Larry Brauner

Defining Google Bounce Rate

Web metrics help bloggers and other website owners to analyze and track their site visitors. One of the most popular web metrics is bounce rate.

Google bounce rate is the percentage of visitors viewing only a single page before leaving your site or closing their browser window.

Bounce is thought to be bad and to indicate low interest on the part of your visitors.

According to Google, “a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.”

Using Bounce Rate

Bounce rate can measure a site’s relevance, the desire of your visitors to place an order or to obtain additional information.

If you buy Pay Per Click advertising, your bounce rate may be one of the factors that determines the position of your ad relative to other ads.

Bloggers Baffled

Common wisdom dictates that bounce rate should be no more than 40 to 60 percent. Most blogs miss this range.

70 to 85 percent is typical, and bloggers are baffled.

Experts would probably agree that either the blog or the traffic was too unfocused. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I do not concur with the experts.

Blogs Are Different

Blog posts aren’t merely landing pages. Each and every one is a main attraction.

The following examples demonstrate that bounce rate cannot effectively measure your blog’s relevance to visitors.

Consider first your blog’s most loyal subscribers. They come and read your every post.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 10% leave a comment
  • A different 10% click through to a related post

This appears quite healthy to me, yet your bounce rate is 80%.

Now consider your blog’s best search engine visitors. They land on your post and read it with interest.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 5% leave a comment
  • A different 5% subscribe
  • A completely different 10% visit a related post

This seems quite good to me, yet your bounce rate is again 80%.

Visiting a single page, i.e. your post, reading it and moving on is reasonable behavior for a blog visitor. How can we expect the bounce rate to be much lower?

Bounce rate is clearly not as useful a metric for blogs as it is for landing pages.

Gauging Blog Readership

If we cannot adequately assess our readership using bounce rate, what are alternative metrics?

We might instead look at our trend in:

  • Quantity of good comments
  • Size of our subscriber base
  • Amount of direct traffic
  • Number of quality backlinks
  • Google PageRank
  • Yes, even our bounce rate (smile)

Incidentally, the Google Analytics metric “Avg. Time on Site” is equally problematic, since it doesn’t factor into the average visitors who view only a single page.

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21 Responses to “Google Bounce Rate Misleads Bloggers”

  1. Bob Caine on October 27th, 2008 7:34 am

    Great post.

    I never really worried about bounce rate but of course wished it was lower. Never thought about blogs being different and that by nature they have a higher bounce rate.

    Thanks.

  2. Eunice Coughlin on October 27th, 2008 7:39 am

    You’re absolutely right.

    It seems that Google is assuming that blogs are just like websites which we know is wrong but apparently they haven’t gotten the memo. It seems odd, too, since Google is moving more towards measuring human behavior in their ranking algorithms. I like your list of alternative metrics to use.

    Great post and thanks for the insight.

    Eunice

  3. Larry Brauner on October 27th, 2008 7:58 am

    I don’t think Eunice that Google is assuming that blogs are like other websites. It’s simply a matter of priority.

    Their first loyalty is to the users performing searches. Without them there would be no Google.

    Their second loyalty is to paying customers, marketers who are promoting their landing pages.

    Google Analytics was presumably developed to serve this second group.

    Many metrics are available to us for web analytics. We must use each one, including bounce rate, in its proper context. Otherwise our analyses will be biased and flawed.

  4. Dan Brantley on October 27th, 2008 11:11 am

    I appreciate your laying out these basics. I am new to blogging and the learning curve is steeper than I thought!

  5. Richard McLaughlin on October 27th, 2008 11:45 am

    Look at bounce rate and conversion.

    If you have a sales page you want a 100% bounce, people land on your page and then leave the site to buy. If they look around your site, then fix your landing page.

    Information site… If you have information that people will naturally look at several pages before being satisfied, and a low bounce rate, fix your content.

    If you have a blog and a lot of people subscribed - ignore the bounce rate (unless you are looking to sell something) because people coming and reading your latest post and leaving are just doing what you expect, reading the latest post.

    Personally I find the bounce rate to be of almost no value.

    Great post (that I stumbled, and here I just came buy to drop an EC).

  6. Debbie Morgan on October 27th, 2008 12:41 pm

    Hi Larry!

    Thanks for this insightful article. I hadn’t really thought about this much before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  7. Larry Brauner on October 27th, 2008 2:18 pm

    Richard,

    Most landing pages don’t send customers offsite to close a sale. If they did, then the bounce rate would be almost meaningless.

    Also, a single landing page can’t answer every question. Customers will view as many pages as necessary to feel comfortable buying.

