What’s a Good Bounce Rate or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Benchmarks
How do your bounce rates compare to your industry competitors? We’ll dive in and answer the question of ‘what’s a good bounce rate‘ once and for all with facts not fiction!
Okay let’s get the obvious question out the way first:
What is Bounce Rate?
If you’re using Google Analytics then officially “Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions”. Single sessions are considered a visit to your website where the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page.
Consider the simple analogy of someone visiting your house; a person walks in the front door, doesn’t venture further in to the house and then leaves by the same door they came. They just ‘bounced’.
Now that’s not to say they didn’t have a ten minute conversion with you, nor is it to say they stood there in silence for a few seconds before departing. Both in analytics terms are considered a bounce because a bounce doesn’t consider the time in your hallway (i.e. a single page visit).
I hope I’m making sense here.
To avoid a bounce they have to veer in to the kitchen and make themselves a sandwich, or perhaps make themselves at home on your sofa for a few minutes before leaving the lounge. Then they didn’t ‘bounce’.
Or to keep things really simple, thanks to Avinash Kaushik we have the analogy of – “I came, I puked, I left.” – which ‘FYI’ in Latin is “veni, vidi, vomui”.
Does that Make Bounce Rates Irrelevant?
It’s a yes and no I’m afraid. Considering that everyone should be using the same measurement, then in context bounce rates are accurate.
However to understand your single page visitors you need to get creative. For example you can track events (engagements) that describe on-page interactions such as add-to-cart, social shares, clicks, downloads and video plays, to name but a few.
Implemented correctly, events should not tamper with your bounce rates i.e set them as non-interaction events. They will however give you a more accurate average time on page which is important for interpreting the impact and meaning of your bounce rates.
Ultimately for most websites the goal of bounce rates goes beyond single-page interactions; we aim to keep people on our websites for longer by viewing multiple pages and therefore reducing our bounce rates.
We also need to factor in first vs many time visitors. For example would you consider someone who returns 10 times to be a bouncer? Rarely, because if anything these people are showing they are engaged by your content.
That said, reducing bounce rates can be tricky for blogs as people will often land with the intent of digesting the article and then leaving.
There are tactics for reducing bounce which we’ll cover later on in this article.
The Average Bounce Rate Doesn’t Exist
Well it does, but it does-not-matter to you.
What’s the average bounce rate? I think a better question would be; “how do our bounce rates compare to our competitors?” – now you’re talking!
There are loads of articles out there citing the magical numbers, but don’t bother Googling-it…
Seriously I’m not even going to give them the satisfaction of linking to them – they are talking conjecture, dare I say fabricating lies too!
Today should be the day you stop listening to hearsay (not the reality TV pop band going by the same name), let’s take the guesswork out of your analytics.
Let’s discover relative to our own website and industry, what’s a good bounce rate and how to properly set a baseline bounce rate for your website:
Where to Look: Google Analytics Benchmarking
With Google Analytics Benchmarking we can truly answer both “what’s a good bounce rate” and of course, “what’s a bad bounce rate”. With facts, not fiction.
Let’s get started:
Load up your Analytics and under “Audience” you should see “Benchmarking”.
You are presented with three sub-menu options, Channels, Location and Devices. You can also segment and filter your data with the three selections below:
Filter your data correctly: Google auto-populates these selections for you, based on what it believes is right. You might need to tweak them.
- Industry Vertical is perhaps the most important selection. Be sure to set your “Industry Vertical” correctly, otherwise you will be comparing yourself against a very broad set of data.
- Country/Region allows you to choose which country and region you want to benchmark against. Importantly: this is analysing your traffic by source location and not as some may think benchmarking you against other websites in your country/region.
- Size by daily sessions show benchmark data based on the average daily sessions in the selected range. For us it’s “100-499” which equates to competitors with between 3,000 and 15,000 monthly sessions.
And finally to the right the total contributing properties are tallied for your selection.
Don’t See Your Benchmarks?
You might be greeted with this message:
To see Benchmark data you have to share your Google Analytics data “Anonymously with Google and others.” Once you do this, your data is included in benchmarks.
- Sign in to your Google Analytics account.
- Select the Admin tab.
- Under “ACCOUNT”, click Account Settings.
- Select the “Benchmarking” checkbox (this used to be labelled “Anonymously with Google and others”)
- Click Save and you’re ready to go.
Huh?! No Conversion Data
Indeed. You’re not going to find the answer to “what’s a good conversion rate” here.
Think about it, what you consider a conversion someone else might consider an event. In addition if you track conversions for everything compare to someone whom tracks enquiries you’re going to be seeing and looking at very different metrics.
If you’re an ecommerce website then you do have the The Customer Journey to Online Purchase at your disposal.
Our Numbers: Transparency
I don’t mind sharing our numbers with you but it’s time for a little transparency, dear reader – the baseline being we typically receive between 7,000 and 10,000 sessions per month.
Even though this article is published in August, the below data is based not on the previous month but our sessions from May 2015 instead. The reason – we had a massive amount of traffic in June in to July ’15 due to big PR which is beyond the norm.
For the purposes of this article it would have made an unfair comparison and I don’t need to inflate our ego by running those numbers for you.
There’s more: We also tidy our referral spam data on a near daily basis, so our referral data is going to be waaaay cleaner than most out there. If we didn’t, our referral traffic would be up around 35-40% each month!
All good, we’ll start by taking a look at Channels to get the bigger picture:
Benchmarking by Channels
The default stance for most people will be the channels view:
“There are 7,592 web properties contributing to this benchmark”, I’d say that’s a decent number from which to make some assumptions.
