How to calculate, audit and improve bounce rate for SEO success

It is impossible to identify how effectively a website or landing page addresses searcher intent without measuring user attention or engagement.

I regularly look at the bounce rate used as a key performance indicator (KPI) for the purpose of measuring user engagement.

But is the traditional understanding of bounce rate correct and accurate considering how users use the web today?

In this article, you will learn what is meant by bounce rate, how to calculate bounce rate, what is good bounce rate and how to audit it properly.

This is a great opportunity to relax and use Google Analytics to ask better questions.

What is the bounce rate?

In Google Analytics, bounce rate represents the number of sessions that have divided an application to the analytics server by the total number of sessions.

This metric can be applied to the entire website or to a specific page.

To understand what a bounce rate is, we need to define two terms.

First, what is a session?

Sessions are a collection of user interactions (hits) that occur within a selected time.

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Think of sessions as visits. You may already have this customer in your store but how many times did they come during the selected time frame?

It is important to note that the session resumes after 30 minutes of inactivity.

And, secondly, what request does it send to the analytics server?

The request (hits) from the Google Analytics server may be to view another page (page view) or to trigger the event.

Read more about what happens in a minute – keep reading.

How is the bounce rate calculated?

Bounce rate calculation is divided by one page sessions (no hits later) total sessions.

Bounce rate formula = one-page sessions on total sessionsKelly Larkin, November 2021

For example, if 8,000 SEJ readers land on this web page (total sessions) and 5300 of them leave without triggering a secondary hit on Google Analytics, the bounce rate for that page will be 66.25%. ۔

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Examples of practical bounce rates.

Now that we understand the terms involved and how the bounce rate is calculated, let’s take a look back at how users are surfing the web today.

For example, I work from home. Often, I will open a web page with every intention of reading the content.

But then the postman knocked and the dogs started barking and I let them out.

Then I remember changing laundry.

Now our girls see that I’m out of the office and they want me to read them a story.

Half an hour later, I’m back on the web page. I am a busy user but my bounce rate is 50%.

Or, on the other hand, I link to an article on Twitter, spend 5 minutes reading the content, watch a 2 minute video, and leave because that’s all I need. I am a busy user with 100% bounce rate.

Another example and then we’ll move on.

Says I land on a page with Google Analytics tracking code and that page is redirected to another page but I leave immediately. I am not a busy user but my bounce rate is 0%.

At this point, the wheels will be turning. Bounce rate may not be what you originally thought it would be.

This is not a good measure of busy users unless you organize events in GA to measure meaningful user behavior.

How Google Analytics Events Affect Bounce Rate

Ready for more terms? This section is going to deal with what happened and how it affects the bounce rate.

In addition to event page loads (page_view), the user interacts with the content. These can be link clicks, form submissions, downloads, video play, scroll depth, etc.

It is important to keep in mind the impact of events on the bounce rate.

Google Analytics has added an entire section to their Events Help page for implementation concerns.

“If you apply event measurement to your site, you may notice a change in bounce rate metrics for pages where event measurement exists.

This is because event measurements, such as page measurements, are classified as an interaction request.

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Let’s put it in context. You have an embedded video on your page and include event tracking to see how often visitors to the site play the video and what percentage each person watches.

Once you start recording visitor activity on your site (video play) with event tracking, your bounce rate on that page will decrease.

Now, you have a better measure of the quality of visits to this page.

How to audit bounce rate.

Marketers often make the mistake of wanting a lower bounce rate on the site. The main problem with this goal is that it completely ignores the necessary details.

Good user engagement will depend on the implementation of Google Analytics, the structure of the website, and even the type of device and content.

The bounce rate can still be really interesting and informative when viewed correctly. The following steps will help you to audit the bounce rate.

1. Implementation of GA

Check that the Google Analytics tag has been installed on your site once. If your tracking code is entered twice, two views of the page may pass and you may have a bounce rate issue.

