Last updated Feb 26 2020

CRO glossary: bounce rate

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a web analytics metric that refers to the percentage of visitors who enter a website and exit it without interacting with it in any relevant or meaningful way. 

For example: if 100 people land on a page, and 5 of them view just the page and then exit the website without further interacting with the page or visiting other ones, the page has a bounce rate of 5%.

Is a high bounce rate bad?

A high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean users aren't engaged or finding what they need. Whether a high bounce is 'good' or 'bad' actually depends on what you’re expecting visitors to do on your website:

  • If you expect people to interact with and visit multiple pages, a high bounce rate is indeed bad and something to be investigated and reduced
  • If you expect people to find the information they look for on a single page and be satisfied (for example, a contact information page that leads them to pick up the phone and call the number provided), then a high bounce rate is to be expected 

Take the page you’re reading right now, for example. If someone searches Google to learn about bounce rates, they could find this page. And if we do a good job of answering their questions, they might well leave without visiting any other pages on our site. They got what they wanted, we exposed them to the Hotjar brand, so everybody wins—but it’s still considered a bounce.

Editor's tip: here's a handy write-up about the difference between bounces vs exits in Google Analytics.

Why are bounce rates important?

A high bounce rate is an invitation to dig deeper.

Google Analytics (GA) allows you to examine your bounce rate from different angles, so you can pull out the magnifying glass and study it to see whether there’s a problem and what (if anything) you should do about it. For example, you can investigate traffic sources and compare them to one another to see whether, say, paid traffic performs differently from referral traffic; or you could look at individual pages and compare them to one another to see if you have a specific problem on just a handful of them.

In the end, a high bounce rate could be a sign that something is wrong, especially if it happens on an important page in your sales funnel. The number alone can’t tell you whether visitors are engaged, but it’s an important metric when you start combining it with other information—for example, how much time they spend on the page, how far down they scroll, which elements they interact with, and what they have to say about the experience when you ask them for feedback.

Investigate your high bounce rates

The following two-pronged approach helps you take a closer look at your high bounce rate pages:

1) Use traditional analytics like Google Analytics to find quantitative information about traffic patterns: for example, determine the individual pages with the highest bounce rates, how much time people are spending on them, which traffic sources may behave unusually

2) Use behavior analytics tools to keep investigating what exactly people are doing on the page, and why:

  • Heatmaps show where users click, scroll, and hover their mouse pointers in aggregate on your high-bounce pages, so you can start seeing what they interact with or ignore
  • Session Recordings help you review individual (anonymized) user sessions so you can see what people actually do on the page before leaving it
  • On-page surveys and other feedback tools let you ask users for feedback about their experiences. 

By combining web analytics with a behavior and feedback tool, you have all the data points you need to decide whether your high bounce rate is something to worry about.

Beyond bounce rate: figure out why people leave without converting

Bounce rate is just one metric related to people leaving your website, but what about the ones who view more than one page and still don’t convert? How do you go about studying your sales funnel and fixing the broken links in that chain?

  1. Find out where people drop-off your funnel: use Google Analytics or Hotjar’s funnels to figure out your high-traffic, high-exit pages    

  2. Gather feedback on the problem page(s): use on-page surveys to ask users what’s missing and how the page could be improved.

  3. Survey your paying customers: use post-purchase surveys to ask them what almost prevented them from buying. This will give you some insight into how you can convert the visitors who are on the fence.

Read more: why people are leaving your website and what you can do about it

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