Bouncing for Business Beginners
This is a fascinating topic because as soon as you enlist Google Analytics to give you web site analysis, one of the reports you receive is the percentage bounce rate. I really wanted to know the reason for it being presented as a meaningful statistic and also why as a percentage? I have read a few blogs on varying sites, but did not completely understand the significance. Now I don’t know about you, but I get annoyed when someone asks a question and I sort of have a general knowledge , but nothing more than that. So in an effort to educate myself, I went to Wikipedia and found the appropriate extract. I could have given you the URL to the definition, but you may as well read it in full on my web site as that increases my page views % !
Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate) is a term used in web site traffic analysis. It essentially represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site.
The formula used to calculate bounce rate is: Bounce Rate = Total Number of Visits Viewing Only One Page / Total Number of Visits
- Rb = Bounce rate
- Tv = Total number of visits viewing one page only
- Te = Total entries to page
A bounce occurs when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-time-out occurs. There is no industry-standard minimum or maximum time by which a visitor must leave in order for a bounce to occur. Rather, this is determined by the session time-out of the analytics tracking software.
A visitor can bounce by:
- Clicking on a link to a page on a different web site
- Closing an open window or tab
- Typing a new URL
- Clicking the “Back” button to leave the site
- Session time-out
A commonly used session time-out value is 30 minutes. In this case, if a visitor views a page, doesn’t look at another page, and leaves his browser idle for longer than 30 minutes, they will register as a bounce. If the visitor continues to navigate after this delay, a new session will occur.
The Bounce Rate for a single page is the number of visitors who enter the site at a page and leave within the specified time-out period without viewing another page, divided by the total number of visitors who entered the site at that page. In contrast, the Bounce Rate for a web site is the number of web site visitors who visit only a single page of a web site per session divided by the total number of web site visits.
Bounce rates can be used to help determine the effectiveness or performance of an entry page. An entry page with a low bounce rate means that the page effectively causes visitors to view more pages and continue on deeper into the web site.
Google Analytics specialist Avinash Kaushik has stated: “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….” ( Read this guys blogs on the subject, he is really knowledgeable)
This measure however needs to be interpreted relative to a website’s objective. On an e-commerce site, where the sole aim may be to sell products online, the bounce rate is a primary concern and useful measurement. Information sources and sites which drive the customer to make contact via email or phone may see much higher bounce rates. This may not be a bad thing as they are only viewing one page of the site (but contacting the company).
While bounce rate is a useful tool for e-commerce sites, it is of more questionable value for sites such as news and information, where many visitors go to scan headlines and conduct research, and can find what they want immediately on the entry page. Indeed, for any kind of informational site, sophisticated users are likely to bookmark a page within the site, which then becomes their personal entry page, check it (e.g., for sports scores, the price of pork bellies, etc.), then bounce right off. The page will have done its job, but might still have a bounce rate above 80%, bringing up the average for the whole site. For such sites, metrics such as returning visitors vs. new visitors might be more informative and should be used to understand the overall picture better.
- It is a bit hard to believe that it has taken a year to talk about measuring effectiveness of individual pages on a website. It is perhaps a reflection of my belief that we already focus way too much on micro reporting on our websites, most of which is comprised of too much page level analysis.
- [For my point of view on how to start your analysis please see this post: Getting Started With Web Analytics: Step One - Glean Macro Insights.]
- But I think the time is right to focus on metrics, Key Performance Indicators and tips on how to measure effectiveness of individual pages.
- The recommendations in this post are roughly in the order in which you would do the analysis (though there is no reason why you could not do each exclusively). At the back of my mind was the fact that when you get to page analysis you can easily get down and dirty and waste too much time. I wanted to frame this in a way that you can use your time efficiently, you’ll see a focus on that throughout this post.
A Five Step Program to Measure Effectiveness of Your Web Pages:
- # 1: Don’t Obsess About Your Home Page.
- # 2: Compute Your Cliff – Only Then Jump.
- # 3: Bouncy, Bouncy, Bounce – Its Good For You.
