That’s relevance …or lack of it.

I’m often asked: “Why is my bounce rate so high?” I’d rather the question was: “Why is my engagement rate so low?”, as I don’t like the ‘bounce rate’ metric, but I get the point. Well, there are two possibilities. One is that the wrong people are arriving on your site. The other is that the right people are arriving, but they’re not seeing what you’ve got that’s relevant to them.

If the wrong people are arriving on your site in significant numbers, you just need to exclude them from your analysis. If a particular website sends nobody who engages with your content, cut it out of your normal analytics view. If the people who aren’t engaging are from a particular country which you don’t deal with, cut that out too.

But it’s far more important to look at why the right people might not be engaging. Suppose you’ve spent thousands of pounds on a big magazine advertisement, and you excitedly turn to your Google Analytics to see the big spike in traffic. Now, unless you’ve set up a special URL or domain name (and you really should), it’ll be hard to isolate the advertisment visits. They’ll probably all just be mixed up in that unidentifiable “direct” traffic. However, let’s say that you can see an increase in “direct” and “google/organic” traffic, and you guess it’s down to the advert. What if the bounce rate for those extra visits is high? You sent the right people. So what happened?

I’d suggest it’s all about relevance. And on the web, with so much else just a click away, if you’re not relevant, you’re dead. The magazine advert talked about your new Blue Widget, and said “Visit our website for details”. So the reader carefully typed in your domain name, was taken to your home page, and …oh. No mention of the Blue Widget.

That’s relevance …or lack of it. Would you announce the launch of a new product at an exhibition, and then not have it visible to anyone walking on to the stand? Would you say afterwards: “Well, it was there somewhere, if they’d bothered to look around”?

Discussion

  1. Rachel Chancellor

    Another reason why bounce rates can be high is that you’ve sent people to your website for something specific (e.g. read our latest blog post), and they don’t have any reason to go elsewhere on your site afterward. In this case, the right people are engaging with relevant content, but the bounce rate doesn’t reflect that. So in addition to ensuring that the landing page is relevant, it’s also a good idea to give them an incentive to continue elsewhere from that page – pointing them to other relevant content or including a call to action.

    I agree – the bounce rate metric can be really misleading, just like most other analytics if you take a myopic view of them without considering all of the contributing factors.

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