What Is Bounce Rate And Why It Can’t Be Called A Vanity Metric

adjusted bounce rate
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In the last couple of years we have seen a lot of changes in the world of online marketing and web analytics. Marketers started looking at metrics much deeper than before, trying to figure out correlations and patterns in the data they see every day.

Experienced marketers know what to look for and what types of data are most important to them. But there is still one metric, which causes quite a bit of confusion among online marketers: Bounce Rate.

Let’s talk about Bounce Rate

So what exactly is Bounce Rate? Let’s look at Google’s definition first:

“Bounce Rate is the percentage of visits that go only one page before exiting a site.”

We know that having a high Bounce Rate is something negative. It means that your visitors are not engaged and are not interested in your website. Right? Wrong.

Now let’s take the following scenario: You run a website that displays the weather for the next three days in New York. Someone searches for “weather 3 days new york” and clicks on your website. This visitor is interested in one thing only: how the weather will be like. So this person looks at your website, gets the information he/she needs, maybe even shares the information on Facebook and leaves.

Is this “Bounce”? Yes. Is it bad? No. You have given your visitor the exact information that was searched for.

It’s time to change

I think it’s time to reconsider the definition of Bounce Rate. In my opinion it should look something like this:

“Bounce Rate is the percentage of visits that do not engage with your site before exiting it.”

This definition leaves a bit of wiggle room for you to play with. Now it’s up to you to decide what a Bounce means to you.

Some examples of what can be considered an “engagement”.

  1. Staying on the page for at least 10 seconds, making sure that your content was read
  2. Social shares
  3. Scrolling down the page
  4. Leaving a comment on your blog post

Bounce Rate might even be one of the most important online metrics. Just think about it – you tweak the metric the way you want it so it reflects things that are most important to you.

How to adjust Bounce Rate to your needs

You already know that, for instance, Google Analytics records how and when users navigate through your website, where they come from and from what page they exit the site. This is all possible with the help of a code snippet in the head of your website’s code.

The good thing about code is that you can change it. The changed code will then show you the so-called “Adjusted Bounce Rate

Adjusted Bounce Rate examples

There are some tested ways to adjust the Google Analytics tracking code.

Trigger an event after a period of time

This is how your tracking code should look like if you want to count a 15-second-visit as an engagement.
<script type=”text/javascript”>

  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
  setTimeout(“_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '15_seconds', 'read'])”,15000);
  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
  })();
</script>

 

Scrolling down the page will trigger an event

If you know that the content your visitors are looking for are further down the page (a coupon code, for instance) you can adjust your code to count a scroll-down as an engagement.

<script>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-12345-1']);

window.addEventListener ?
window.addEventListener(‘scroll’, testScroll, false) :
window.attachEvent(‘onscroll’, testScroll);

var scrollCount = 0;
function testScroll() {
++scrollCount;
if (scrollCount == 2) {
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'window', 'scrolled']);
}
};
</script>

Courtesy of Nick Mihailovski.

Conclusion

Bounce Rate should no longer be considered a standard metric. It should be a unique KPI for every website, simply because every site has its own purpose and goal.

Adjust the code the way you want it to be and look how your 80% Bounce Rate will drop immediately.

Why do you think that Bounce Rate is something every digital marketer should look at? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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Daniel's passion is optimizing stuff, making it work better and faster. He likes tech, entrepreneurship and the outdoors. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. Online Marketer | Entrepreneur | Hard Worker | Smart Thinker | Techie
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