Each month, our clients receive SEO reports and analysis of their website’s traffic and performance. In addition to tracking basic traffic, pageviews, pages viewed per session, average session duration, and other metrics, we track something called bounce rate. Over the past month or two, we’ve noticed that some of our clients’ website statistics — especially bounce rate — have fluctuated. So, we’re diving into why this is happening and how it impacts your overall online marketing strategy.
What is bounce rate?
Google defines a website’s bounce rate as “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”
According to Google, “there are a number of factors that contribute to a high bounce rate. For example, users might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in going to other pages.”
How does it work?
The bounce rate for a website calculates the percentage of single-page visits. This can be visualized as playing hop scotch or using a pogo stick while traveling. As you hop along, you interact with the ground beneath you via contact, and you only touch a spot once before moving to a new spot. Users do this when they find a website via a single page, but do not interact with any other pages on the site, thus causing the bounce rate percentage to rise.
The same can be seen while using a search engine. The user enters a query, and the search engine returns results. From this point, the user chooses which link fits the query and clicks on the result he or she likes. The page loads. If the user commits one of the listed acts below, he or she has contributed to the website’s overall bounce rate percentage:
- Uses the backspace key or back button to return to the search engine result page (SERP)
- Exits/closes out of the browser
- Times out the session (default is 30 minutes, but exact times vary from site to site and operating system to operating system)
Why does it matter?
Generally speaking, the lower a website’s bounce rate is, the better. On the other hand, a bounce rate that is too low indicates other problems. A bounce rate too high or too low could be a cause for concern, which is why we monitor our clients’ bounce rates regularly and often.
As we’ve been completing our clients’ SEO reports this month, we’ve noticed a trend pretty much across the board: a higher bounce rate than what we’ve seen before. In most cases, the bounce rate for mobile devices has been on the rise, settling in the high 60s and above. The bounce rate for desktop devices, however, have remained steady between 40% and 60%.
What’s the cause of this rise in bounce rate for our clients’ websites? Mobilegeddon (aka the algorithm that Google began rolling out at the end of April prioritizing mobile-friendly/responsive websites in search results). Well, at least the change in bounce rate trend coincides with the release of this algorithm. We can’t say we’re surprised. In fact, we expected this.
Think about it: now that mobile-friendly websites are being favored in search results (one very big reason MDPM Consulting builds only fully responsive websites for our clients), more users than ever are using mobile devices to search the web. On a mobile device, a searcher is much more likely to enter a query, click on a result, find the information he or she is looking for, and then end the search than they are on a desktop machine. When it comes to mobile, quick and easy is the name of the game. So, although this user behavior trend is contributing to higher bounce rates and lower average session duration, it makes sense and isn’t cause for concern.
Let’s take a deeper look…
MDPM writes and publishes focused blog posts that engage searchers who are searching for an answer to a specific question. With this in mind — whether the user is searching on a mobile device or a desktop — the content MDPM creates is geared toward addressing what’s called long tail phrases/keywords that users search for on search engines. The goal with targeting long tail phrases/keywords is to bring qualified users to a website. If the content answers the searcher’s specific question, the searcher begins to trust the resource, therefore becoming more likely to convert (schedule an appointment). If searchers find the information they’re looking for on a website, it’s likely they would read the page and then navigate away from it — either ending the search entirely, or (hopefully) calling to schedule an appointment.
On the other hand, bounce rate can sometimes indicate an issue with a website. It could identify a tracking code installed incorrectly, or it could mean a site isn’t delivering what is expected when found in the SERPs.
In short, bounce rate should be reviewed case by case, including various other pieces of data, to determine if your percentage is high, low, or just right for your industry, location, audience, and other standards.