"Bounce" rate, what it is and what it is not.

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Written by Chris Hirst. Posted in Internet Marketing and Search on 09 March 2012.
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What is "Bounce Rate"?

The term "bounce rate" is used by promoters and marketers in traffic analysis to describe the ratio of visitors to a page who subsequently leave without visiting any other pages on the same website. The formula for this:

bounce = (leavers ÷ visitors) * 100

The term has become more widely used since the appearance of Google Analytics[Go-An]  which was formerly known as "Urchin web analytics",  as a freely available website traffic analysis package. Unfortunately, at the same time as the user base of it has become more diverse, there are now less people who understand what many of the terms used actually mean in relation to their pages. To start with, there is no "good" or "bad" bounce rate, it can only be considered with respect to the source of the traffic, or, in the case of search engine referrals, the keywords or phrase used to display the result that generated the click-through.

Using bounce rate as a simple traffic metric is pointless, it MUST be qualified with other parameters, that way you get a measure of how well, or badly a particular promotional or advertising campaign is performing. The real value of measuring bounce rate is when it is applied to traffic to a particular document that is being used as a landing page for paid advertising or a particular promotional campaign.

To take a couple of extreme scenarios:-

1: A page on your website is purely there as a "lead generating page"  for an affiliate program that you have signed up to, and all visitors to that page leave by clicking on one of the 'signup' or 'Buy this Product' links or banners that are on that page. In this case you have a 100% 'bounce' rate but at the same time it is a 100% conversion rate.

2: You have an 'ecommerce' page and the conversion path is through a checkout system, here an ideal bounce rate would be zero because that is also a 100% conversion rate.
 Of course reality is somewhere in the middle of that and you may have a 'Buy Now' choice to catch impulse buyers along with a 'Add to cart' for people who are browsing your store and may want to purchase other items. Here bounce rate has to be considered along with the conversion path the visitor took.

However, bounce rate is really only relevant when the traffic is coming from paid advertising, where each visitor that "bounces" has to be paid for from the profit margin of the ones that convert, even so, the metric to be truly concerned about is the conversion rate not the bounce rate. If you can improve that, regardless of what the bounce rate is you will be improving the return on investment [RoI].


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Author: Chris Hirst

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