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Why is my bounce rate so high?

Posted by Blaine Peakall in google analytics

Google defines bounce rate as:

“The percentage of visits in which users view only a single page of your site”

Using the new 2014 Google Analytics terminology this should be updated to:

“The percentage of sessions in which users view only a single page of your site”

Actually this definition isn’t 100% accurate as you can read at the excellent Analytics Ninja blog – but for the vast majority of us it’s an easy to understand definition of the metric.

But why is my bounce rate so high?

Of course “high” is a relative metric. Is 40% too high a bounce rate? 60%, 70%? At what rate do you start to worry and at what rate do you really panic? Does bounce rate vary by sector or type of website?

Even though Google Analytics provides an incredible breadth and depth of data, your site’s bounce rate is displayed on the main overview page. It’s one of the top 7 metrics on your standard dashboard and you are left in no doubt that Google considers this an important metric.

High Bounce Rate in Google Analytics

5 steps to analyse a high bounce rate

First drill-down a level to analyse the high bounce rate. Has something changed? Is the high bounce rate linked to a recent event, limited to a specific acquisition channel, to a particular page or to a particular type of device. Secondly it is important to look at the bounce rate in the context of other website engagement metrics.

1. Has the bounce rate increased recently?

Look back at previous periods in Google Analytics or use the Google Analytics graph. Has the bounce rate increased or has it stayed at a consistent level?

Bounce rate over a period

2. Is the high bounce rate linked to a specific acquisition channel?

Use the Google Analytics Acquisition Overview and Acquisition Channels view to identify whether the high bounce rate is limited to one or two of your channels. Often the Paid Search bounce rate is higher than other channels.

High Bounce Rate by Channel

3. Is the high bounce rate linked to a specific landing page?

A landing page is the page on your site where a visitor first arrives. If you see a significant difference between bounce rates on different landing pages this could highlight an issue specific to that page. Use Google Analytics -> Behaviour -> Site Content -> Landing Pages to analyse.

High Bounce Rate by Landing Page

4. Is the high bounce rate linked to a specific device category?

Many sites have higher bounce rates for sessions from mobile devices. Use the Google Analytics Audience -> Mobile -> Overview to analyse.

High Bounce Rate by Device Category

5. Bounce rate in the context of other website engagement metrics

Bounce rate should be considered in the context of the overall level of engagement the site has with visitors. Check the average number of page views per session and check the average session duration. Personally I like to filter out the bounce sessions and analyse the average engagement metrics of those sessions that didn’t bounce. If you have decent page views and time on site for the non-bounce sessions then you know that some people are finding your content interesting/useful.

Google Analytics has a built-in segment called ‘Non-Bounce Sessions’ to make this analysis easy.

Google Analytics Segment Non-Bounce Sessions

5 potential reasons for a high bounce rate

Once you’ve analysed whether the high bounce rate affects the website as a whole or is limited to specific areas you can consider potential reasons and explanations. To do this your need to step into the shoes of the website visitor and consider their experience.

1. The “Not Relevant” visitor

According to Internet World Stats there are 2.4 billion internet users around the globe. However wonderful you believe your website is you need to accept that your website is not going to be interesting or relevant to everyone! Think of your own web experience – how many times have you clicked the back button to return to the search results after finding yourself at a non-relevant site? Your back button click has just increased another site owner’s bounce rate.

High bounce rate from Organic Search?
Unfortunately Google now provides very little information relating to what people searched for that led them to visit your site. In Google Analytics go to Acquisition -> Campaigns -> Keywords -> Organic and see the keywords that are shown (if any). Do the keywords reflect what your business is about? If you’ve linked your Google Webmaster Tools account to Google Analytics you can get more search information in Acquisition -> Search Engine Optimisation -> Queries

High bounce rate from Paid Search?
This is more common and easier to diagnose as Google currently provides full details of the searches that led to a click on your advert. Look in Acquisition -> Campaigns -> Keywords -> Paid and then select ‘Matched Search Query’ as your primary dimension. Do these searches look relevant to your site? Are you happy paying for visitors who typed in these searches to visit your site? Check the bounce rates by search query. Lots of non-relevant search queries? Check out our 5 ways to stop wasting money on Google AdWords post.

Google Analytics Matched Search Query

2. The “Frustrated” visitor

The visitor is interested in your site but they are immediately frustrated with layout, navigation or selection issues that make it hard for them to work out what to do. Is your site navigation easy to understand? Do you offer a search facility? Does your page have a clear call to action?

Unless you have a very compelling proposition a frustrated visitor will seldom invest time and effort in struggling their way around your site to find the information they are seeking.

High bounce rate from Paid Search?
Check you are sending your visitors to the correct landing page. If someone has clicked on ad they expect to arrive at the relevant page on your site. Send them to the home page, the wrong page, a 404 not found page and you can expect to see a high bounce rate.

High bounce rate from Mobile devices?
Check your site on various mobile devices. Does it render correctly? Is it possible to use the navigation on a small screen? Consider using a responsive design for your website.

3.  The “Annoyed” visitor

Technical issues are a bounce rate killer. Slow loading times, browser rendering issues, Flash content, pop-ups, page errors and warnings are all obvious reasons for people to be annoyed with your site and reach for the back button.

Use the Google Analytics -> Behaviour -> Site Speed analysis to see if you’ve got issues with slow loading times.

Google Analytics Site Speed

4. The “Uncomfortable” visitor

First impressions count. Does the visitor feel comfortable with your site? The sort of feeling I get if visit a high-end clothes retailer – the “I don’t belong here” factor. Of course this also works the other way – are your visitors uncomfortable with the lack of quality or trust signals in your site design?

5. The “Informed” visitor

Not every bounce is a negative. Not every bounce can be analysed as a site failure. Many visitors arrive at the page on your site that holds exactly the information they were seeking. What is it you expect them to do next? For online retailers I call this the “buy or bounce” decision. This can be particularly noticeable for Paid Search campaigns which take the visitor directly to your product detail page. If you’ve got the page content right – pricing, proposition, delivery, availability, trust – there really is nowhere else for the visitor to go – they either “buy or bounce”.

Remember – Contact Us pages often have high bounce rates. If the visitor was simply seeking contact detail, arrives at your contact page then they are an informed visitor and will commonly bounce.

Do investigate but don’t take it personally

No one likes to feel rejected. Many hours of time, effort and investment is poured in to creating a website and updating website content – all with the aim of being viewed and read by website visitors. A “bounce” can feel like a personal rejection of the efforts of those updating and managing the website. A high bounce rate can lead to a feeling of frustration and thoughts of “why do I bother?”. I encourage you to stick with it, follow the guidance above to analyse the bounce rate and review whether the 5 reasons for a high bounce rate could be impacting your site.

A final thought…for online retailers

Are you an online retailer with high bounce rates? Remember there is little or no concept of “window shopping” on the web. A visitor to your site who bounces is akin to someone peering in the window of your shop. If you were running a traditional high street store what % of your window shoppers will open the door and come in? Naturally you would be delighted to see everyone looking in from outside to open the door and come in but this is unlikely to be the case. Make your shop window as attractive and relevant as possible, ensure you avoid the pitfalls described above, but don’t panic about high bounce rates!



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