Updated September 18, 2023 by Dan Nicholson: This article was originally written in April 2016 for Universal Analytics users. With Google Analytics 4 being the main tool for analysts, Engagement Rate is more widely used. However, this article may still be helpful for some.
One of the most confusing metrics in Google Analytics is the “Bounce Rate.”
The bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of visitors who land on a webpage and then leave the site without interacting with it further. A bounce is essentially a single-page session on your website where the user does not engage with any other pages or elements on your site before exiting.
Aptly, Google defines 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).
So if you’ve navigated to this blog post for the first time ever, you’re considered as a new “user” who has started a new “session” on my website, and Google Analytics started tracking you the millisecond this page loaded. Yet, if you close this tab right now, Google Analytics would calculate your visit as a bounce.
What is the calculation for a Bounce Rate?
Let’s say you really like my blog post and you want to get to know me better – if you navigate to any another webpage (say, my about me page) then Google Analytics will turn your bounce into a visiting session. Therefore, the bounce rate is the number of people who’ve interacted with your webpage for the first time divided by the number of those who’ve interacted with webpage.
Bounce Rate = (Number of Bounces) / (Total Number of Sessions) * 100%
This is the very basic understanding of what a Bounce Rate actually is, however, I want to highlight the word “interacting” in Google’s description. There are actually two different types of interactions a visiting user can perform: an on-page interaction and a off-page interaction.
Differences between On-Page interactions and Off-Page interactions
A high bounce rate can indicate that visitors are not finding what they expected or that your website’s landing page is not engaging enough. However, it’s important to note that a high bounce rate is not always a bad thing. It depends on the type of website and its goals. For example, a blog might have a high bounce rate because readers come to read a single article and then leave, which is perfectly normal. On the other hand, an e-commerce site might want a lower bounce rate because they want visitors to browse and make purchases.
Let’s say that if you’ve read this far without closing my webpage, then you’ve just performed an off-page interaction; you’ve read the majority of my blog post without clicking on, or navigating to, anything on my website.
Google Analytics only tracks this very session as an “on-page” interaction if you actually navigated away from this page. Therefore, in order to track a user’s reading progress, you need to track off-page interactions as on-page interactions using Google Analytics’ “Events” function, typically through a tool like Google Tag Manager.
Understanding your bounce rate can help you identify potential issues with your website’s design, content, or user experience and make improvements to engage visitors more effectively. It’s important to consider bounce rate in the context of your specific website’s goals and objectives.