More On High Bounce Rates

Since I wrote about watching your website with Google Analytics and monitoring your bounce rate there have been a few questions from readers and customers that I felt I needed to address.

First, Google Analytics gives you an overall website bounce rate as well as a bounce rate by page. The higher the number the less relevant your page content is to your readers’ search queries and for that matter to your main website theme.

What causes a high bounce rate?

There are a few factors that can bump up your bounce rate. They are:

  • Your site is attracting the wrong type of readers
  • Your site is not user friendly and needs improved navigation
  • Your website has a long page load time and visitors are not waiting and leaving
  • You may be driving poorly targeted pay per click traffic to your website

I’ve see a few instances recently where there is great informational content on a site, but the content is driving up the site’s overall bounce rate. I can think of an example on my own website. I provide how-to’s as a courtesy on Outlook, email signatures, and other questions and topics from my newsletters over the years that clients have repeatedly asked for help with. Although this content is not about my services or even what I provide, it is archived on my site. I frequently point clients to pages of this informational content when they ask for how to fix a computer or email issue. As a result, these pages have been widely linked to around the web, and they drive traffic to my site. However, they typically have a very high bounce rate as the readers are not interested in my services just the information or how to. This could be a good reason for a high bounce rate.

If Google starts penalizing me for this content, these pages will be the very first I will delete. You may have similar types of pages on your site. Now, if you don’t have pages like this, and all your pages are about your own services, then a careful review of my list above may help you to isolate the issue causing your own high bounce rate.

If it makes sense to your business, you want to lower your bounce rate when possible but without hurting your overall traffic or reason you have content in place. Think carefully about your own situation and what your needs are for traffic before you start deleting files or dropping content blocks. You want to build on the things you do right not screw things up for yourself.


Your Bounce Rate on Google Analytics

This past month if you are sharing your website statistical data with Google Analytics, they emailed you a very interesting aggregate report on bounce rates. Here is an executive snapshot:


Traffic Sources

Pages / Visit

Bounce Rate

Avg Time on Site

Direct 4.0
Referral 5.0

What is very interesting is the industry average of typical bounce rates in the report. If your site has a bounce rate higher than these, it is definitely time to review your website content or at least evaluate if you may have a potential problem to address.

Another interesting trend noted was the time on a typical website and bounce rate has decreased for websites on the average this past year.

“Compared to a year ago, websites have seen reduced pages / visit, average time on site, as well as bounce rate.”

11/1/09 – 2/1/10

11/1/10 – 2/1/11


Pages/Visit 4.9 4.5 -0.4
48.2% 47.0% -1.2%
Time on Site
5:49 5:23 -0:26

If your site is not stacking up to these global aggregate averages it may be time to adjust your message, review the informational value that you provide to readers, and change your focus of being self centric to user centric in your content. In some cases you may have a high bounce rate that you do not need to be concerned with based on the pages involved. For example, I have some informational white papers on my website that have high bounce rates. These pages are really built to generate links and draw in traffic. The people that come to visit may never be interested in my services, but I still like having the information and helpful content there for readers for a big picture.

Some of you may be asking why should I care about bounce rate?

Well first the bounce rate is the percentage of readers that hit your page and then surf off immediately; meaning they did not find what they were looking for on your website. If you have a high bounce rate for cost per click advertising it means keywords need to be immediately reviewed and some potentially dropped. If you are not using pay per click but rather your bounce rate is high for organic searches it may be that you should rework content with new keywords that are more specific to the services that you are offering instead of general terms. Check first to see what pages are involved first don’t just start changing things.

What I personally found interesting was that we finally have some benchmarks to compare sites to for evaluation of health as industry averages. I am going to check out my website stats right now to see how I personally stack up, how about you?