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Nitty Gritty Marketing Help: Understanding Bounce Rates (Part 1)

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by Terry Doherty – –

When I originally pitched this article idea to Mimi, it was going to be one, short-and-sweet blog post. The more I studied the topic, though, the more I realized it wasn’t realistic – or helpful – to confine a discussion of Bounce Rate into one article. So we have three!

  • Today I’ll explain what bounce rate is and why it’s important to know what it means;
  • Next I’ll show you how to “read” the numbers so you can decide; and
  • Last, I’ll offer three ways to optimize your marketing efforts and reduce bounce rate.

What is Bounce Rate?

bounceratearticle-page-001Speaking for myself, trying to understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – and everything that goes with it – is a daunting proposition. I doubt that I’m alone. Try as I might to just ignore it, the reality is there are a few things I need to understand if I’m going to have an effective online presence, and bounce rate is among the most important.

Why? Because it is a primary data point for understanding conversion (i.e., sales). This quote sums it up quite well:

Thought about from a customer perspective rather than I came, I saw, I conquered, the action is I came, I saw, Yuck, I am out of here. ~ Avinash Kaushik

Bear with me for a minute … before we go too far into the discussion, there are a couple of terms to understand. [Definitions source: FourFront.US]

bounceratearticle-page-001 (1)Bounce Rate is defined as the total number of visitors (TH) registering only one hit (TH) divided by the total hits (TE) in one session. Bounce Rate only applies to landing or entrance pages.

A Session is a unique visit to a website. A session ends (a) when a visitor leaves your website; or (b) there is no activity by the visitor in a 30-minute period.

A Hit is a specific type of data being measured. For example, Google Analytics records different types of hits, including page views, events, ecommerce activity, and social activity, among others.

In Layman’s Terms: The percentage of single interaction visits to a website (or blog), which can be parsed in multiple ways: by source (mobile, desktop), pages viewed, and transactions (e.g., sales).

Why Does Bounce Rate Matter?

The primary reason for understanding bounce rate is that it gives you raw data into visitors.

  • How many visitors land on your homepage and then leave? [read: without buying a book.]
  • How many visitors are reading your article about writing for children, then clicking to read other articles you’ve written?
  • What keywords are visitors using that get them visiting your site?

Looking at that data over time gives you insight into how visitors engage with your site. Take that a step further and you can assess how effective your site is in helping you achieve your marketing goals. If you’re not selling anything on your site, then it might not matter that visitors stop by and leave in less than a minute. BUT! If you use your website to help you convert sales, then you need to know what’s working (and what isn’t).

The most widely known tool for looking at site metrics is Google Analytics. It is not the only tool, but if you’re managing your own marketing and sales analysis, the price is right: free. If you have a Google account, you can add Google Analytics to your product collection. I have been using Google Analytics for my Reading Tub website a long time. When I started, it was really hard to get data that I could understand. That has changed. Google Analytics has gotten better at creating an interface that is meaningful (and comprehensible) to those of us who don’t speak geek.

So is a High Bounce Rate a bad thing?

There are lots of great articles (see the shortlist below) that can help you answer that question. The short answer is “not necessarily.” It depends on how you meet a searcher-turned-visitor’s needs.

Here are two examples that can help put bounce rate into context.

  • If you have a sports website and the question is what time is the TomSox game tonight? Odds are visitors will get the answer on your home page. You would expect to see a high bounce rate because most people just “touch and go” to get the information they want.
  • If you are selling How to Write an Award-winning e-Book on your site, you want visitors to linger. A high bounce rate would most likely indicate that visitors click on a link to your site, don’t see what they’re looking for (more details than the search engine results, visible book cover, link to buy, etc) and leave.

If you’re looking for a great article that uses lots of graphics to help explain bounce rate and what looks “good” or “bad,” I highly recommend this article by the Analytics Ninja.

Reading Worth Your Time

Image Credits

Understanding Bounce Rate – created by Terry Doherty for IBPA.

Read part two here.

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