By now, you’ve probably installed Google Analytics into your site so that you can see how many people are visiting your website.  Unfortunately, Google Analytics has become so powerful that it’s often too robust for someone who’s not been trained on how to use it.  As a website design company, we love the power that it provides but like with most things, as they provide more functionality, they inevitably become more complicated and are thereby more difficult to use.

I remember when Google first released Analytics.  It wasn’t much more than a line graph showing how many people had visited my site.  These days, the pages seem endless.  You can sort the data, you and view it from different angles.  You can even see the most popular paths through your site.  It’s incredible…if you care to go into that level of detail.  On the other hand, if you’re like most people, you probably just want to know how to use the basic features. How many visitors did you have last month?  How long did they stay?  Which phrases did they enter into a search engine to find your site?  And then there’s the bounce rate.  Most people just gloss right over that one.  Hey, if it doesn’t sound self-explanatory, they move on, right?  No, let’s back up and make sure we don’t miss that one.  It’s pretty important.

So let’s start with a definition.  What is the bounce rate?  It’s simply the percentage of people that hit your site and bounced right back.  They essentially hit the back button without going deeper into the site.

So the question I get all the time is, “What’s a bad bounce rate? And what is a good bounce rate?”

I could just say something like “80% or higher would be a bad bounce rate” but that wouldn’t take into account all of the potential scenarios that could account for the higher bounce rate.  Let me put it this way…If your website were designed to qualify your prospects, would that be a bad thing?  Would you mind if 80% of the people that hit the site left immediately because they realized that your company wasn’t a good fit for them?  Well, if you’re desperate for sales, then you might be willing to talk with anyone who has a pulse, but if you’re running a successful business, then you’ve probably come to the realization that you don’t want to waste your time talking with people who are never going to buy from you.

Case in point, I was talking with a couple of business owners yesterday.  They own a company that’s selling high-end outdoor patio accessories.  We’re talking $1200 for  lounge chair for the deck.  Do you think they want to get phone calls from every person who is looking for a patio chair?  Of course not.  Only a few people are willing and capable of paying $1200 for a chair.  What if their website were able to self-select?  What if all of the people looking for a typical Home Depot kind of chair would realize that this wasn’t the kind of site that sells $50 chairs and they’d leave?  Would that hurt their business?  Of course not.  Would it make their bounce rate go up?  Yep.   A website that’s designed to qualify people can save you money and time because you’re not chasing down people that will never buy from you.

So, to bring this full-circle, let’s get back to the bounce rate.  In light of the lounge-chair scenario, does it sound like a bad thing if 80% of the people hit the site and leave immediately?  An 80% bounce rate might be an indicator of a great site, a site that’s doing its job.  If 80% of the people leave right away and the remaining 20% stick around and turn into customers, that sounds pretty good to me.  Would Tiffany and Co. want thousands of people coming in their store?  Maybe.  What if 80% of those people were looking for the kind of jewelry that you’d find at Walmart?  I’m pretty sure they’d prefer to just have their high-end clientele come in their store.

So is 80% a good bounce rate or a bad bounce rate?  Well, it’s both, depending on your site.  If you have an 80% bounce rate and the phone is still ringing off the hook and all of the people who call are legitimate, qualified buyers, then the bounce rate may be great.  But what if you have an 80% bounce rate and the phone never rings?  I talked with a frustrated prospect the other day.  He was concerned about his high bounce rate because he knew he was getting a lot of people to the site but none of them ever contacted him.  In his case, the high bounce rate was probably an indicator of a poorly designed site with a message that didn’t resonate with anyone.  Hundreds of people hit the site and none responded.  Sure, a few bothered to stick around and visit a few pages, but none of them called.  That’s a sign of a poorly converting site.  Bounce rates can reveal something about conversion rates, but it’s critical that you measure your conversion rates in addition to your bounce rates.  We’ll talk about that one next Wednesday.  Until then, I hope that helps.



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