What Is Bounce Rate And Why Is It Scary?

Rather than just write about whatever happens to pop into my head when I sit down to compose a new blog post, I've decided to embrace my own mantras, and let the data decide what I write about this time.

My site hasn't been around for very long yet, but already looking at the keywords that have brought random and not-so random visitors, variations on 'What is bounce rate' abound.

What is a bounce?

Of course, the Web Analytics Association and vendors have definitions for 'Bounces' that are generally variations on a theme of 'visits consisting of only a single pageview'. But technical definitions have a habit of rendering the problems they describe bloodless, and putting it in terms that Dr. House would understand, a high bounce rate is the suppurating chest wound rapidly draining the life from your website.

Why should you care?

To continue with our bleeding patient metaphor, the situation is actually worse than I described. Chances are, not only is your high-bounce rate site bleeding out all over the operating table, you're probably also expensively transfusing new visitors into it at the same time. If you don't stitch up that wound,  most of that new blood is just going to follow the old blood and end up congealed, nothing more than a sad memory of vitality. Sure, if you keep pumping in new visitors, enough of them will make it through to keep the site alive for a while, but this is messy and ultimately unsustainable. Collapse is inevitable.

What is a bounce really?

Not only are Bounces messy, they are embarrassing. They're the moment at a party when you try to initiate conversation with someone who looks cool or beautiful and they blank you. They're the point during telling a joke when you reach the punchline and nobody laughs.

A bounce is a failure to connect.

What should you do?

Whatever web analytics tool you use, identify your highest bouncing landing pages. Most tools surface this information fairly obviously, so you should have little trouble drawing up a top ten of the worst offenders. Then – and this is the important bit…

Look at those pages.

Try and understand what it is about them that makes visitors turn away immediately when they've given you the chance to connect.

What promises did you make to bring them to your site that you aren't keeping?

Image courtesy of laurenmanning@flickr

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3 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Great illustration Philip!

    It's good to have access once again to your insights and inimitable style.
    Both have been sorely missed :)

  2. Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the tips especailly like the final statement "What promises did you make to bring them to your site that you aren't keeping?"
    I'm going to consider this carefully.. sorry about the bold!

  3. Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Love your style, Phil. Like the very best teachers, you make dry subject matter come alive :)

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