Bucephalus Bouncing Ball Rates

Bounce rate is a critical web statistic that can give you tons of valuable information about landing pages on your website. As it’s a simple percentage (based on how many users hit a page without going elsewhere on your site in a session divided by the total number of users who hit that page) it’s a measurement that doesn’t tax your brain too much (hopefully.) If you’re going to take the time to drive traffic to your site, the least you can do is make sure users don’t leave immediately. However, it’s not a clearcut statistic like you may think it is (and like I have kind of implied that it is, too.)

Avinash Kaushik states that “My own personal observation is that it is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20%, anything over 35% is cause for concern, 50% (above) is worrying. I stress that this is my personal analysis based on my experience, but hopefully it gives you a feel for what you are shooting for.” Reading these numbers filled me with fear and loathing, I must say. After looking at the bounce rate for a particular site that I shall refer to as When Animals Attack Magicians, I felt like I should be as busy as a cat covering it up. I also did a bit of exclamatory cursing, something that Southern ladies should not do.

What this metric tells you is that your page/site has the potential to entice, bore to tears, or infuriate a user. In the case of When Animals Attack Magicians, it seems that I’m mostly infuriating people. I feel like Johnny Rotten with only a slightly better attitude. But oh wait! When Animals Attack Magicians is a blog so how do we deal with that? As everyone knows, it’s quite easy to read a ton of posts on a blog without going to another page on the site…

Here’s where things get a bit tricky. If I’m on a blog and I read 15 posts, then leave without viewing anything other than that great big long page of posts, I am counted as a bounce even though I’ve read a good bit of the site. If I look at individual pages and check THEIR bounce rate, this may make more sense in terms of giving me an accurate depiction of whether or not people are offended as deeply as I am when I see George Bush on television talking about how necessary the war in Iraq is. However, if these bounce rates are high, could that simply mean that the person has already read everything else on the blog and has followed a link into the site only to leave for a reason other than simply finding fault with the site? Yes of course it can, but how are we to tell that from the this one metric?

Let’s take a non-blog site then, which we’ll call America’s Funniest Dancing Cats, and think about its bounce rate, which is possibly easier to accurately measure. A high bounce rate here could definitely mean that the landing page is as charmfree as Paul Weller’s latest offerings. Unless you’re running an iframe or you have all your content on one page, a high bounce rate here should trigger a closer look at WHY these people are leaving without delving deeper into the wonder that is your site about dancing cats. Maybe, on your home page, you had a non-funny dancing cat photo and people simply thought you were nuts, for example.(Like there IS such a thing as a non-funny photo of a dancing cat!)

In addition to the type of site that you’re working with, you need to pay attention to the TYPE of pages that have high bounce rates. With some pages you should probably expect a higher bounce rate. Let’s say that someone was searching for your contact information and went directly to the contact page. Unless you’ve cleverly replaced your actual contact information with a blurb about ministering to the poor, the user is getting what he or she needs and will possibly find no need to go anywhere else on your site. Thus, a high bounce rate here would not be cause for concern. It’s common for ecommerce sites to have high bounce rates on the final review page of purchasing, as well, as people realize that really, they do not need yet another ceramic lighthouse.

In closing, let me just say that while I have possibly confused you about a statistic that IS actually quite valuable, my point is simply that this is a metric that cannot be viewed on its own with no thought about what it actually represents. You may be doing really well with a blog that has a 70% bounce rate, so don’t be alarmed when you see such a high percentage until you actively look around and see what is going on. This statistic does not exist in a Dyson you know…so use it and bow to its importance, but only in conjunction with a bit of human analysis. Numbers are our friends, but you can’t remove the need for interpretation.


Avinash was kind enough to comment on this post and lead us to two more posts that deal with issues raised here…so read them. NOW!
Tips for Measuring Success of Your Blog
Standard Metrics Revisited