Most marketing folks with a working knowledge of their company's website, know about Google Analytics, but don't really know what they should be looking for.
Google Analytics has an impressive depth to it, and there's no one blog post that can address all of it. Which is why this blog is going to focus on one of the basic pieces of data: the "bounce rate."
But first, what is a "bounce rate," and what's average?
The bounce rate is the percentage of people who come to your website, then leave, without going to any other pages. Upon first inspection, a high bounce rate might appear to be cause for concern. However, with a little understanding, you'll see why having a bounce rate of 50% or so, is nothing to be worried about.
Before looking at your bounce rate, it's important to understand what’s a good bounce rate, what's a bad bounce rate, and what's average. While you'll certainly get different numbers from different studies, and numbers vary depending on your industry, we'll use these general numbers for our blog:
- Hardly any website has a bounce rate under 25%
- If you have a bounce rate between 25% and 40%, that’s considered “very good”
- Be happy if your bounce rate is between 40% and 50%
- 50% to 55% is considered roughly average
- 55 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm, depending on the website, and what analytics tells you, and
- Anything over 70 percent is disappointing, so you might want to take steps to address the underlying reasons.
What should you be looking at?
Recently, a medical practice came to us concerned about their website's bounce rate of almost 65%. They asked us to look into it, see if there was anything to be worried about, and if so, determine what could be done about it.
As you can see from the first screen shot below, Google Analytics showed their average bounce rate for the entire website was 63.49%. Yes, a bit on the high side, however, the bounce rate on their homepage, which is the most important reflection of how well people are engaging with your website, is an astoundingly excellent 36%!
So right off that bat, we had to congratulation them on that success! The page most of their customers went to, the home page, engaged them enough to encourage them to click through to another page. That's called "engagement," and that's one of Google's ranking factors.
Don't look at the top level bounce rate in Google Analytics (63.49% in the example above), look at the bounce rate of your homepage (in this example, 36%). Since your homepage is usually what your prospects see first, if that page has a low bounce rate (under 50%) you should consider your website successful.
Why someone would come and go on your homepage?
The reasons people come and go on 1 page, without clicking anything else, is if they actually FIND what they’re looking for on the homepage.
If you have your phone number on your homepage, or perhaps a place to sign up for your e-newsletter, a certain percentage of folks are going to your homepage, getting the phone number, or signing up for your e-newsletter, and leaving.
Even if 5% of your visitors find what they came for on your homepage, and that bounce rate is 36%, it brings your homepage bounce rate down to 34%, still an amazingly good number. From what we were able to tell from the analytics matrix above, folks were not coming to the homepage and leaving.
Why would someone come and go on another page?
Depends on the page. Using our example here, looking over the “Pages” data from the previous 30 days, far more people went to this company's “Request an Appointment” page (9,520 of them) than their homepage (6,304). Remember, the 2nd line with the slash, indicates the homepage.
This brings up 4 questions:
- What's the bounce rate on the "Request an appointment page"? (As you can see from the matrix below, it's 88.63%)
- Does that high bounce rate affect the overall bounce rate? (Absolutely! Every page in your website affects the bounce rate, and at 88.63%, it drives up the average bounce rate quite a bit!)
- Why would someone leave after visiting the "Request an appointment" page? (Simply, they did what they came to do: make an appointment. So a high bounce rate on that page is perfectly understandable.)
- How did they get to the "Request an appointment" interior page? If 3,000 more people were on the "Request an appointment page" than on the homepage, those individuals had to get to that page some other way than starting on the homepage. How would they do that?
How someone could get to the “Request an appointment” page, if they didn't go to the homepage first?
While many obviously do get to the “Request an appointment” page by starting out on the homepage, we could think of three other ways someone could have landed there.
Important note: to protect this company's privacy and data, we've substituted their company name with the name "Doc's Practice."
- They’ve bookmarked the “Request an Appointment” page because they're repeat customers,
- They Google “Doc's Practice appointment” (which would take them directly to the link for the "Request an Appointment" page), or
- They come into the site on another page (other than the homepage), then go to the “Request an appointment” page.
If they’ve Googled “Doc's Practice appointment,” the search results page, below, is the first result they see. So they'd click that link, go directly to “Request an Appointment” page, fill out the form, then leave the site. Mystery solved.
Understandable, if all they want to do is make an appointment, and a good reason why the bounce rate on the “Request an Appointment” page is relatively high.
If, as is more likely the case, they just Google "Doc's Practice," the top result shows their homepage link, with a series of "sitelinks." One could easily click any of those sitelinks to get into the website on a page other than the homepage, then navigate to the "Request an appointment" page. That would allow them to bypass the homepage completely, however unintentionally.
What is surprising to us, is that the “Request an appointment” page isn't one of the sub sitelinks in Google's search results. It's surprising because the “Request an appointment” page is obviously their most popular page. We’ve not found any good information explaining how Google decides which sitelinks to show in their results, even though the most common theory is that Google does list a website's most popular pages.
What is surprising, is those visitors who go to the “Request an appointment” page, do also go to other pages in the website. We can tell, because the average length of a visit for those visiting the “Request an appointment” page is almost 2 minutes: a long time to spend on a website.
Is time spent on your site important?
Absolutely. "Dwell time" is an important ranking factor for Google. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The more time someone spends on your website, obviously, the more relevant your site is for them, so it's definitely a legitimate ranking factor. And f you want to understand why folks might not be hanging around your website, check out this blog on reasons why people leave your website, and a topic we'll definitely save for another blog.