- # 4: Site Overlay – Something To Love.
- # 5: Think Holistically – Multiple Metrics, Key Context.
- Bonus Step: Moving from insights to improvements: Multi-variate Testing Rocks.
Here are all the wonderful gory details……
# 1: Don’t Obsess About Your Home Page
- IMHO we obsess too much about our home page. When it comes to improving effectiveness of the website a disproportionate amount of effort is put into playing with the home page.
- The irony is that we live in the world of extremely efficient search engines and websites visitors who use those search engines to find our site. This means that if you have done half decent job of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) then most of the traffic will enter your website at a page deep within your site (a page that the search engine thinks is most relevant to what the user is looking for, which is a good thing).
- Every page on your website is now a home page, every page has to make the kind of impression that you want your website home page to make. So task number one is to embark on a mission to convert your organisation to this new mindset – your benefit is that you’ll focus on what actually matters to your customers.
- Next create this graph for your home page to hammer the point home
- On average around 30% of the site traffic sees the home page of this blog accordingly to ClickTracks, even though most fresh content is on this single page. What’s the number for your website?
# 2: Compute Your Cliff – Only Then Jump.
- Now that you are off your home page you have time to focus on other important pages on your website. Typically for your website a very small amount of content is going to be consumed by most of the traffic (think 20/80). Hence for you to start working on the most value add stuff on your site focus on the content most people are consuming.
A great way to identify that is to compute your “cliff”, at what point do the numbers fall off the horizon quickly. Here is how that looks:
In the example above after page number 9 consumption of the content falls of the cliff, and there is a long tail. Now you know where to apply your precious few analyst hours.
For each business the cliff might be at a different point, it is important to figure out what that point is so that you can impact the most important pages.
We are not going to ignore the long tail rather since we have finite resources and we want to have maximum business impact we will start by focusing on where we can move the dial. Too often we miss this critical first step.
# 3: Bouncy, Bouncy, Bounce – Its Good For You.
- You know how many people see a page, you know which group of pages to go attack first. Now attack!
- For the most important pages on your website measure the Bounce Rate. Not the Exit Rate from the page. Bounce Rate.
- Bounce rate for a page is the number of people who entered the site on a page and left right away. They came, they said yuk and they were on their way.
- I find that Bounce Rate is a great first filter that helps focus your efforts. It is hard enough to get traffic to your website, there is no reason that they should simply bounce off after seeing only one page.
- A Quick Tip: The reason to not recommend looking at Exit Rate is that it normally includes people who enter the site any where but exited from this page. They could have ended up purchasing but choose to come back to this page and exit. You’ll find that your most visited pages have have the highest exits (makes sense right). Hence I don’t recommend using Exit Rate for much of anything, it is really hard for your to discern customer intent and use exit rate to glean any solid insights. That’s not the case with Bounce Rate.
- Once you have pages with the highest bounce rate you have a set of actions you could take: What’s wrong with the page? Content, calls to actions, navigation.. all are fair game? Who is coming to that page (referring urls, campaign id’s, search keywords etc)? Does it list a expired promotion? And more.
- You can see how this is immediately actionable, and since a lot of people are looking at it you’ll get immediate business value from any fixes you make.
- 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.
# 4: Site Overlay – Something To Love.
- Pages to focus on – check. Pages not performing well – check. Why not performing well? Your new best friend the Site Overlay / Click Density report to the rescue
- I have often professed my love for the site overlay report on this blog (or on Valentine Day cards!). IMHO this is a vastly underutilised resources, mostly because it is not reporting and most of the time we want to schedule things and report them. Site Overlay promotes analysis and takes time, but the rewards can be huge.
- Simply open up your worst performing pages, or any other page, in the site overlay and analyse where people are clicking. Is the pattern where you expect it to be? No one is clicking on Buy Now or Next? Everyone seems to ignore your key left navigation structure? Why does the search box have most of the clicks? You get the idea.
- By analysing the patterns of clicks on the page you can get a great idea of how customers are reacting to your web pages and what they are or are not doing.
