Google Analytics Basics Series - Bounce Rate and Page Exit Rate


As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to start the new year making sure everyone was on the same page when it came to the standard metrics you will see and use in Google Analytics.

This is the second of four posts in which I’ll be walking you through what makes these basic metrics important and how you should go about using them in your analyses.

The Basic Metrics Series will cover:

  1. Visits and Visitors

  2. Bounce Rate and Page Exit Rate

  3. Time on Site

  4. Pageviews

Blog - Google Analytics Basics - Bounce Rate.jpg

In this week’s post, I’ll be diving deep into the Bounce Rate and the Page Exit Rate. Though it may seem that they are very similar metrics, they are in fact quite different and one is a key metric, which you should ensure to always keep an eye on.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Bounce Rate

No matter what analytics tool you are using to track your website usage and engagement, looking at your bounce rate is very important as it’s one of the best metrics to measure the quality of the traffic coming to your site.

The main definition for Bounce Rate is:

  • The percentage of traffic to your site that only views one page and then leaves.

To give you an example, let’s say you are sending people to a blog page. Visitors would click on your link, perhaps from social media or whatnot, land on your blog post, read your post (don’t comment) and then leave.

Since they only viewed that one page on your site, they would be considered a bounced visit and your bounce rate could be very close to 100%. Nevertheless, they consumed your content and hopefully got value from it. So can we say that this bounce rate is good or bad?

This is why context is everything when it comes to the bounce rate, it’s also why it’s very important to think through how you want your visitors to engage with your site and which metrics will best give you information on performance and engagement.

On the other hand, let’s say you are an online retailer whose large percentage of traffic lands on the homepage. If your bounce rate is anything over 60%, then you need to investigate what is causing people who land on your homepage to leave right away as opposed to looking into the products you are selling.

Could it be:

  • Your traffic sources

  • Tracking error

  • Site errors

  • Site design

You would need to investigate each to see what is leading to the high bounce rate and make the necessary changes to bring it down.

A few analyses to run involving the bounce rate that will give you valuable information about your site are:

  1. Understand the performance of your site as a whole

  2. Measure the quality of your traffic sources

  3. Understand engagement with your top pages

  4. Assess the performance of paid search campaigns

1.Understand the performance of your site as a whole

At a high level, looking at your overall bounce rate will give you information on how visitors to your site are engaging with your content.

This is where context will come into play and the type of site is also very important.

If you are an online retailer and the goal of your site is for visitors to view your shop, look at product details and ultimately add items to their cart and check out. Having a 70% bounce rate is not good at all. Heck, in reality, a bounce rate of over 45% is cause to dig deep and investigate further.

On the other hand, if you are a blogger or a 1-page site, your bounce rate may be close to the 80%-90% mark as the majority of people will visit the site and only view that one page. Nevertheless, even for blogging sites, you want to encourage your visitors to engage further with your site, whether that’s viewing another blog post, signing up for your list or performing another high valued action.

A note: If you are a service based business and you currently have a 1-page site with anchor tags to take visitors to your content, unless you add additional tracking in Google Analytics, your bounce rate will be 100%.

The reason for this is because the default implementation of Google Analytics only tracks pages loaded and if there isn’t another page that is loaded when a person navigates to the different sections within the page, Google will be in the dark to this action.

There are two solutions to this:

1- You can add additional tracking through Google Tag Manager (GTM) to let Google Analytics know that if someone goes to your ‘Services’ section within your 1-page site.

2- You can create additional pages for each of the sections on your site instead of having a 1-page site. No additional tracking is needed for this since Google Analytics will recognize the new page(s).

I highly highly recommend that you implement either of the solutions above, to make sure you can calculate your bounce rate correctly. This is particularly important if you are sending any paid traffic to your site.

Please, please, don’t spend money to drive traffic unless you can evaluate its quality.

2. Measure the quality of your traffic sources

Understanding the quality of traffic landing on your site from the various traffic sources is also extremely important.

Knowing their individual performance will highlight the sources that are driving quality traffic vs those that aren’t and you can then dig deeper to understand why that is the case and either put more effort into what is working and/or put effort into what is not to improve it.

3. Understand engagement with your top pages

Investigating the bounce rate of your top viewed pages on your site is very important, even more so, if it’s a page that is frequently landed on.

When you see that a particular page (at least one that is not a final page) has a high bounce rate, you should investigate the following:

  • Calls to actions on the page - do you provide your visitors with a clear path of where you want them to go next

  • Content quality - is the content on the page providing value to your visitors? Are you answering the question they asked in their search that led them to your site?

