Two of the more common terms in Google Analytics that people often get confused by: bounce rate and exit rate. Here's the difference...
The world of Google Analytics can be confusing, especially if you are new to it. There’s a lot of jargon and terminology to learn if you want to be able to understand certain metrics or data points. It can feel overwhelming at first, but it’s a lot easier to grasp than you might think.
We won’t be diving into all of the terminology you’ll come across today, however, we do want to look at two of the more common terms in Google Analytics that people often get confused by: bounce rate and exit rate.
Before we dive into all the schematics, we first want to review the general definitions of what each means:
Bounce rate, as defined by Google is “The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds”
If you don’t really get it from reading that description we don’t blame you. Essentially a bounce is when someone views a page of your website, like a service page, and they then leave your site back to the search results without viewing any other pages of your site or engaging with it.
Exit rate, as defined by Google is “(number of exits) / (number of page views) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s).”
So to put it simply, the Exit rate represents the percentage of visitors that leave your site from a particular page, after having visited other pages on your site. So if someone views your homepage, navigates to a service page, then maybe a contact page and leaves, the exit page is then the contact page. Because they interacted with multiple pages, they are not considered a bounce.
What Metric Should You be Keeping an Eye on?
To be quite honest, both. Both metrics can help you gauge engagement with your website and find areas for improvement.
Monitoring your bounce rate can help you keep an eye on the overall performance of your site, and can help you to narrow down “deadweight” pages that users are not engaging with.
Monitoring the exit rate can help you understand the flow of how users interact with your website, and what pages they are most frequently leaving on.
A few things to note is that not all websites require high user engagement. If you run a blog or news website, having a high bounce rate is more acceptable than say an Ecommerce store. If you have an Ecommerce store, then having a high bounce rate is a red flag that something isn’t working.
When it comes to the exit rate, you’ll want to closely keep an eye on which pages users are frequently leaving on. You can follow the flow of which pages users visit to find gaps within your conversion funnel, or gather data on pages that may be deterring users from clicking around more.
Either way, keeping an eye on both metrics will really help you to understand how users interact with your website and where you can improve or encourage more engagement.
Should You be Concerned With a High Bounce Rate or Exit Rate?
This ventures into a bit of a grey area, and you’ll get a lot of mixed answers. As we stated previously, if you run a blog website then having a high bounce rate is more likely to occur. However, having a high bounce rate might also send the wrong types of signals to Google. As Google stated before in their description of a bounce rate, “A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds”
Why is that?
Because there are no subsequent hits after the first encounter to help Google track the time.
So for example, say you enter a website at 5:00 PM. Google will have the time stamp start, but until you click on a new page, Google won’t know how long you were on that page. So when you click a new page at 5:05 PM, Google then knows you were on that page for 5 minutes. Because you don’t have any other hits on a website when you bounce, there is no second-time stamp for Google to know how long you viewed a particular page. Someone may have been on your site for 20 minutes before they bounced off, but it will track at 0.
So what kind of signals is that sending to Google?
A high bounce rate with 0 session duration could certainly be a sign of poor quality content or a slow website load time. It could also tell Google that the content didn’t match the query or search intent.
Google is really focusing more on understanding search intent. If the web page that you rank for has a high bounce rate, that might tell Google it’s not relevant and they may drop you down in rankings for that query.
What about exit rate?
Well, when it comes to exit rate, context is key. You have to remember that people kind of have to leave your website at some point. What really matters is which page they are most frequently leaving on. If users are completing the action that you want them to, then you don’t need to worry about the exit rate. However, if you find that there is a gap within your conversion funnel, or users are leaving at a high rate on a particular page where they should be more engaged, you’d want to review it closer.
How do You Decrease Your Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?
There is an endless amount of advice that we can give on this topic, but we’ll cover some basic points that are easily implementable.
Improve Site Speed: This is crucial. Before you consider anything else, make sure that your website loads quickly. In fact, 47% of users expect a website to load within 2 seconds or less. If you’re experiencing an unusually high bounce rate, you’ll want to run a site speed test to see if that’s the issue.
Reduce Friction: Friction is considered as anything that would interfere with a user completing your goal. This can come in many different forms, like distracting images or videos, unnecessary links that navigate a user in the wrong direction, overly cluttered layout, or confusing and unclear functions. If you have a very specific goal that you want users to complete, there should be as little friction as possible.
Relevance: Google continually tries to improve its understanding of search intent. If you rank for a particular search term or phrase, you’ll want to evaluate the page that ranks, and how relevant it is to that query. Try to ask yourself what problem is a user trying to solve when they search for this? Are they looking to learn something or purchase something? What stage are they at within your funnel? Answering these kinds of questions will help you to improve the relevancy for your content and that query.
CTAs: If people are leaving your site, whether it’s a bounce or an exit, then you may not be providing them with enough reason to stay. You need to gain an understanding of where a user is within their journey. New users may not be familiar enough with you to take action on a purchase, but asking them to subscribe to a newsletter is something they would be more willing to do. Make sure that you have a blend of micro and macro conversion options with compelling CTAs.
In conclusion, having high bounce rates or exit rates are not a definitive indicator of how your website is performing, so you’ll have to review the data with a grain of salt. Think about the goals you want to accomplish with your website, then consider what role the bounce rate and exit rate play in the journey your users will take to achieve that goal.