Bounce rate is one of the metrics that is often quoted as a broad metrics to help just how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a website is. Usually, it is insinuated that a high bounce rate is bad and a low one is good. But as with many things, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.
What is bounce rate?
According to Google, bounce rate is “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page)”.
This is the briefest definition but not necessary the clearest, so for more on what bounce rate is and how it is calculated, see what is bounce rate?
What is a high bounce rate?
Generally speaking, a bounce rate between 40% and 60% or so is fairly average. A bounce rate of 30% to 40% would be ‘quite low’ and 60% to 70% ‘fairly high’. Anything less than 30% or higher than 70% be ‘very low’ and ‘very high’, respectively.
If you have a bounce rate for a whole website, section of a website or a single page that is less than 30% or higher than 70% you would expect there to be a clear reason why. It could be anything from something bring broken to the page immediately sending visitors off to another website.
I must point out the addition of ‘generally speaking’ at the beginning of this section. As we’re about to discuss, sweeping statements like ‘over 70% bounce rate is bad’ will never work across the board.
Is a high bounce rate bad?
A high bounce rate is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s ok, sometimes it’s even good. It completely depends on the purpose of the page you’re looking at.
Let’s look at some examples.
When is a high bounce rate good?
There are some situations where a high bounce rate could be considered good or a positive sign;
- A page immediately directs visitors to a different website
- A page provides a short, simple answer to a question
- A page provides a fact or figure to quote or check
A high bounce rate in these situations would suggest that visitors are following the link you wanted them to follow (to the different website), have easily found the answer to their question or the fact they were looking for. In fact, a low bounce rate on pages like this could be a sign that your visitors aren’t doing what you want them to.
When is a high bounce rate ok?
There are some situations where a high bounce rate is ok. It’s not necessary good or bad, just ok;
- A page is getting irrelevant traffic (with no associated negative effects)
- A page has been bookmarked to be read later
These situations aren’t necessarily good or bad but they’re fine. For example, you have a page on your website that you’re required to have, information about a business partner organisation, and it’s gaining traffic from searches of their business name. It’s likely that visitors will visit your page, see it’s just a page about your partnership, and they leave immediately. You’re not expecting and wanting to get any organic traffic from this page, so you’re not missing out on anything. This would cause a high bounce rate but it’s not necessarily a good or bad sign.
When is a high bounce rate bad?
There are some situations where a high bounce rate is bad;
- A page immediately directs visitors to another page on the same website
- You want your visitors to follow a journey or browse
- You’re receiving irrelevant traffic (instead of related traffic you are after)
- Someone lands on your website and the formatting is broken or design is so horrible that they leave immediately
- Your tracking code is implemented incorrectly
There are situations where a high bounce rate can be indicative of a problem. If the key aim of a page is to immediately get a visitor to move to another page on the same website or interact with the page in some way, like watching a video or making a purchase, then a high bounce rate would suggest that your visitors aren’t doing this.
As we’ve already seen, a high bounce rate could suggest that you’re receiving irrelevant traffic. Sometimes this is fine (as discussed previously) but sometimes this irrelevant traffic could be due to an issue with phrasing.
For example, you run animal petting zoos across the UK with a fine pack of friendly llamas. You found a high number of searches in search engines in the UK for the phrase ‘Can you ride a llama?’. As a result of this, you write a blog targeting that phrase. You want to answer the question and encourage visitors to find their closest llama petting zoo.
You expect that some visitors will come to the page, read the answer and leave. This could explain a high bounce rate. If your bounce rate is very high, though, this could warrant further investigation.
A quick Google of ‘Can you ride a llama?’ shows the following search results:
It’s clear to see that the second and third organic listing are both related to the game Minecraft, rather than you physical act of riding a llama. If you see your blog appearing among these results, it’s likely that some of your visitors are not llama enthusiasts at all, but looking for information about a computer game.
This could be ok, you might still be getting some relevant traffic through from people actually wanting information about llamas.
You might, however, do better to rephrase or change your blog or consider dual meanings like this in the future. Your search volume figures for ‘Can you ride a llama’ might be grossly inflated. A bit of research into related phrases such as ‘Can you ride llamas in the UK’, ‘What are llamas used for?’ or ‘History of llama domestication’ might bring up titles that are more likely to attract the types of visitors you intended.
If your bounce rate is very high (70%) then I’d be looking at the possibility of an issue with your website. This could be incorrect implementation of tracking codes, broken functionality or poor design.