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I am trying to understand the bounce rate concept in Google analytics.I have a blog focused on technical stuff (Java, Spring etc.) and getting a decent amount of traffic (just 6-7-month-old blog).

I have noticed high bounce rate in the GA dashboard (close to 85%), here are my thoughts on this and need help to understand it in more clear way

  • High bounce rate is happening on the organic traffic as people land on a very specific page and seems to exist from that page.
  • Since this is a technical blog and focused on specific problems, is it expected behavior that people land on a specific page and 85% exist from the same page.
  • Should I consider such a high bounce rate as a red flag?
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The default Google Analytics installation measures bounce rate as "the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page."

Your 85% bounce rate isn't worrying to me because in my experience GA's default bounce rate measurement doesn't lead to actionable metrics. Many users find what they are looking for on the first page and leave satisfied. By default Google Analytics counts those users as bouncing.

Bounce rate should really tell you how many users leave quickly and unsatisfied. If people are spending 3-4 minutes on a page they really shouldn't count as a bounce.

Luckily you can send extra data to Google Analytics in the form of events to help determine what people are doing on the page. Google won't count users as bouncing if there are additional interaction events in their session, even if the users only visit the one page.

I have a currency calculator where most users land on a page with a JavaScript powered calculator on it. They would perform their currency calculation on the landing page and leave. I implemented GA events for users performing a conversion calculation. My bounce rate fell from 85% to 25% overnight:

Unless you spend time implementing events, I wouldn't pay any attention to the GA bounce rate metric. Most sites have pages where a user can consume just one page and be satisfied. You can implement events for:

  • Scroll depth (especially important for article pages)
  • Time spent on page
  • Video playback
  • Loading AJAX content
  • Typing something on the page
  • Clicking on things in the page

Once you start implementing events, bounce rate becomes a much more interesting metric. At that point you can use it to judge other changes to your site. For example you will know if your new color scheme is good or bad by seeing how it changes your bounce rate.

You don't want to try to game bounce rate by making changes that hurt user experience. For example, it isn't helpful to divide an article between several pages so that users have to click to multiple pages to have to read the article. That technique was popular a few years ago, but it has fallen out of favor because it tends to make some users not come back even though the bounce rate stats may look better.

It is also worth noting that Google doesn't use Google Analytics data (including bounce rate) for determining how sites rank in their search results. Google may use "bounce back rate" where it observes users shortly coming back to the search results after trying your page. See Does a site's bounce rate influence Google rankings? and my answer that talks a lot more about the difference between "bounce rate" and "bounce back rate."

  • I implemented onClick="ga('send', 'event', 'inserteventcategory', 'Click', 'inserteventname');" on a site because your post inspired me to look up how to do some of that stuff. It's working. And sweet! – Michael d Mar 9 '18 at 20:15
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An 85% bounce rate is considered very poor. Most likely, either your content isn't engaging the user or your navigation isn't creating clicks. It's possible that you have amazing content but just aren't converting the user into browsing more of your site.

Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to perform better:

What pages is Google sending users to and what search queries are they using to discover this page? You can find this information in Search Console. If Google is sending users to pages that have nothing to do with the search query then this could naturally lead to a high bounce rate. Some of my traffic does land on pages that have nothing to do with the search term and so this could be happening to you.

If the page that searchers are landing on is completely related to the search term, do you believe that your page has fantastic content related to that search? If it does, it's a good page. Can it be better or is it already great?

Is your link structure on that page lacking and is there something you can do to improve it? Perhaps a user comes to your excellent page related to his search, reads the entire page but doesn't find anything to click on to continue browsing your site. You can try some different strategies and see which creates a higher pages per session metric. Try different related article links at the bottom of your page, maybe with thumbnails. Does it seem like users are clicking on those? Perhaps you can add more links in the content of your articles.

A high bounce rate on a site usually means one of the following:

  1. The landed page has content that isn't useful to the search query.

  2. The internal link structure makes it difficult to navigate or doesn't create enough clicks.

  3. There is an error in your Analytics reporting. If the tracking code is on all of your pages then this shouldn't be the case.

  • One thing which is interesting is that people coming through search engine spent on avg of 3-4 minutes on these pages..so content should not be an issue but I will surely going to check that out. – Umesh Awasthi Mar 9 '18 at 18:42
  • If they're spending a lot of time on the page then the article is probably top notch and it likely means that you should try different strategies of related content in and at the bottom of your pages that increases internal CTR – Michael d Mar 9 '18 at 18:44
  • Thanks for your quick response.That is a good idea, I recently started this to show suggested articles. – Umesh Awasthi Mar 9 '18 at 18:45
  • This answer assumes that having a user visit more than one page on your site is inherently a good thing. – Mark Mar 10 '18 at 0:05
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Should I consider such a high bounce rate as a red flag?

Umesh, you don't have enough information to make a decision here. The only thing this 85% shows is that those 85% of your visitors are

  1. either do a one page view and then exit.
  2. or they do view multiple pages... but in different sessions. It is happening when the second pageview happens after a session duration time (30 min default if I correctly remember)

So in order to make a decision here you have to collect more data to at least understand which of the two options above is the case.

To do that you need to use events. Set up a JS code triggered let's say on 30 secods, 1 minute, 2, 5 and then every 5 minutes (that's the easiest option to code) and take a look at the results. This simple action will help you to:

  1. clarify how much time your visitors stay on your pages.
  2. what is the "real" bounce rate. After this change it will show bounces only for the pageviews less than 30 seconds.
  3. decide what to do next.

PS: keep in min that this will increase the amount of actions sent to GA. You may touch your free limits in case your blog is popular enough.

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I would expect this for a blog. I've worked on a very popular high-profile blog and they had a similar bounce-rate. When people find a blog post through search, or through Facebook, Twitter etc - most of them read that blog post, not the whole site. It's in the nature of a blog that people read the most recent post, and that's it.

A lot of what you're being told about high bounce rates do not apply to a blog.

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