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Use Google’s Tag Assistant Chrome extension to check your implementation. Tag Assistant is a legacy product, but it’s still available for download.

Here’s how to test your setup with extensions:

  1. Install Tag Assistant
  2. Open your website.
  3. Click the extension icon in your browser bar.
  4. Click Activate and Refresh your webpage.
Screenshot of the Tag Assistant extensionGoogle Tag Manager screenshot, November 2021.

A properly installed Google Analytics tag will have only one Happy and Green GA or GTM tag on all the pages you want to track.

2. Events reflect business objectives.

Align event tracking with your business goals.

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For affiliate sites, you want to track outbound clicks. For informative blogs, you may want to track page scrolls, internal link clicks, or file downloads. Lead Gene Sites would like to submit the form.

Consider explicit macro conversions and small micro conversions to accurately represent user travel on your website.

Once you are convinced that the Google Analytics tags are installed correctly and that the event tags reflect the business objectives, you can move on to the third step.

Event tags are most commonly organized using Google Tag Manager. Check that all events are accounted for in the Google Analytics Behavior Report.

Here’s how to check if events reflect business objectives:

  1. Open Google Analytics.
  2. Open the Behavior> Event Review Report.
  3. Verify that all important website activities for your business are recorded in GA.

3. See bounce rate through marketing channel

It’s time to use Google Analytics to find out what factors are influencing bounce rates.

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Open Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition> All Traffic Report by default channel grouping.

Google Analytics bounce rate via marketing channel screenshotScreenshot from Google Analytics, November 2021

From this report, you can see the bounce rates of the site through the marketing channel and be able to tell whether it is a real problem or natural growth.

For example, social media traffic includes a wide range of users who only care about the content on a specific landing page. The user does not need to explore the site in more depth.

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4. Discover the high bounce rate.

The final step in auditing the bounce rate is to expose the page (s) responsible for the unusually high bounce rate.

To do so, click Group of Interest channels. For example, “Organic Search.”

Select Basic Direction as “Landing Page”.

Click on the header “Bounce Rate” to set the table.

High bounce rate Google Analytics screenshots are sorted by landing page.Screenshot from Google Analytics, November 2021

From this report, you can see the organic session bounce rate through the landing page.

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Find patterns in content type.

Are pages with high bounce rates blogs? It still can’t be an alarm. A good landing page that completely covers a targeted topic will give visitors every detail they were looking for.

The average bounce rate for a blog can be 70 to 90%.

However, if the page is for lead generation or e-commerce, you want to target a bounce rate of between 30% and 40%.

How to fix high bounce rate.

If you find a really high bounce rate, it becomes a problem for the user experience. In this case, you can rewrite the introductory paragraph, improve internal linking, or speed up the page.

Rewriting the introductory paragraph may prevent more readers from going out of the house because they need to read your article instead of competitors.

Improving internal linking can motivate site visitors to explore more relevant topics, engage them longer with your site content, and increase page views.

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Increasing page speed will ensure that you do not deprive potential clients of the loading wheel of doom.

Bounce rate in GA4

If you have added Google Analytics to your website since October 2020, you are probably searching within GA4 and wondering where the bounce rate went?

You will not receive a bounce rate in Google Analytics 4 reports. Instead, you will work with “engagement sessions”.

GA4 engagement sessions can be applied to situations where traditional bounce rates may not help marketers better understand whether users are engaged with a site.

I urge you to become more familiar with GA4 and “engagement sessions”. New metrics solve a lot of problems.

By nature, we are resistant to change. Once you get used to the new GA4 interface and matrix, there will inevitably be a period of adaptation.

Final thoughts

It’s important to remember that the bounce rate you see in reports can be affected by tag implementation, event tracking, marketing channels and content type.

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To gather better insights into user engagement, configure Google Analytics in a way that reflects your business goals.

More resources:


Featured Image 1: Presented by the author
Featured Image 2: Shutterstock / TarikVision

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