  • Page Elements - Ensure that the elements on your site, such as video/images loading or pop-ups are not interfering with the customer experience and causing your visitors to get frustrated and leave.

It’s important to pay attention to the bounce rate of your key pages, especially those that are part of a sales funnel to make ensure you get the most value from the traffic that is landing there.

4. Asses the performance of Paid Search Campaigns

Needless to say, if you are paying money to drive traffic to your site, one of the key metrics that you have to look at is how many of those visitors only view one page and then leave.

Having a high bounce rate for any of your paid traffic sources, whether that is Facebook Ads, Instagram Promoted Ads or Search Ads is something to investigate ASAP.

To start, you can narrow things down by the campaign, ad group, keywords and landing page. A high bounce rate is an indication that something in your marketing messaging does not match what you’re showing your visitor on your site.  

I recommend, you pause that particular campaign (you don’t want to be spending money on traffic that is just bouncing) and then go level by level investigating what is causing it. This way you can make changes and start getting higher quality traffic that will do the actions that are important for your business.

So, what’s an acceptable bounce rate?

To start, I want to note that it’s rare to see a business with a bounce rate lower than 20%, there will always be a percentage of your traffic that will just view one page and leave. If you have a bounce rate lower than 20%, there is probably a Google Analytics tracking issue that needs to be investigated and fixed.

On the other hand, if your bounce rate is over 60%, you need to look into what is causing it to be so high. As I have mentioned before, if you’re a 1-page site, it’s very likely that you’ll see a bounce rate very close to 100%. Your choice is to either modify the tracking or leave it as is and know that for your site, this is expected.

Nevertheless, even for blogging sites, I encourage you to find ways to decrease the bounce rate by adding calls to actions on your blog posts that encourage your visitors to click on to view more content.

This will be especially important for new visitors to your site. Your returning traffic may have a higher bounce rate as they may only want to consume the new blog post. You can easily see the difference between the two by segmenting New vs Returning traffic. To learn more about segmentation, you can read this post.

Having a clear understanding of the number of visitors to your site that only views one page before leaving is of the utmost importance and one I highly recommend you don’t lose sigh off.

On to the next metric!

Page Exit Rate

The Page Exit Rate shows you the rate of exit from a particular page. Simply put, it’s the last page that your visitor saw before they left your site.

It’s perfectly possible that the last page your visitor saw is the same page that they landed on and left, but not necessarily. For those with 1-page sites, the Bounce Rate and Page Exit Rate will be the same.

Some pages are expected to have high exit rates, pages like your complete order form, or your thank you pages and so there is no need to be concerned if the rate is in the 90’s.

Frankly, the Page Exit Rate is not a metric that I would spend much time investigating, the reason for this is that on average the conversion rate for websites is around 2%, which means that 98% of your traffic will be exiting your site.

It’s more important to look at the bounce rate of your top landing pages to understand where you’re losing visitors.

There is only one exception of where you should look at the Page Exit Rate, this is in either your checkout process, your sales funnel or your sign up sequence.

Taking the checkout process as an example, you will want to understand the page exit rate for the various steps in the process. This will give you valuable information on what is impacting your purchase completion rate.

If you see that consumers are leaving from the enter details page, you can investigate why this is the case, could it be a bug on the page that is preventing them from continuing the process or is there something else?

When I had my online toy boutique, I noticed that there was a high exit rate from my enter details page in my shopping cart funnel. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there was a bug on the site that was not recognizing postal codes and therefore not letting users move on to the next step.

Needless to say, this was costing me sales and thankfully I was able to fix it quickly. I was able to find out because I had set up alerts within Google Analytics to notify me if certain thresholds were reached. Without this, it could have been weeks before I would have found out this was happening and it would have cost me thousands of dollars.

What’s key when it comes to evaluating both your Bounce Rate and the Page Exit Rate is context and clearly understanding how you want your visitors to navigate your site.

Next week, I’ll be walking you through Time on Site and the various time metrics within Google Analytics. Similarly to Bounce Rate, there are important nuances to these metrics that you need to take into consideration when analyzing how much time visitors are spending on your site and your pages.

Stay tuned!

As always reach out in the comments if you have any questions around either of the metrics discussed in this post and I’ll be happy to answer.

Happy Analyzing!

Hi, I’m Karla

I’m here to help small business understand and use their website data to take the guess work out of growing their business.

I’ll love to help you start using your valuable website data to help you grow your business, book a FREE 30 minute discovery call with me and let’s get started.