Defining Bounce Rate — And What It Says About Your Website

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Of all the quantifiable statistics that describe the tick and tock of a website’s operations, bounce rate is among the most severely misunderstood. Let’s condense it to an unmistakable soundbite:

A bounce rate measures how many visitors to your site register only a single tracked interaction.

When someone loads your page and immediately exits, this is a textbook example of a “bounce.”

It’s a common metric tracked by Google Analytics, Omniture, Chartbeat, and dozens of other analytics packages. It has nothing to do with paid conversions or repeat visitors, but is a statistic that tracks user engagement by answering the question: “What percentage of visitors are sticking around for more content after initially arriving at your site?” When a visitor interacts with your site a second time after his or her arrival, they are no longer considered a bounce.

Re-Defining Your Bounce Rate

As with everything, there is some gray area. Most analytics packages will count a “session” as 30 minutes. A visitor could hypothetically load your page, close it, and then load it again within 30 minutes. Because this all occurs within the timeframe of one session, this user is not contributing to your bounce rate. If they load a page, do nothing for 29 minutes, then click a link to go to another page, it’s the same situation.

In order to more meaningfully reflect the engagement of your on-site visitors, you may want to tweak your analytics package to register certain user behavior “events” on a single page as a non-bounce. If a user visits a page and clicks a “Share to Facebook” link, or watches several videos within a single player, this might technically be considered a bounce depending on how you’ve configured your analytics.

But these visits may also be valuable to you, especially if video views or social shares are strategic focuses for your organization. You can add analytics code to your share buttons and video players that will register such visits appropriately, not counting them as a bounce.

Looking Beyond Bounce Rate

Making these small tweaks will reduce your bounce rate, which is great news for anyone in media production. At the same time, it establishes a new baseline for you to optimize against.

More important than optimizing your bounce rate, however, is to optimize against other key performance indicators (KPIs) that more accurately measure your site’s overall performance. For example, you may want your visitors to load more pages per session, or to convert to paying customers or sign up for a newsletter. We’ll be getting into these and other indicators in greater detail over the weeks to come.

For example, you may want your visitors to load more pages per session, or to convert to paying customers or sign up for a newsletter. We’ll be getting into these and other indicators in greater detail over the weeks to come.

Would you be so kind as to click another link on this page? Any one will do.

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