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A high bounce rate can be bad, but it can also be a sign that the page is doing exactly what you've designed it to do.


Hi, and welcome to the latest in the series of screencasts we're providing to give you some tips on how to use Google Analytics. Today's screencast is one that I get asked questions about all the time. And that's to do with bounce rates. And high bounce rates are bad, aren't they?

The answer is well, it depends. It depends is actually one of my favourite answers to give when it comes to questions about analytics. When it comes to things like a bounce rate, a high bounce rate — yes, it can be bad. But it could also be a sign that the page is doing exactly what you've designed it to do. You can't really use the site average bounce rate as a good indicator. You need to look at the behaviour over a smaller set of pages or even a specific page to really get the deep insight and meaning that you need to make some of those decisions.

Now if I was to look at the site for the Web Toolkit, I can see pageviews, unique pageviews, a bounce rate, average time on page. Now that's actually where the problem lies. It's an average. So the high and low values that will be present are actually being hidden by the fact that we're averaging out the data at this point. So to get the details that I need, I need to drill down into a little bit more data. I need to go in and explore some specific pages on the site.

So let's take a look at the All Pages report. And you can see that if you sort it by the bounce rate in a descending order, the results it shows you aren't actually that useful because quite often, the number of page views that some of these pages get is quite small. So the bounce rate is kind of by definition, going to be pretty high. It doesn't take much to get 100% bounce rate.

Now if you change the setting in the sort order to weighted instead of default, some magic happens. Now Google shows you the list of pages that have a moderate number of page views compared to the previous report. But it's still taking into account the overall balance rate for that page. So here it's now showing me one of our blog posts as being perhaps the highest bounce right page relative to other pages on the site. In fact, the second page is also a blog post. The third page is some of our guidance material. So this gives me a better idea of which pages might actually be the problem pages.

But of course, we're talking about some blog posts here. So is a high bounce rate on those pages a problem? Well, actually, I think the answer to that is no.

Now you can also go a little bit further when you're exploring the pages that might be of concern to you. I've created a custom report that simplified some of the fields that are shown to you and added some additional columns to make it a little bit more useful to compare one page against another. And I also added a secondary dimension, or, in this case, it was medium, to give me a sense of well, if users were coming to the site through different channels, was that changing their behaviour? You could also use Device category or User type — so new and returning users — to see if there were differences in user behaviour.

OK, so if we drop the secondary dimension for the time being and just take a look at the landing pages that are sorted by entrances — so that's giving us the most frequently used landing pages for the site — the one that I'd like to look at in a little bit more detail is the web accessibility standard. It looks like it might have some opportunity for improvement.

So let's take a look at that page. We'll just jump over to the Web Toolkit and show it to you. This is one of the core pages of the Web Toolkit. It contains a lot of information about the standard that we expect agencies to adhere to. It includes links to material that may sit elsewhere, not on the Web Toolkit. It contains links to a lot of internal content, definitions, and some glossary terms that appear on the standard itself.

One of the major links that it has is the link out to the W3C, the conformance requirements. These are the actual detail standards that agencies are required to comply with. Our website does not actually repeat all that information. So it's pretty key that users get out to see that conformist information.

So using event tracking, we can actually see how many times people are clicking on the links from that page out to the conformance information. There's a moderate number of those coming, compared to the page views of the overall page. It's perhaps not as high as it could be. Maybe it's an indication that people don't know that link is there, or they can't see it. So if we now go and take a look at the actual page itself, go into the Navigation Summary view. You can see a little bit more about where people are coming from and where they're going to.

Now for this particular page, the entrance rate is about 35%, which means most people are coming to this page from elsewhere on the site. So the overall bounce rate is perhaps not as bad or not as significant as it might first seem because it doesn't apply to all that traffic that's come from elsewhere. What's of more interest is the exit rate. So this is about 40%, so that says a good number of people are leaving the site from this page.

Now some of those visits are actually going to be the people clicking off to the conformance information. Some will be just people leaving the site. So we need to have a look at that. About 60%, though, are actually clicking off to other pages on the website.

But let's take a look at what they're actually linking off to. They seem to be maybe exploring the Toolkit site rather than digging into the details that might be being shown to them in the actual standards material itself. I think this is probably worth a closer look, and I'll need to come up with some ideas on what we might do to perhaps present the page or information in a slightly different way.

If you’ve got questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at or visit the Web Toolkit for more information.

Other screencasts in this series

See the first post in this series for the full list of screencasts.

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