We recently wrote about bounce rates and why your business should keep an eye on them. We received a mixture of feedback ranging from people appreciating the insight, to some people challenging some of the ideas behind the blog.

It’s great to see that this sort of topic creates conversation and some of the points people raised were actually very important. With that in mind I thought we’d take an even closer look at the bounce rates that seems to have caused a stir!

Get your phasers out, it’s about to get nerdy!

The biggest point we had raised was:

“High bounce rates can be a good thing! This may be an indicator that users are getting all the information they need from the page they’ve landed on.” (This was raised by a few people so I’ve para-phrased it here)

It’s a great point. Why would a user click through to another page if they’ve got all the information they already need? The problem this leaves us as analysers with though, is we’re not able to differentiate between engaged users and those who have landed in error. That means we can’t assess whether we need to change our content, change our layout or if everything is fine the way it is.

Let’s take The Guardian as an example; they have thousands of articles that are regularly shared across social media. In most cases, people will click through from their Facebook or Twitter feeds, read the article and then close the site. Quick, engaging but still technically a bounce. A little investigation turned up that their bounce rate is currently sitting at 63.2%, which is pushing well into the higher-end of things. Digging a little deeper though, their average user spends nearly 4 minutes on their site, more than enough time to fully read an article. So what can be done about these two conflicting stats? This is where something called an “adjusted bounce rate” comes into play.

An adjusted bounce rate doesn’t just see if a user has landed on your site and left without clicking on anything, it’s a little more insightful than that. While a user might land on just a single page of your site, you can track the amount of time that they spend on that one page. Built right into the code of the site you can tell Google Analytics “Hey! This user has been here for over 30 seconds! They’re looking around and they’re engaged. Don’t count this as a bounce!” It doesn’t just have to be time spent on a page either, you can set up various other goals like distance scrolled, forms filled in etc.

When many of your pages don’t require a user to click though to other parts of your site, be that due to informational pages or articles, it’s easy for your bounce rate to push higher and higher. Using an adjusted bounce rate will allow you to see how many people are actually engaged and who is quickly switching off. Paying attention to these stats will give you a much better idea of where content needs to change, where you might need to think about a layout change and where everything is working just fine.

While, yes, bounce rates and adjusted bounce rates still aren’t foolproof ways of understanding your traffic, when used in the right way they can be a powerful tool.

With all that in mind, be sure to keep an eye on your bounce rates! If people aren’t interacting with your site the way you want them to, come and talk to us, we’ll see what we can do to get you heading in the right direction!