- A Quick Tip: The site overlay feature can impart exponential wisdom if your tool allows you to do segmented site analysis, as in my example above using Click-tracks (click on the image for a bigger screenshot). I am not only looking at where all the traffic clicks but the second set of numbers on each link are clicks by traffic from Search Engines. Notice that they tend to be different (Marshall’s blog link seems to get half the number of clicks from search visitors compared to other visitors).
- Segmented click density helps you understand what different streams of traffic are looking for on your web page and if your website platform allows you to then you can start to create some custom site experiences (or at the very minimum it will suggest ideas for multivariate tests – more below – or behaviour targeting).
# 5: Think Holistically – Multiple Metrics, Key Context.
- You have just finished analysing the click density for links on your important web page. Don’t forget the key context that is sitting waiting for you for that page.
- Most web analytics tools now give you all the key context you need within easy reach. Here’s what I am talking about from Google Analytics
- Or here is how it looks in Click-tracks (click on either image for higher resolution images)
- The context metrics that you get for your Page Analysis efforts include: Time on Page or Time to a Page (unique computation in Click-tracks I believe) or % of Exits or % of Entries at a Page or Keywords that drive traffic to a page.
- When you analyse the page on your website all this data gives you key context about performance. Maybe your page is performing sub-optimally because it is getting traffic for the wrong keywords. Or there is only deep content on this page yet 90% of the visitors who see this page enter the site on this page. Or it takes visitors 500 seconds after they enter your site to find this important page (and by then they have lost their patience with you).
- Page analysis at this level is not easy, but you don’t have a choice. There is no pat answer that if you only look at one metric that you’ll understand why the page works or sucks. You are going to have to look at the whole story and something will jump out at the Analyst (not the Report Writer), and the fix will be obvious.
- Try it, do this for the top ten pages on your site (or use the bouncy rule to identify five pages and go do this). I promise you that you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn if your web analytics tool provides you with this kind of context for your web pages.
- That’s it, a simple five step program to help you revolutionise the process of finding insights that in turn will ensure your web pages are performing as well as they possibly could.
- A Quick Closing Tip: We expect that if we simply do reporting then our pages will get better. If there is one lesson I have learned in this context it is that if you want to improve your web pages then you have to immerse yourself in them. You can’t pick improvements or problems off a excel spreadsheet data dump. You will actually have to interact with your web pages. I’ll get off my soap box now.
- So you have all your problems identified, and you have a bunch of ideas to fix.
- Now want?
Multi-variate Testing Rocks – Period.
- Don’t give into the temptation of deciding what goes live on the site (or in a meeting get a HiPPO sway you on one idea that goes live). You don’t have to choose one version of the page, go test all your ideas.
- Multivariate testing is really gods gift to all of us. It has become cheaper, it has become easier, it frees you from the clutches of bureaucracy that hindered optimisation.
- Below is the “cute’ified” version of a slide that I use to explain multivariate testing and how easy it is to test different images, calls to action, content and layout to understand which works best for your customers
- Multivariate testing empowers testing many different ideas and letting the customers vote on what works best for them (and yes please don’t worry it will most often result in a nice impact on your own bottom-line).
- There are many great tools out there to do MVT testing such as Offermatica, Optimost, SiteSpect and Google’s Website Optimiser. The last one is completely free. You only need to have a Ad Words account (even if you don’t use it very much) and you can test on any page for any traffic (test for not just your Ad Words traffic and not just your search landing pages).
- What do you all think? Do you already do all this? None at all? Any special tips and tricks that you want to share about web page optimisation? Disagree with something above? Please share your tips / tricks / feedback / critique via comments.
So there it all is. Everything you wanted to know. Just as a quick exercise, go to the PBDA web site, What’s New, and look at our web site statistics. We usually have a bounce rate of less then 3%. How do we do it? We put eyeball glue on each page!
One last interesting fact is that news sites have very high bounce rates (> 50%) and it doesn’t worry the web master at all. People browse the news sites for most recent news and news articles and by-lines, and then rewrite or reprint the latest news for their own web site information.