High Bounce Rates Can Be Good

By jameszol
Published on January 30, 2008

Ian Lurie of Portent Interactive wrote in his blog (Conversation Marketing) that “A higher bounce rate is bad. A lower one is good.“. Overall, that post is a good one and your bounce rate should be considered with the rest of your user metrics but I don’t believe it can have the weight that Ian’s post implies it should have.

Two Reasons Why A High Bounce Rate Can Be Good

1. How long did that person stay on the page before bouncing? Most popular Analytics packages (Google Analytics) have a problem – the average time a user spends on a page, given that it is the only page they land on, is not recorded. I would say that an average of 15 to 20 minutes on a page with detailed instructions that drive somebody to a form of action that is not a click through the site is extremely successful even though the bounce rate would be almost 100%. A good example is our NUDE series posts – we receive 100+ visits to those every day and the bounce rate is around 90%…I haven’t implemented the fix I linked to a couple sentences ago but I do have a live chat program that let’s me view the footprint of a visitor and the time they spent on that particular page. The average time spent on those pages is around 12 minutes and I’m certain that those visitors walked away with something very engaging and valuable. At least I like to think they got something valuable out of it. :)

2. Advertised landing pages can have a high bounce rate and a high conversion rate. This will require some testing on your part but we have found that taking away some or all of the main navigation on a landing page will give the user two options – convert or leave. In our tests, for some of our clients – not all of them, removing most of the navigation on a landing page tripled or quadrupled conversion rates! We will often start with a 2% conversion rate and end up with an 8% or 10% conversion rate with the other 90% bouncing off the page. Even if you had an extremely high overall conversion rate of 30 – 40%, your bounce rate would still be 60 – 70% for that particular page.

We can conclude that given different circumstances, you might consider a high bounce rate good or bad but it is never truly definitive as a whole…it is definitive for parts of the whole as demonstrated in our post.

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5 Responses to “High Bounce Rates Can Be Good”

  1. Dr. Pete (11 comments.) says:

    I see (1) a lot with my blog. Most visitors, even high quality visitors, either come to the home-page and can get most of what they’re looking for, or read the blog article-by-article from a feed reader. Either way, they only go to one page and yet they may be some of my best “customers”. Of course, this shows up as a lousy bounce rate.

    Totally unrelated, but I’m also trying to crack why the StumbleUpon bounce rate claims to be so low. There’s something wrong with that number, at least in my experience; SU users are the ultimate bouncers.

  2. Linda Bustos (3 comments.) says:

    These are good points, but I understood that bounces refer to exits within a certain time frame – 5 seconds to 15 seconds, depending on your analytics configuration, not whether the visitor left the site after viewing one page. In that case, the time on site greater than 15 seconds would not factor into your bounce rate at all, you would need to look at depth of visit, no?

  3. jameszol says:

    Linda, thanks for your comment!

    I can’t find a reference for the timed bounce or configuring Analytics to detect that…Google Analytics defines bounce rate:

    Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.
    (Source)

    I’m sure you could configure an Analytics package to do that but we still have the problem of figuring out the actual time on the page if they bounce – but that could be part of the fix.
    Please see Avinash Kaushik’s explanation here.

  4. Linda Bustos (3 comments.) says:

    Ah, thanks for the link from Avinash’s blog. I was confused. I had been reading his book – the part about bounced pages being timed at 0.00, which explains a lot of 0.00 results in G Analytics that used to puzzle me. Somehow I confused that with bounce rates not applying when the user visits only one page, which OF COURSE makes no logical sense!! Is it Friday yet? :D

  5. jameszol says:

    No problem Linda.

    I will be glad when the weekend gets here too! :)

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