Bounce rate is a measure of the number of people who arrive at a page on your website and leave again without visiting any other pages: instead of ‘sticking’ to your website, they ‘bounce’ off it.
You’ll see it in website analytics platforms as an absolute number, a percentage, or both. But what does it mean for your website, your content and your SEO campaigns?
In this guide, we’ll look in more detail at what bounce rate represents, put some figures on what is a ‘good’ bounce rate, and discuss the implications of your bounce rate for your SEO efforts.
What is Bounce Rate?
As we’ve mentioned already, bounce rate is when somebody visits a single page on your website and then leaves.
In many cases, this might be because they arrived at a specific page on your site from their search results, the page didn’t give them what they needed, so they clicked ‘back’ in their browser and went to find a different search result instead.
That’s not the only possibility though. They may have found all the information they needed on the one page, and didn’t need to visit any other pages on your site. Or their browser may have crashed before they clicked on to another page.
It’s important to think of bounce rate in a wider context. Just because somebody only visits one page on your site, it doesn’t necessarily mean their visit wasn’t valuable to you.
Equally, a very low bounce rate could actually be an indication of a technical problem, as it implies an unusually large percentage of your visitors are viewing multiple pages on your site.
This is why it’s useful to know what a ‘good’ bounce rate is, so that you can investigate any outliers in your website analytics data.
What is a ‘good’ bounce rate?
Always think of your bounce rate in the context of your website. For example, if your SEO strategy is to publish comprehensive one-page guides on a variety of non-related subjects, a higher bounce rate might not be a problem.
In contrast, if you rely on visitors following a funnel through to a specific contact page or checkout page, you might want to target the lowest possible bounce rate.
Bounce rates will vary from site to site, so the values below should be considered little more than as a guide:
- 0-25% is so low as to be suspicious that something might be broken
- 25-50% is about ‘average’
- 50-75% is a little high but might be OK depending on your content
- 75-100% is very high and you should consider taking action
Different parts of your website hierarchy might have a significantly different bounce rate, e.g. you might want a higher percentage of visitors to your homepage to click through to another page, so it’s good to check bounce rate at page-level, not just site-level.
Bounce rate and dwell time
Another metric to consider alongside your bounce rate is your page dwell time. This gives you an indication of how long people spend on each page.
If pages have a higher bounce rate but people are spending a long time on the page, you might still be getting good value out of them.
Equally, if a page has an unusually short dwell time and a low bounce rate, it suggests that visitors very quickly click off it onto another page on your site, and that could be an indication that the page content is low-value and needs improving.
Like all website analytics, bounce rate and dwell time are means to an end. The important thing is that visitors to your website are placing orders, contacting you, or completing some other goal that you have set.
Because of this, your conversion rates and (for eCommerce sites) average order value should always guide your SEO activities, rather than just reducing bounce rate or increasing dwell time for the sake of it.
What factors impact a bounce rate?
There are lots of different reasons why your bounce rate might be high. These range from technical problems to poor page content.
Here are some bounce rate factors to watch out for:
Long dwell time
As mentioned above, longer dwell time (or longer total session duration) is an indication that visitors are getting a lot of information from one page. Even with a relatively high bounce rate, this can still be a valuable visit and a sign that your SEO efforts are working.
If pages take a long time to load, visitors may get bored and go elsewhere. This can appear in your bounce rate or, in extreme circumstances, might not even get logged if your analytics tool did not have a chance to load.
Other than taking an age to load, make sure your pages display correctly on different operating systems and commonly used devices. Missing content, blank pages and problems displaying on mobile screens can all make it impossible for visitors to stay on your site.
Look out for the following common technical problems causing high bounce rates:
- Broken analytics trackers (check for updated code and that the tracker is collecting data at all)
- Poor mobile-friendly design (sites should be mobile responsive or at least display well on small screens)
- Restricted content (if the page is behind a paywall, login screen or some other kind of gateway, most visitors might bounce back)
There are lots of different potential technical problems, and not all of them are mistakes – for example, a paywall or a filter to prevent access by users who use adblockers could both be deliberate ways to prevent unwelcome visitors.
Again, always think about the wider context of the page and whether a high bounce rate is an inevitable and welcome result of how the page is configured.
Poor user experience (UX)
Poor UX can occur if your page has lots of pop-ups, bandwidth-sapping ads, or very high-resolution media assets that must load in full. Try to streamline your content so even if you need to display ads to drive revenues, it’s not at the cost of loading the page overall.
Misleading titles and snippets
Large numbers of people leaving your page soon after arriving might be a sign that its appearance in search results does not match what visitors see when they load the page. Make sure your SEO campaigns accurately reflect what’s actually on the landing page.
(In some cases if a page is receiving large amounts of traffic, it’s actually better to alter the page content to match what people are searching for, rather than change its appearance in search results.)
The best search result can still lead to poor-quality content, so audit your pages with the highest bounce rate and take steps to improve the page content if you think it is sub-par.
Inbound links from third-party websites can be misleading and may have been published maliciously or by honest mistake. If a referrer site is causing a high bounce rate, try to track down that inbound link and if it’s not a fair representation of the target page, ask the publisher to change it.
Outbound links might be a deliberate way to drive traffic to an affiliate site, a sponsor’s product page, or another page you cannot track (e.g. your social network profiles). If you know your page has a CTA (call to action) that drives traffic away, you should expect to see this translate into a higher bounce rate.
Very new pages and those that generate less traffic (which is not always a bad thing in itself) are less likely to give an accurate impression of bounce rate, as they will be averaging or aggregating far fewer visits overall.
Look out for these outliers and consider implementing filters on your analytics data, so that content with little traffic and newly published pages don’t skew the overall appearance of your website’s performance.
Bounce Rate and SEO Considerations
There’s some debate as to whether bounce rate is a ranking factor on Google. It seems likely that a high bounce rate does not directly cause your Google rank to worsen, but there is often a strong correlation between pages with a high bounce rate, and less-good search rankings.
It’s not hard to see why. If most of the visitors to your page don’t see a reason to stick around, it’s probably not a very good page – and Google increasingly looks for good-quality content that works across different platforms, browsers and screen sizes.
Some of the technical problems mentioned above, such as page load speed, definitely have an impact on your search rank, so fixing them can have a double benefit for SEO.
Using Google Analytics should not have a negative impact on your search positions. In a video on the Google Search Central channel on YouTube, Matt Cutts confirmed this back in 2010, and there is no reason to think anything has changed.
In fact because Google Analytics loads using an asynchronous tracker, it does not add to the page load time at all, so it will not even have a negative impact in terms of how Google Search measures your site speed.
Deciding when to take action
If you think your bounce rate is too high, you might decide to take action if any of the following conditions are met:
- You identify a technical problem that you know you can fix or improve.
- A page is performing significantly below your expectations or planned results.
- High bounce rate is not the only poor metric (e.g. low dwell time, high total exits).
As with new pages, if you decide to edit a page with a high bounce rate, it’s important to focus on producing content for a human audience first and foremost, with high-quality standards.
You can optimise this content for better search performance, but the best long-term search presence – and the lowest long-term bounce rate – will naturally come from publishing an engaging, informative, well written and well-designed page for visitors to enjoy.