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The Dangers of Bounce Rates

In the E-commerce industry, one of the most effective ways to optimize your conversion rate is to optimize your bounce rate. Think about it – if the majority of people come and leave your website without completing the actions/goals you need, then you will not have a good conversion rate.

Enter the bounce rate

The standard definition of bounced visit is a web visitor who only views one page. Bounce Rate is the percent of total visitors who have only visited one page. The intent of this metric is to track the percent of traffic that has no engagement with the site. The reality however can be quite different.

Problems with bounce rate

1. By definition, bounce rate does not measure engagement with the page the user is viewing. If a user lands on an article, and spends 4 minutes reading, then leaves the site, this would be considered a bounce. Was the user engaged with your site? Yes, but standard bounce rates will not take this behavior into account.

2. Single page interaction might not be tracked. In many cases, especially with HTML 5 becoming a standard in website development, users can interact with content and not actually load a new page. Examples include page tabs, media views, and form submissions. Without special coding, these events would simply be counted as a bounce.

3. Conversions can sometimes also be attributed to a bounced visit. If you have an email sign-up as a conversion, this should not be tracked as a bounce. If your commerce process moves a user from one sub-domain to another because of your commerce engine, it might be considered a bounced visit. Google Analytics has an easy way to research the frequency of this occurrence.

First go to the segmentation area  and select the predefined segment names “Converters”


From there you can run a standard overview report and see what percent of “Converters” are reported as a bounced visit


How can you better report bounce rate?

Fortunately there are a number of things that you can do to more accurately report the bounce rate on a site.

1. The first thing I would recommend is to not just look at bounce rate, but also look at time on site. There are reports in most analytics solutions that also report time on site. You will want to compare your bounce rate to the engagement report to ensure they are directionally comparable.


2. Existing Scripts and Plugins. WordPress has a Reduce Bounce Rate plugin. There are ways to create Virtual Page Views in Google Analytics to track page tabs, and there is always Event Tracking for videos and other media. In addition to that, the new Universal Analytics has the ability to add a listener that allows Google to track all clicks associated with a file type like a PDF. Anytime you track an event on a page, it does not count as a bounce.

3. Custom JavaScript. One easy custom script you can do is to create an event simply based on the time viewed on a page. You’ll want to do some research to determine the correct amount of time you’ll want to pass before you trigger an event. Below is a code snippet that  triggers an “Engaged User” event at 3 minutes.

setTimeout(“_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’,’Engaged User’,’time on page more than 3 minutes’])”,180000);


What happens next?

Once you start implementing some of these improvements and solutions, you will see the bounce rate on the site decline and you will have a better idea of what percent of your visitors really are engaged vs. just passing by.

About Nathan Matuska

Nathan Matuska is Director of Product Development at the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and founder of Analytics Nerd. He has nearly 15 years of experience in Ecommerce Strategies, Data Analysis, and Digital Marketing. He has extensive experience in web analytics, previously working as the Manager of Client services for a web analytics start-up and has worked with other tools such as SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics and Webtrends.

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