    And finally, even bloggers can find some value in the bounce rate. All other thing being equal, it’s good for visitors to read multiple posts, to comment, or to subscribe, all of which require viewing additional pages.

  8. zedman on October 29th, 2008 1:11 pm

    Thanks for this great post. I am really new to blogging and all of this is a mystery to me. Some of what you have written echoes what I hoped was the case, some of it is an excellent explanation to important questions.

  9. Eugene on October 30th, 2008 1:09 am

    Nice article.

    Thanks. :)

    Eugene

  10. christina on October 30th, 2008 3:55 am

    Interesting article. I wonder if anyone has thought to look at the difference in bounce rates between blogs that publish complete articles on the front page and blogs that only post teasers on the front page.

  11. PinoyCopywriter on October 30th, 2008 3:56 am

    Stumbling upon this post is a testament that we can find highly informative posts just by dropping EntreCards. :)

    I never really give much consideration to bounce rates because my site is a blog, and I agree with what you have stated here.

    A great number of a blog’s readers are repeat visitors who usually only read your latest post. Your bounce rate will definitely go up, but it’s not indicative of the total effectiveness of the blog itself.

  12. ethan on November 5th, 2008 3:21 am

    I really appreciate your thoughts and analysis here. By these principles, my blog probably has a more “normal” bounce rate, although it was not overly high to begin with.

    I am glad I discovered your blog here, and look forward to reading more of your analysis on social networking!

  13. Squeaky on November 19th, 2008 12:26 pm

    One of the best things that I did to reduce my bounce rate is leave Entrecard. Just after a month the bounce rate dropped about 12% and now after a couple of months, it is down by almost 14%.

    What I did notice after the drop in bounce rate is that Google, crawls my blog every two days. Before that is was close to five days.

    I know that a blog is different than a regular site and it should be calculated differently, but we are stuck with what Google does. So, I shoot for a low bounce rate overall.

  14. Larry Brauner on November 19th, 2008 8:01 pm

    I don’t believe that there’s enough value in lowering bounce rate to justify dropping Entrecard.

    I have made lots of great contacts there and have gotten lots of good backlinks from other Entrecard members.

    One of the points I was making in my post is that I have a different way of looking at a blog’s bounce rate than other bloggers.

  15. .Net Developer on November 23rd, 2008 12:37 pm

    When I discuss bounce rate with clients, it becomes a confusing topic. They don’t know what’s a good number for their site. My answer is usually a big “It Depends”.

    All the blogs I monitor with analytics have high bounce rates (70%+) for the reasons you indicate. Sites that use PPC or eCommerce heavily and do not have informational content along with those products have 40% to 50% rates. Those that have heavy ancillary content (white papers, galleries showing examples of how the products are used) have low bouncer rates.

    Thanks for raising this topic.

  16. Dali Burgado on November 25th, 2008 2:13 pm

    Hey Larry,

    This post is very insightful. I tend to look at “bounce rate” as something I must improve upon. You’ve definitely helped shed some new light over on this end.

    And yes, blog posts ARE like landing pages. Great post, Larry!

    I appreciate you.
    Dali Burgado

  17. Larry Brauner on November 25th, 2008 2:28 pm

    Hi Dali,

    Everybody wants to improve their Google Bounce Rate, but one of the points I’m making in my post is that if your site is a blog, your bounce rate may not be a very good indicator of reader interest.

    And while all blog posts ARE landing pages, as you say, they’re also the primary attraction.

    Thank you for your support Dali!

  18. Nadira on November 30th, 2008 9:43 pm

    Great post Larry.

    Absolutely, I agree that in some contexts “bounce rate” seems less valuable - especially in the case of blogs.

    However, Google retains the right to improve their customer experience. With the majority of Internet searches going through Google, and G’s focus on a better quality experience for the customers - we are left to grapple with the “bounce rate” as contributing to overall customer experience.

    Good post:)

    Nadira

  19. Rob's Web Usability Site on February 26th, 2009 6:45 pm

    Great post. A metric I like to use for blogs is actual time spent on site. If the bounce is high, but the average time on the page is two minutes bets are good they at least reading your articles. If the bounce is high, and the average time on page is 20 seconds, then time to get to work.

  20. Larry Brauner on February 26th, 2009 8:03 pm

    The difficulty with using time on site is that it only counts time for people who don’t bounce.

    So that number is biased in the downward direction and really suffers the same drawback as bounce rate.

  21. My Top 10+ Blog Traffic Sources on January 25th, 2010 10:39 am

    […] upon Google Analytics data pertaining to my recent blog visits, bounce rates and average time on site, I present my top 10 blog traffic sources along with some notes on […]

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