What’s the Big Deal About Bounce Rates, Anyway?

Nov 21, 2022

Traditional thought regarding bounce rates is that they sound the alarm when a website isn’t working, whether as the result of irrelevant content or confusing functionality, or some other reason for low engagement.

Defined as any session in which a user visits one page and then leaves your site without clicking through to a different page, bounce rates are intended to alert you when your intended audience quits and heads elsewhere.

But it’s not quite so straightforward.

A high bounce rate, though showing that visitors have left your site, is not always a bad thing, necessarily. And the urgency behind a high bounce rate hinges on several factors, not the least of which are your industry and what goals you have for your website.

Consider the following scenarios that could result in a high bounce rate:

  • E-commerce sites: When shoppers visit an online store, a retailer’s goal is for them to click on a product, add it to their cart, fill out the payment information, and click through to a “Thank You for Your Order” message. That’s at least four pages to navigate, if not more. A high bounce rate in this situation would be a bad thing because it would indicate that someone jumped ship before browsing, even.
  • One-page websites: Sites that offer a “thank you” or confirmation message after forms are filled out without redirecting a user to a new page are not giving customers anywhere to go. This ultimately results in a high bounce rate unless specific tracking measures are set up in advance.
  • Phone calls: Urging site visitors to give you a call? If a user places that call from a mobile device or jots the number down and leaves your site, a bounce will result.

All are different scenarios, but only one – the one that depends on making a sale right there and then – truly indicates a site that isn’t performing well.

Particularly if you’re using landing pages, a high bounce rate may be a good thing. If your page has been set up properly for conversions, and goal completions are high, chances are good that your visitors or customers simply found what they needed, converted, and then left to watch Netflix or run errands.

The bottom line is that your landing page forms could be prompting the right people to take the proper conversion actions, while still triggering a bounce. But the conversion is why you want them there in the first place! That’s why we don’t always view a high bounce rate as a bad thing. In fact, we tend to find the metric a bit useless.

It seems Google may be aware of the confusion surrounding this metric, as well. Because next year, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is slated to do away with the bounce rate, entirely, replacing it instead with what they call “engagement rate.”

The engagement rate counts the percentage of visitors who were on your site for more than 10 seconds, looked at more than one page, or took conversion actions such as calling or filling out a form. It’s the inverse or opposite of the bounce rate and is anticipated to be a much less subjective form of evaluating your site’s efficacy.

Until the GA4 engagement rate is implemented, it will be wise to keep an eye on your site’s bounce rate, but equally essential to consider all factors and company goals while doing so. The most important aspect of any website is that your customers find what they need, when they need it, and are quick to come back again as a result. A high bounce rate does not necessarily indicate that they haven’t – or won’t.

In short, don’t let bounce rates bewilder you. While the metric can be helpful in certain situations, it can also paint a misleading picture. If you have questions about your site’s effectiveness, IMPACT Marketing has answers, and can also help you create a web page that converts.

IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, LLC

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