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Web Analytics 101 - Bounce Rate

Web Analytics 101 - Bounce Rate

At Focus we are believers in keeping things simple - so over the course of a few blog articles I'm going to try and apply that approach to an area of digital marketing that can by it's nature get a bit complex - that being web site analytics.

The information you can gain from software such as Google Analytics (other analytics platforms are available!) can overwhelm - so we're going to pick a few more of the important KPIs and have a bit more of a delve and look at them - including their meaning and usefulness. (For the purposes of these articles I'm going to be referring to Google Analytics - or GA - as it's the most widely used analytics software and we happen to use it at Focus).

We start off with Bounce Rate - generally defined as the percentage of visitors who came to a page on your web site, viewed a single page, and then left - either to go to another site or by closing the browser. Bounce Rate (BR) is an important KPI that people get very excited about - especially when it's high, as this indicates lots of people are hitting your site and leaving straight away.

But is that a bad thing? It might not be - we'll explain more later.

Firstly, back to Google Analytics - which provides an overall bounce rate as part of it's 'Content' overview. But remember this will be for the whole web site, and for that reason, the overall BR isn't the most useful of stats. Instead it's best to focus on bounce rates for individual sections and pages - which is available in the list of pages seen at:
Content -> Site Content -> Pages.

To improve the accuracy of this list we also need to remove statistical anomolies that can skew the numbers (general good practice if you remember back to GCSE Maths). To do this, apply an Advanced Filter in Google Analytics to exclude these outliers - we tend to only include pages where the bounce rate is more than 10% and less than 95%.

Graphic showing Advanced Filters in Google Analytics

(See above 'advanced' surrounded in red - clicking this will allow you to apply a filter, of the type shown in green.)

Google Analytics also allows you to view bounce rates for different visitor types - by adding a Secondary Dimension. For example: if we add a Secondary Dimension of 'Visitor Type' we obtain seperate bounce rates for New and Returning visitors - this can give an insight into how engaging your web site is to different audiences.

There are other Secondary Dimensions - such as Keyword, Campaign and Landing Page - that are derived from your Google AdWord marketing activities. When applied correctly we now obtain bounce rates for individual pay per click (PPC) campaigns running from your AdWords account - this data is gold dust when looking at how successful paid-for campaigns have been (and where changes needs to be made).

So once you've got your bounce rate, how do you know if it's any good? When should the alarm bells start ringing? Whilst there are some general rules (see later), you need to bear in mind that bounce rates will vary between sites and use cases. At Focus we've built quite a few online directories for local authorities - and organisations listed in these directories tend to have high search engine rankings for specific key terms (such as their names). In this case, a user might want some contact information for an organisation - and having done a keyword search in an engine such as Google, they see the details they need in our Directory and leave the site having the information they require. In this instance - a high bounce rate, but the site has fulfilled the needs of the user.

eCommerce sites are a different story - generally we want users to convert, that is, land on a product page, move deeper into the site, use the basket and checkout. So high bounce rates on eCommerce sites are of poor value to the business and these pages need to be reviewed as priority.

Remember what was said before - look at the bounce rates of individual sections of your site rather than the site as a whole. If you are a charity, an overall bounce rate of 65% for the whole site will probably cause panic. What's more important though is to look at bounce rates for sections such as the donation facility - if 65% of users are leaving that section after one page, there's clearly some usability issues that need looking at. Taking each section at a time - with the most important sections addressed first - will help provide structure and reassurance, rather than trying to tackle the whole picture head-on.

Back to those rules then, and these are to be taken as general guides only:

  • bounce rates of 60% or over: take a snapshot, review your content as soon as you can and start planning some changes.
  • bounce rates of 25% to 60%: are generally the average, these should make up the majority of your report.
  • bounce rates below 25%: great, but don't ignore them. Make sure these pages are working really hard as clearly they are engaging the user, so ensure you include promotional news, or offers, or target them to really drive that 'call to action' and web site conversion.

Where you feel that your bounce rate is a bit scary, you'll want to consider making some changes:

  • review your content, is it out of date or innaccurate, does it engage the user? See our article on writing good content for the web, which is aimed at charities but has guidelines for all.
  • look at web site usability, is it obvious enough to the user where to go next? Does the site layout and navigation inhibit users from getting further into your site, and completing the desired 'call to action'? This is particularly crucial for landing pages used as part of PPC campaigns - literally money can be being poured away through poor design.
  • check how quickly your pages load, nothing whacks up the bounce rate like a slow loading web site.

It's also worth noting that Google Analytics allows you to check the bounce rate from mobile devices. If you've got a high bounce rate from iPhones, Androids etc the key reason could be users are hitting your 'non mobile' web site. With more and more people using their phones and tablets to view the web, having a site that's 'mobile-usable' is more important than ever.

So for starters, that's a whole lot of bouncing. We hope you've found the information above interesting and useful (well, about as interesting as stats can be....)

If you've got any questions then do get in touch, and we'll be publishing more web analytics blogs in the near future, so keep an eye out for more hints, tips and advice.

Simon Newing
Simon

Created on Thursday June 27 2013 08:25 AM


Tags: google ux usability analytics101


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