Bounce Rate Failure is a Myth

I was over at Kyle Nelson’s blog reading about bounce rate today.

I agreed with his clinical definition of bounce rate. But our opinions diverged there.

I don’t agree that a high bounce rate is something that needs to be fixed. That’s painting with a broad brush and contributes to the myth of “bounce rate” that plagues so many. Let me start by saying:

  • A high bounce rate by itself does not indicate anything.
  • A high bounce rate does not signal website problems
  • A high bounce rate should make you think, not take action.
  • A high bounce rate just may be an indicator of great profitability

A high bounce rate means a significant portion of the visitors to your site visited a page and left. A low bounce rate means a significant portion of the visitors to your site visited more than one page of your site. That is ALL you can garner from bounce rate.

Why they left and whether or not that was a good thing is yet to be determined. Fret, worry, fear and correction should not be part of your vocabulary at this stage in the game. In fact, income loss is the only real data source that should generate these feelings.

Here is a sampling of real life situations that significantly raise bounce rate:

1. Four times a year education sites nationwide enjoy a nearly 100% bounce rate for a couple days at a time. For on those four days thousands of parents and students search out SAT Test Locations and Test Times. When they arrive at the websites that list this information, they write it down and go on their merry way. That significant rise in bounce rate indicates that they’re providing information people want. It’s a good thing.

2. Hundreds of coupon and deal bloggers post sales, specials and “deals” on Facebook for their audience. Followers of these accounts click the links on Facebook which take them to the deal website where the reader then clicks the coupon or deal link and leaves the site. Anything lower than a 100% bounce rate is failure to make a sale.

3. caters to those seeking a definition. When you get the definition, what do you do? Search for another? Or go back to writing whatever you were writing? They monetize with impression ads. More page views would be more money, but a high bounce rate doesn’t indicate anything other than mirrors the behavior of people.

4. A blog post about making homemade snacks and taking them to Disney to avert the high prices got ranked in Google for “Disney prices”. Traffic from Google searching for that topic arrived to a site about making homemade snacks. They left. They weren’t the target market, the search wasn’t a match and they went back to searching. Is there something wrong with the site? Nope, just got some extra untargeted traffic.

5. Thousands of recipes get pinned on Pinterest everyday. And every night thousands of people prop their iPads up next to their stove, peruse their recipe pin boards, click through to the recipe they want to make, cook it and then closer their browser before setting down to dinner.

In all of these situations, which are in no way contrived, time could be spent trying to reduce the bounce rate. But time spent trying to reduce the bounce rate is time taken away from monetization, customer relations, content building, research, etc. . .

That’s not to say the recipe folks shouldn’t create member programs and ebooks to capture that traffic. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t provide “related recipes” in the sidebar. It doesn’t at all mean we should try to increase the number of pageviews. In fact I wrote about how to increase page views and reduce your bounce rate earlier. BUT

People who scream “alarm” when they see high bounce rates do an injustice to the term.

The only thing a high bounce rate should indicate is thought and research. Why are people leaving? Do we want to stop them? Is their leaving bad for our site? Is this where we should spend our time.

A wise man once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”