responses to this article

7 responses (oldest first):

15-Dec-09 05:52
Thanks. This is one of the best articles on the topic I've read in recent times. Looking forward to the second part.
15-Dec-09 16:39
Thanks mauco. Should have the next article in the next week or so!
25-Dec-09 06:13
bounce rate is a measurement of site's usage..
if bounce rate is say suppose 100% then it is bad for site
if it tends to be closer to zero then it is good for site.
25-Dec-09 17:25
Why is 100% bounce rate "bad"?

What if you runs a search site, or a lead generating site, or a MFA site?

For these sites a "bounce rate" of upto 100% is to be expected and is absolutely normal. I would expect Google's "bounce rate" is well over 90%.

Bounce rate is subjective and totally dependant of the type of site that it is being measured for this metric.
25-Dec-09 23:54
@chrishirst: Great post. I agree with the point you've made about bounce rate being subjective and dependent on the site/page being measured.

I noticed this on a site that had a landing page that required visitors to sign up for a particular service. Though it had a high bounce rate, the page still fulfilled its purpose because once you landed on it, you had one of 2 choices either sign-up or leave. So for those that signed up, the page had fulfilled it purpose and the owners of the site were pleased.
20-Feb-10 12:30
Thanks for the helpful explanation.

We have a “personality” website we post to daily, mostly for fun and to keep our humor writing, cartooning, and photo skills in shape. Topics range across the spectrum of whatever we found interesting that day. Still, it’s interesting to see what topics and medium were most compelling. And no surprise, looking at bounce rate shows that topics that are part of a thematic thread or are completely unique to our site have the lowest bounce rate.

For instance, I crocheted a hat last week in honor of Alexandre Bilodeau’s Olympic gold medal for Canada and blogged on it, titling it “In Honor of Gold, I’m Making A Bobbled Bilodeau.” Three days later, we posted “Bobbled Bilodeau Update,” and guess what? A bounce rate of zero.

BTW, as an ex-teacher, I love that you add the "summary of what you've learned" section at the end.

Ciao, Kathy
20-Feb-10 15:50
Hi Kathy, welcome to Elated.

What you say is very true: Several linked pages that follow a consistent theme will often have a low bounce rate, since visitors will tend to read more than one page.

Bounce rates really can vary wildly from page to page, depending on the type of content, the way the page is linked to, and so on.

Thanks for your kind words regarding the summaries. I've started adding summaries to articles recently and I think it really does help the learning process!

Cheers,
Matt

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