E-mail Marketing (ESP)
David Addison
by David Addison
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What is a normal bounce rate

01/07/2013
What is a normal bounce rate

The bounce rate is the percentage of bounced visits to your site. A bounce is a short visit (e.g. single-page visit). The ratio is calculated by taking the total number of session starts with only a single page visit divided by the total number of session starts over a given time horizon. Determining normal is very difficult because it really does "depend" on the category or industry, website purpose and strategic underpinnings. Every type of website has different bounce rate ranges.

It is assumed that bounced visitors did nothing on your site. Optimal architecture can generate a conversion without a second page load. The long-form direct response landing page with an AJAX form is a classic example. Everything a prospect needs to make the buy decision is on a single page. Thus the assumption that a single page visit is bad is flawed in many instances.

High bounce rate are not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s ponder the contact page for a local restaurant. Patrons come to the contact page for a single purpose: to contact the restaurant. Bounces rates on this sort of page is extremely high. A site deriving revenue by selling ads may have a high bounce rate because users are clicking on ads. And finally, a single purpose site like a school snow day or weather site will have very high bounce rates.

In general, online forums have a naturally lower bounce rates compared to blogs because users tend to read or follow multiple threads. The same is generally true with large information websites like news, entertainment, sports, and health information sites.

The bounce rate is a notoriously flawed metric for many reasons. Session timeout, opening new tabs in the browser, the rapid adoption of Smartphones, cookie blocking… all impact the metric. We’ve seen pages with bounce rates as high as 90% performing with great success (e.g. making money).

General Bounce Rate Ranges:

    • Under 50% – Excellent
    • 60-70% – Typical
    • 70-80% – Outside of Normal
    • 80%+ – Generally Considered Bad

Illustration of a High Bounce Rate. We recently worked with a firm who questioned an 85% bounce rate on the cart page. Why were so many prospects abandoning? Their store offered 10 different products and each sold in very high volume. The product detail page used a button labeled "Order Risk Free." The cart page explained that the product came with a 40-day 100% money back guarantee (ergo, risk free). The bounces were coming from the use of the word "free." Prospects confused "risk free" with "free." When confronted with paying for the product, many prospects bounce or leave the page. Is this wrong? No. Further testing reveled that replacing "buy risk free" with "buy now" reduced click-thru and actually reduced conversion. Thus a "buy risk free" with a very high bounce rate converted better than a "buy now" which had a much lower click-thru. This simple case study, one of hundreds performed by Dirigo illustrates that a high bounce rate isn't always bad.

Plugging the Leaks. Every few weeks some business owner or CEO calls Dirigo all hot the bothered by a 65% bounce rate. We always give the same advice: 'that’s normal." Then we start the plugging the leaks discussion. At a high level, this is the plan.

  1. Focus on high bounce rate pages.
  2. Figure out what is distracting users and causing them leave.
  3. Do some user testing (e.g. www.usertesting.com).
  4. Start with your highest organic and paid search phrases.
  5. Review click patterns. Continually test new concepts: tweak page layout and copy.
  6. Focus on reiterating main drivers by restating the original reason users were drawn to your page. Are customer intentions in sync with the website purpose? When the two align nirvana is reached (e.g. lower bounce rates and higher conversion).
  7. Stay focused on meeting a need.
  8. Invest in better analytics systems that can better identify user dissatisfaction.

Your bounce rate is nothing more than a metric. The goal is to drive the bounce rate down and get more conversions (e.g. more sales, more ad views, greater opt-in rate, etc.). Closing the gap between customer intent and webpage purpose is hard work. Is optimizing high bounce pages a good use of time? In our humble opinion the answer is a rather emphatic yes.

More Reading

http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1006257
http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2219775/Towards-a-True-Bounce-Rate

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