WHAT IS BOUNCE RATE AND SHOULD IT MATTER TO YOU?

I’m sure that many of you have an analytics tracking tool like Google Analytics or SiteMeter installed on your sites. There are a slew of different things that you can measure using those tracking tools, but today I wanted to focus on the bounce rate. What does bounce rate represent and why should it matter to you as a blogger? Also, how should bloggers’ bounce rates compare to those of traditional websites? What’s a “normal” bounce rate and should you be worried if it gets too high? I’ll cover all of that in this post and maybe a little bit more (if you’re good).

Technical Definition: Your bounce rate is the number of single-page views that your website receives. It’s the percentage of people who go to your site or blog, see one page, and then either leave, close their browser, click a link to another site, type in a new URL, or simply stay idle for quite a while. That’s why you want this percentage to be below!

A lower bounce rate means that when people come to your site they click at least one other link inside your site. If people are clicking around your site it means they’re staying longer and they’re more likely to stick as a reader. It can also mean that people are using your site as a resource which is a great feeling to have and will also end up paying great dividends down the road when people look at you as a guru or an expert in your niche.

This screenshot shows the traffic for a small site that I manage. You can see that even though the traffic is low, the bounce rate is 38% which is very respectable. It means that 62% of the people visiting that site are interested enough to click at least one link. A lower bounce rate can be an indicator of good content, good layout, or an appealing offer, but the bounce rate is not the ultimate benchmark in determining how well your site is doing.

DOES A BLOG BOUNCE RATE DIFFER FROM A STANDARD WEBSITE BOUNCE RATE?

The short answer is yes. Take a site like Seth Godin’s blog for instance. On average I would say his blog posts get tweeted over 500 times each, his site ranks above the White House blog for the keyword search “blog”, and he has over 200,000 subscribers. I would say he’s doing pretty well don’t ya think? At the same time, I’d be willing to bet that his bounce rate is fairly high. Now while it is possible to roam his site for hours (believe me I have), the layout doesn’t lend itself very well to maintaining a low bounce rate. I would be willing to bet that the majority of his readers go to his site, read the latest post, and then take off.

That could be the case for lots of other bloggers as well. Especially if you’re blogging on Blogger or Tumblr, the most common layout is a single column with content and a sidebar. Without additional pages to click around to, chances are the majority of your readers are going to come read your latest stuff and then bounce. The point is, don’t panic if your bounce rate isn’t ideal. If you see it start creeping up past 70% though, chances are you either want to change your layout or check your content.

A good respectable bounce rate ranges from about 30 to 60%. Anything lower than 30 is phenomenal and anything higher than 60 should be a bit of a red flag for you. I’ve seen bounce rates as low as 2%, but they’re about as abundant as four-leaf clovers and tabloid covers not mentioning Lindsay Lohan.

HOW DO I LOWER MY BOUNCE RATE IF IT GETS TOO HIGH?

Again, keep in mind that a highish bounce rate may not be an indicator that your site is doing poorly. If you do feel like readership is slipping and you see people come and go in a flash, here are three simple ways to decrease your bounce rate:

  1. Check your content - Are you lazy with your posts or exceedingly negative? Are you providing value to your readers or simply regurgitating your daily happenings? Put yourself in the reader's shoes. What type of content would make you be willing to take time out of your busy day to read?
  2. Add More Links – Adding more links doesn’t mean you have to add multiple pages to your site. Simple things like linking to a past post when you make a reference to it will get people clicking around your site and will bring that bounce rate down. Remember, bounce rates only measure clicks within your site so adding links to other sites will not help decrease your bounce rate.
  3. Focus on referral traffic (getting links from other sites, Twitter, Facebook, Email, etc.) – While Search Engine Traffic is definitely a nice thing to have, I’ve found that those are also the readers who come and go the quickest. I know that when I google, I search for EXACTLY what I’m looking for and rarely a word more. I wouldn’t say that you should not focus on building your search engine traffic, but having traffic coming from more referral sources will definitely help keep that bounce rate in check.

UPDATE: For those of you who use WordPress, Scott Stawarz of Octavity.com made the great suggestion of using a related posts plugin that adds related post links to the bottom of each of your posts automatically. YARPP Plugin comes highly recommended.

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