A sea of green – the immediate picture looks good for us. Our traffic levels are a third up on our average competitor, not only that our average visit and bounce rate smokes ‘em!
Our Organic traffic is nearly double, which considering we offer SEO related services is obviously a good thing. Furthermore our Social Media traffic is not merely double, no we’re three times as strong.
Wow – so not a lot of work for us to do then?
Not so fast hotshot!
Our “new user” data is also on the rather large side, wouldn’t you agree? How I interpret this data is as follows:
- We’re attracting lots of traffic = good
- We’re not retaining that traffic = not so good
- We’re lacking a return (loyal) audience = sad face
When you look at it like that we’re missing a big opportunity. I’ll investigate those shortly.
Location & Devices Benchmarks
Not too dissimilar to the Channels grouping in appearance but with two very specific uses.
The location analysis: useful for understanding where your traffic comes from in relation to your peers. For most website owners you’ll want to be doing well natively, in your own country. However for those who operate internationally, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of your global traffic numbers.
More importantly you can compare and contrast your strong/weak locations versus your channel data by filtering your Channels by “Country/Region”. From there you can understand how to improve your weak areas and enhance your already strong areas.
The world’s gone mobile: without a mobile optimised website you’re already falling behind. The devices benchmark gives you a broad look at how effective your website is over devices.
It’s perhaps the least detailed view but still gives you an insight in to how your audience responds to your website on mobile versus your competitors.
Discover Opportunities – Take Advantage
Where are our strengths and where lie our weaknesses?
I mentioned earlier that our social, organic and direct traffic are all favourable. And yet these numbers make me uneasy: where’s our audience retention?
Sure new visits are more than welcome, but I’d like to see us retain and grown our base of regular visitors.
We’re already working on our audience retention and capture, in fact the changes to improve the situation are probably live as you read this.
What am I talking about when I say retention and capture?
Before & After:
The above side-by-side image shows two simple tweaks to our single blog posts:
- Content moved left, sticky right column with newsletter sign-up form
- “Recommended for you” – additional content related to what you’re currently reading
The aim here is to invite people to join our newsletter and secondly to keep their attention by showing them related content that we hope they’ll enjoy.
Hopefully the result of this work will soon look like:
- We’re attracting lots of traffic = good
- We’re now retaining that traffic = great
- We’re engaging our loyal audience = happy face
It’s going to be interesting seeing how this affects our benchmarks going forward (that sounds like a follow-up post to me).
But There’s More
Okay so we’re not ‘doing’ email in the traditional sense, but this tells us what to expect when we do.
Thanks to benchmarking we can see that in our industry and at our size we should expect to see ~349 visits from email per month. That’s the target:
In other news we’ve a fully-fledged pay per click and display campaign in the works so there’s another potential 1,000+ visits per month.
You can see from the above that Display outweighs PPC in our industry, I’d wager that’s down to remarketing campaigns. Again, something very much on our radar.
Thanks to benchmarking we’re able to fill in the blanks.
Aim Higher: You Vs The Bigger Guys
So far in this post we’ve been looking at like for like i.e. those websites in our industry at our current traffic levels.
This data has proven invaluable, it’s give us ideas and a watermark on which to measure our efforts going forward.
Yet there’s more beneath the surface. It’s a familiar story, we have aspirations to be bigger, but how ‘big’ is bigger? Guess what, we can benchmark that question and produce the answer – supersize me:
When we select the next size up, for us between 15,000 and 30,000 sessions, we get a picture of what to expect. More importantly, we get an idea of what to aim for:
With the exception of our strong social media traffic there are opportunities abound.
Organic: so that’s what a big website looks like in our niche.
Direct: and that’s the kind of supporting direct traffic we should be expecting
Referral: *guess posting is dead? Where do you think a lot this traffic comes from…
Paid Search: we already know there’s plenty of opportunities out there, this confirms it
*when I say ‘guest posting’ I don’t mean on any old shite site, I’m referring to authoring on industry leading content based websites.
Reducing Your Bounce Rate
I promised right back at the near-start of this article I’d address reducing bounce rates. I’d like to think you have good reason to trust my humble advice, our bounce rates are ~41% better than our industry peers.
Here’s my top 5:
Intuitive Navigation: can a child navigate your website? Scrap that, can your gran navigate your website? This doesn’t mean you have to strip back everything, just ensure you navigation is appropriate to the device and situation.
Speed: with performance a Google ranking factor, you have no excuse for a slow loading website. Remove bloat, optimise scripts and images, and keep it under a second where possible.
Cross-platform experience: mobile traffic is outpacing desktop, you need to deliver a seamless experience across all devices. The single biggest mistake is not adapting your font sizes to ensure they’re readable, not matter the viewing peripheral.
Reduce clutter: we’ve just added back in a blog sidebar, for testing, before that we were super clean and lean. We keep page additions to the bare minimum at all times because it works.
External links: it might sound obvious but you’d be surprised at how many websites still allow you to click away, never to return. Don’t be one of them. A link off site is a new tab or window.
Love the Benchmarks
We’re not perfect; I’ve never liked our menu, in fact it sucks. We’re still working on it as well as testing new pages and layouts.
Furthermore we continue to improve the relevance and quality of our content to ensure we rise above the noise and don’t just add to the content shock.
Naturally, we’ll be reviewing our analytics throughout.
And that, dear reader, is “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Benchmarks”.