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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 1 , 2021

Let’s break down how to define bounce rate, dispel common myths & more

Here you’ll find:

  • What a bounce rate is
  • How to identify a “good” rate
  • Common myths debunked
  • Tips to improve your bounce rate

To properly demonstrate bounce rate’s meaning and importance, let’s consult the most trusted source available: Urban Dictionary.

It defines bounce as to “abscon [sp]; split; flee.”

While that’s not the technical definition (or even the right way to spell “abscond”), it’s accurate — even when it comes to marketing. 

Let’s get into what a bounce rate is, ways to improve yours, and how to separate fact from fiction.

What is a bounce rate?

In digital marketing, the definition of bounce rate is the percentage of total visitors who land on your website and leave without visiting other pages, engaging with your content, or otherwise interacting. 

Basically, it refers to the rate at which site visitors leave from the same page they landed on without taking any action.

basketball demonstrating bounce rate

While bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave without interacting, exit rate only measures how many people left the site from each page. (Image via Rawpixel)

What is considered a “good” bounce rate?

A good or bad rate isn’t one size fits all. Rather, it depends on the context. The “rules” can never be strictly or universally applied, which makes assessment tricky. 

Different industries, for example, have different expectations. In general, anything from 26%-70% can be good. However, the ideal rate is usually somewhere between 26%-40%.     

Have more website performance questions? We’d love to answer them!

Bounce rate myths: Fact vs. fiction

Let’s go over some of the most popular inaccuracies. We’ll explain what each one gets wrong, and how to avoid falling into these commonly-believed traps. 

Myth #1: Bounce rate is just another term for exit rate

Truth: Exit rate and bounce rate are actually very different. And while they seem similar, mixing them up can have negative consequences for your site.

While bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave without interacting, exit rate only measures how many people left the site from each page. That may not seem like a huge distinction, however, exit rate includes everyone who left from that page, even if they visited several pages and engaged with multiple elements first. 

Basically, exit rate doesn’t measure engagement, or lack thereof.

Myth #2: High is always bad and low is always good

Truth: A high bounce rate can indicate a variety of things, positive or negative. Again, it depends on your page’s purpose, among other factors. An unusually low rate can be just as concerning as a high one.

Many neutral or positive factors can increase bounce rate. E-commerce sites usually have lower rates than online dictionaries because of the purpose of the visit, for example. Think about it: Someone lands on the page, gets the definition they were looking for, and leaves the site. The page was still successful at giving the visitor the answer they were seeking.

Likewise, bounce rates for users on different devices or arriving via different channels will vary.

If your rate is suspiciously low, that may indicate a problem. Perhaps something is wrong with your Google Analytics settings or plugins. While industry benchmarks aren’t always a good indicator, if yours is radically low, you may be missing data, which can cause its own set of problems.

mountain with a sign that says "answers"

If you’re immediately presented with an answer when you land on a page, it’s natural to leave once you have it. (Image via Unsplash)

Myth #3: A high bounce rate will tank your Google ranking

Truth: Bounce rate isn’t a Google ranking factor.

Google has stated this fact more than once over the years, most recently in June of 2020. But despite being debunked numerous times since 2008, this myth persists far and wide.

Myth #4: Bouncing means visitors aren’t finding answers

Truth: Actually, as we mentioned above, it’s often quite the opposite.

People make various assumptions about the cause of a high rate. Many believe it indicates that visitors aren’t finding answers. But if you’re immediately presented with an answer when you land on a page, it’s natural to leave once you have it.

Others see it as proof that their site or content sucks. While a high bounce rate is common on sites with this issue, that’s not the only cause. 

This belief is often exacerbated by the related misconception that “bounce” means visitors left within seconds of arrival, despite bounce rate being different from dwell time, which actually measures session length.

Myth #5: A site-wide revamp is the only way to improve bounce rate

Truth: There are many ways to lower your bounce rate.

Firstly, since bounce rate doesn’t equate to a bad site, site-wide changes are often unnecessary. Sometimes a few pages lower the site’s overall rate. Fixing them can improve it. 

More importantly, Google Analytics measures bounce rate based on your goals and what you count as engagement. If you only count additional page views, your rate may be unnecessarily high.

Viewing multiple pages isn’t the only way users engage, though. Other factors like social sharing, likes, comments, and joining email lists are all highly beneficial forms of engagement. 

How to improve your bounce rate

The best way to improve your rate is to determine the reason people are bouncing. Addressing the root cause will be most effective. Some options include:

  • Addressing specific page issues: View each page’s rate to see if a few specific pages are causing the problem. Make sure the search terms and ads leading people there create the right expectations and that your calls to action (CTAs) are clear.
  • Change your Google Analytics settings: Play around with your settings and expand your goals to identify uncounted actions being taken.
  • Technical evaluation: Double-check that your tracking code and tags are correct. Make sure you optimize for usability and mobile.
  • Overall design: If the problem is site-wide, make sure your site looks visually appealing, trustworthy, and easy to navigate with the proper site architecture. 
  • Assess your content: Check for grammatical errors and readability. Make sure the content is intuitively formatted so users can easily find information.
  • Add and highlight points of engagement: Adding media, especially videos, can increase engagement and conversions, prolong dwell time, and much more. Also, draw attention to other points of engagement like social media sharing buttons and comment sections if applicable.

Pro tip: Take advantage of free sites and tools that can help improve things like grammar, readability, and SEO on your site. E-commerce sites in particular can improve bounce rate by adding reviews, making checkout easy, having clear pricing, and adding exit-intent popups. 

The takeaway

While bounce rate is important, it’s not some magic number everyone must meet. Each site’s ideal rate will depend on a handful of unique factors. Likewise, the reason for a high rate will vary by site. 

While it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your bounce rate, don’t lose sleep over it. As long as you have a site that’s easy to navigate, features high-quality content, and properly matches ads with corresponding landing pages, you should be in good standing. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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