Driving targeted traffic to your web site is one of the most important goals of web marketing. But what if you are getting lots of traffic and not seeing much business from it? How do you know if your content is connecting? One place to look is the bounce rate in Google Analytics.
In the screenshot below – taken of a Landing Pages report – you’ll see the bounce rate listed in the far right column. The box at the top shows the rate for the site as a whole, the rates in the table are for each of the pages listed. So what does it mean? Of all the visitors who first entered the site on the home page (signified by /), 57.88% only visited that one page and then left the site entirely.
Many site owners get a shock when they see these numbers, and then fall into a deep depression, not wanting to come out from under the covers for days and days. It’s not all that bad, though, really. It’s just the way the web works: people click. I consider bounce rates in the 45-60% range “average.” Anything lower is good, anything higher is not so good, and if your bounce rates reach up into the 90% range, then Houston, we have a problem.
Let’s look a little more closely at how bounce rates can help you make your site better. First it’s important to understand the context in which you are viewing them. Here are three areas where you can get useful information by looking at bounce rates.
- Traffic Sources
- Landing Pages
Bounce Rates for Traffic Sources
This is a great way to see how effectively different sources drive targeted traffic. Search engines will usually have higher bounce rates since many people search on many different terms, not all of which are highly targeted, and searchers love the back button. But if you are buying PPC ads, the bounce rate is a key metric. You don’t want to be paying for visitors who land, shrug, and bail. Look at bounce rates under Traffic Sources to see how well links from other sites perform. If another site is referring traffic to you and shows a low bounce rate, that’s a relationship you want to cultivate. Maybe you paid for a link or an ad on another site. If the bounce rates for that referral site are high, you may not want to renew.
Bounce Rates for Keywords
Bounce rates for keywords don’t give you as much actionable information but can provide a useful window on how visitors use your site. Take a look at the Traffic Sources > Search > Organic report and review the bounce rates of your keywords. If you see a phrase that is highly relevant to your site but has a high bounce rate, take a look at the page(s) searchers landed on when googling that keyword. [Click on the keyword phrase, then use the pulldown menu for Secondary Dimension > Traffic Sources > Landing Page.] Maybe that landing page doesn’t provide the kind of information searchers for that phrase would like. A little editing can make your landing page more productive.
Bounce Rates for Landing Pages
If you are producing content designed to attract targeted traffic (and you are, aren’t you!), then you should check the bounce rates of your key landing pages. If you created an article about “sea shell marketing” to promote your sea shell marketing services and the page has an 80+% bounce rate, you are probably not getting the intended results from that page. Take a look at the keywords used to reach that page. Hopefully, you’ll see “sea shell marketing.” If the page is targeted to a relevant keyword phrase, and that phrase is being used to find your content, but the page has a high bounce rate, something has gone awry.
And here’s where we come to the catch about bounce rates. They can be a red flag alerting you to a problem, but they don’t tell you why there’s a problem. In some cases a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing. The visitor lands on a page, finds your phone number and calls you. The landing page is a rich informational page and the visitor spent quite a bit of time and got what they wanted. But in most cases, it’s best to look at pages with high bounce rates and ask what you can do to improve them. This could be optimizing them more narrowly around a particular keyword phrase, providing links to other relevant content on your site, or changing the design focus of the page so that relevant keyword phrases stand out visually (because skimmers are everywhere). Take a good hard look at your landing pages: are they the best they can be? Your bounce rates may be telling you something.