web analytics: is a high website bounce rate really that bad?

Bounce Rate is defined as the percentage of website visitors that record just a single page view on the website. They take a look at the landing page and then leave immediately usually not satisfied with what they see and read…..at least that is the general interpretation of the bounce rate. There are many reasons why this interpretation of bounce rate is wrong or is misleading.

Assuming that your website has a higher than usual bounce rate when compared to websites and blog in a similar niche, the question is : Is that really that bad ? The answer is it depends. Well, that might sound as a cope-out but let us dig deeper and see why that is so.

Reasons for a high Bounce Rate

If your website happens to have only one page or two then a high bounce rate is to be expected. It is also possible that the pages are not interconnected a whole lot which can contribute to a high rate. There can be quite a bit of reasons as to why the bounce rate is high, any of which could be true in your case.

Some of the reasons that your bounce rate is high may be because of:

  • Landing Page Issues: Your landing page may be such that it has a bad layout or hard to navigate which could cause the visitor to leave. It could also be too good, in the sense that the visitor was able to get all the information needed and does not require visiting another page on the site.
  • Site Speed: The landing page takes too long to load that the visitor abandons the page before it completely loads.
  • Incorrect Implementation: The tracking may not be recording the page events correctly, and thus reporting a high (or low) bounce rate.

When the high bounce rate is Bad

Even though there is not much data to back it up, some believe that it could affect your search engine ranking. It is quite likely that there is a minimal impact on the organic search results.

The bounce rate will be much detrimental if you use a paid web marketing service like Google Adwords. If you have a higher than usual bounce rate for a particular keyword then it would lead the marketing service to deduce that the landing page is not relevant to user and keyword. This could lead to you being penalized in paid rankings or paying more for the clicks.

Screenshot of Bounce Rate by Source in Google Analytics

When the high bounce rate is Good

If the traffic that is bouncing the most is returning visitors, then it is not as bad. It means that you have a high percentage of regular visitors or followers who is reading your latest posts. They do not visit other pages because they probably have already read them.

The average time on page or site is high even though the bounce rate is high. This means that the content is still being consumed in a positive way, even though the traffic is bouncing. You can assume that the user spending enough time on the webpage consuming the content before leaving.

If they are only certain pages which exhibit a high bounce rate, then it might be dependent on the content of that particular webpage. The length and quality will be a factor, but if the content is well optimized like a blog post, then it is to be expected.

A high Bounce Rate should be analyzed in context of the entire website to deem it as either good or bad. Segmenting the traffic based on referrer/source, pages and keywords will help you in eliminating the offending traffic while increasing the quality of the website in general.