Understanding and using the Bounce Rate and Exit Rate
With the great metrics it provides, Google Analytics can be a very powerful tool in helping you understand your website’s overall performance.
However, if you don’t know what the metrics mean and how they are different from one another, you won’t be able to understand the data that’s right in front of you and take advantage of it.
In this article, we are going to dissect the Google Analytics metrics that represent the movement of people across your web pages: the bounce rate and exit rate. More specifically, we will answer such questions as what these metrics are, what’s the difference between the bounce rate and the exit rate, and how you can make the most of them to improve your website.
Let’s start by taking a look at the two metrics.
What’s a bounce rate?
The bounce rate is a web traffic analysis metric that represents the percentage of people who came to a specific page on a website and left straight away without going to any other pages within the website.
Let’s take a look at a simple illustration of a bounce:
As you might have already guessed, the more people leave a web page in such a way, the higher its bounce rate will be. For this reason, the bounce rate is often referred to as the “percentage of single-page sessions”.
What’s an exit rate?
The exit rate is another web traffic analysis metric that represents the percentage of people who visited some pages of your website and then left from a particular page. This metric shows you where various visitors decided to cut short their journey through your website.
Once again, let’s check out another simple illustration:
Checking the bounce & exit rates in Google Analytics
You can analyze the individual bounce and exit rates of each page by going to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
You can really make the most of the provided data under All Pages. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t focus on the numbers as much as on the bigger picture – your website’s business goals.
In addition, you can check the bounce rate from different channels and sources under Acquisition for additional info.
What’s the difference between bounce rate & exit rate?
While the exit and bounce rates might sound similar, the two metrics provide you with completely different data. Even Google’s definition of bouncing and exiting can be quite confusing, so let’s point out the main differences between the two metrics, just to be clear on the subject:
- Bouncing refers to the first page people land on while exiting refers to the last visited page in a session.
- Bouncing refers to one-page sessions while exiting isn’t limited by the number of pages.
- Bouncing is usually seen as a negative metric.
- Exiting can be negative and positive depending on the context of a page.
- All bounces are also exits.
In general, these metrics inform you how many people are visiting your web pages and the duration of their stay, as well as how effectively your pages move people toward your conversion goals. They can let you know the effectiveness of individual pages as well as of your site’s conversion funnel, but how exactly are these metrics measured?
Calculating the bounce & exit rates
Now, let’s take a specific example of a user journey of three visitors (1, 2 and 3) through three web pages (A, B and C) and calculate the two rates:
Visitors 1 and 2 land on Page A. Visitor 1 moves on to Page B, while Visitor 2 leaves the site – bounces. So, the bounce and exit rates for Page A are at 50% since half of its visitors left.
Then, once Visitor 1 lands on Page B, Visitor 3 enters the page. Visitor 1 is continuing navigating the site and can no longer contribute to the bounce rate. However, Visitor 3 leaves after seeing just one page, taking the bounce rate of Page B to 100%. The exit rate remains at 50% since half of the visitors have left.
Lastly, Visitor 1 continues to Page C, then makes an exit. Since no new visitors entered the site at this point, the bounce rate for Page C is zero, but with Visitor 1 leaving the site completely, the exit rate amounts to 100%.
What can the bounce and exit rates be used for?
When looking at the bounce and exit rates, it’s best if you consider the context of each page.
As a rule of thumb, use the bounce rate to learn how effective your landing pages are at getting visitors to further explore your website, and analyze the exit rate to find out how well each one of your pages is performing in terms of funneling users to the page where they convert.
It must be mentioned that it’s better to analyze the exit rate versus the bounce rate in terms of the user down-funnel journey, since bounces are only counted when visitors land directly on a page, while exits take all website exits into account. After all, it’s all about conversions.
There are a number of ways to cut down the bounce and exit rates on important web pages, such as offering an incentive to continue browsing or recommending closely-related content, to name a few. Let’s talk a little bit more about that.
Reducing the bounce & exit rates
First off, there is no such thing as the perfect bounce and exit rate! Let’s be clear on that. It’s all about, that’s right — context. So don’t just go chasing numbers.
Start by looking at some areas of your website that may influence the bounce rate and the exit rate, such as:
- Homepage – the gateway to your site
- Content – easy to read and relevant to the search query
- Multimedia – distracting or self-loading elements
- Page load time – critical for mobile users (and not only)
- Social ads – in sync with the landing page
- Links – open in new tabs
- Live chat option – alleviate user uncertainty
- Design and navigation
- CTA – encouraging or actionable
Run split tests to evaluate different versions of the same page to see which ones resonate better with the visitors. Focus on pages that push visitors to convert. Plus, you must first understand the purpose of a page and what visitors expect from it.
Take an e-store, for example, where the user journey usually ends on an order confirmation or thank you page. As a result, these pages have a lot of exits. But why not add a “related products” section to encourage shoppers to continue browsing? Moreover, give shoppers all relevant information upfront before they click “Add to Cart” and optimize the checkout process to decrease the number of exits.
Another thing you can do is install heatmap or real-time tracking software like Hotjar and Inspectlet to better understand what exactly people do on your web pages and your site in general.
With that knowledge, you can find out what’s preventing them from taking the next step.
At the end of the day, your conversion goals and user behavior help you decide which metric you should rely on. By segmenting your data and targeting specific pages, you’ll be able to fix problematic areas in the context of your site’s structure and design and increase the time people spend on your site.
It also must be said that not all websites are made up of multiple pages. With the growing use of mobile devices, desktop apps are fighting an uphill battle for popularity with single-page web apps. The latter are far more easier to update, their use is more convenient, and, on top of that, they are accessible from all devices.
In fact, Google has started taking one-page sites into account and is gradually updating their search bots to display such sites in SERPs for relevant queries.
Let’s look at single-page websites a bit closer in the context of measuring the bounce rate.
Bounce rate for single-page websites
Single-page websites or applications are exactly what the name suggests. They are uncomplicated, dynamically-updated pages designed to provide details that encourage visitors to move toward the conversion goal.
For example, take Facebook. It’s infinite scroll technically means that no one is going to a second page and that it must have a high bounce rate. And yet it doesn’t.
Setting up event tracking in Google Analytics
Event tracking in Google Analytics is a great way to discover what visitors are actually doing on each page and which elements are pushing them to make an exit.
Google Analytics has to have certain settings to properly track the bounce rate. Your bounces will be off the chart if you don’t set up event tracking, regardless of whether your website consists of a single or multiple pages.
So, to know what visitors are doing on your site, you need to set up an adjusted bounce rate by adding the following tracking parameters via Google Tag Manager:
- Time on site. Visitors that make it past the set “time-on-site” threshold won’t contribute to the bounce rate.
- Page view. Single-page sites don’t work well with page-view-based tracking, so you’ll need to initiate virtual pageview tracking. You can set it up for certain clicks that are defined as page views by you, or once visitors scroll to a certain section tagged as a separate page. This also works for multi-page websites.
- Click. Add this parameter to anchor texts, images and buttons to track interactions and find the best way to drive clicks to your web pages.
- Event. The automatic activation of lightboxes, modals or sliders can also be tracked.
- Scroll depth. Learn how far down the page visitors are scrolling to see their level of engagement.
- eCommerce. Attribute sales to elements in your click and event tracking by adding this parameter.
Adding these tracking parameters to collect large amounts of data can help you understand what design changes to make on your single – or multi-page website, what technical updates to implement, and how to get more visitors to convert.