If you’re reading this blog, then you know that we have a habit of talking about abandonment rates. We’ve talked about a lot of the common reasons for various types of website abandonment and we’ve even gotten down into the nitty gritty regarding the oversimplification of the term ‘cart abandonment.’ However, there is one type of website abandonment that we haven’t spent much time talking about, and that’s the bounce rate.
What is the Bounce Rate?
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter the website and leave the site (bounce) instead of advancing to other pages on the same site.” This definition is short, sweet, and accurate. If a user views only one page on your site and then types a new URL in the navigation bar, backs out to search results, or closes their browser, then they have bounced.
Time and Time Again…
For a term with a cut-and-dry definition, there’s an odd amount of controversy surrounding this particular form of website abandonment. Many people seem to be confused by one simple, nagging element: time. One side of the debate swears by the fact that a bounce is registered when a visitor to a website leaves without clicking through to any other pages within a certain period of time. Others vehemently disagree, writing that so long as the user doesn’t move deeper into the website before abandoning from their initial entry page, they’ve bounced.
So, is time a factor when calculating bounce rates?
I know, that’s probably the least satisfying answer to the question, but there’s a reason for the ambiguity. A bounce is also registered by your analytics software at the moment of a “session timeout.” This means that after a certain period of inactivity, a visitor’s session is closed and, when they return and move about, a new session is created. The first inactive session is registered as a bounce as soon as it times out.
However, there is no universal “Countdown to Bounce” timer among analytics platforms. Although the term “bounce” suggests immediacy–people landing on your website and immediately ‘bouncing’ away, Google Analytics registers a session timeout after about 30 minutes of inactivity. Other analytic platforms may wait longer or not register inactivity at all.
Getting to Know Bounce Rates
Before we start talking about common problems that might drive up bounce rates, it’s important to get to know the statistic a little better. First off, as a general rule, it’s usually good to try and keep bounce rates low. There are some very important exceptions to this rule, though.
For example, if you’re a small business that operates locally, you’re likely to do a good amount of business on the phone. As a result, your phone number is probably plastered all over your website. If a prospective client lands on your site’s front page, reads what you have listed there, and calls the number to set up an appointment before closing their browser, this registers as a bounce–but it’s not a failure by any means! Furthermore, if you run a single-page website, chances are that bounce rates aren’t going to mean much to you as every single person who leaves your site has technically bounced. On the other hand, if the front page of an online retailer’s website is experiencing a high bounce rate, then it’s not serving its purpose as a jumping-off point for product browsing, and that’s a problem.
As you may have guessed, bounce rates vary widely from vertical to vertical. The folks over at KISSmetrics have service sites sitting at 10-30% bounce while content websites focused on search visibility have bounce rates between 40 and 60%. To fit the purposes of this blog, the most important metric to evaluate is average retail website bounce rate, which is 36.5% according to our research.
Now that we have the basic foundation of bounce rates, in our next entry we’ll get into specifics and help you determine what you can do to make your website less bouncy. Website abandonment, on retail sites in particular, can be a revenue-crippling problem. The best thing you can do is get educated on the reasons for cart abandonment and start taking proactive steps in remarketing and abandonment prevention.
Written by Joe Rosenthal