Bounce Rate – What is it and what does it tell me?

The term bounce rate is often used in connection with search engine optimization (SEO). The bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors to a website who only look at one page and then leave the site without any further action. If 43 out of 100 users only look at the homepage and then leave the site, you have a bounce rate of 43%. It is important to keep the bounce rate in mind for SEO, however, this value should be considered in connection with other key figures. A high bounce rate is not always a negative factor.

Reasons for a high bounce rate

If somebody leaves the website they have accessed straight away, it can mean that they have not found what they expected. A visitor who enters “fast cars” in the search engine and lands on a site about donkey racing will leave the site immediately and try another one. Visitors can also be put off by badly presented or irrelevant content which might be connected to the search but difficult to read because it is badly structured, in an unsuitable font or long-winded.

Unclear navigation, too much advertising, a low page speed or technical mistakes can also be reasons behind users leaving the site too quickly.

If your website has a high bounce rate, you should see whether certain changes to your web pages can help.

Is a high bounce rate always a bad sign?

grauer Tennisball, der von einer Oberfläche abprallt

Whether a high bounce rate is a good or bad sign depends on the individual website. The success of an online shop, for example, depends on visitors moving from page to page, being influenced by the different offers and browsing the products. The operator of the shop wants visitors to buy articles, open subpages and share the site on social networks. If a large number of visitors leave the shop after viewing only the homepage, something is definitely wrong. The website operator should look for the reasons for this and make changes to the site so that users are satisfied.

However, if you are for example looking at a contact page, a high bounce rate may not be a bad sign as it could just mean that visitors have found what they were looking for, in this case perhaps the address of the company. When they easily and quickly found it, there is no reason for them to carry out any further action. The same applies to blog entries or news items, where leaving the site can mean that visitors have found the information they were looking for straight away, have read it and left the site feeling satisfied.

If your website consists of only one page, you naturally have a very high bounce rate. In this case, it is necessary to look at other key figures if you want to know whether users like your site, for example how long they spend on it or the website traffic.

How can I interpret my bounce rate correctly?

In order to assess whether you can be happy with your bounce rate, you should not look at general averages, as these are somewhere between 10 and 90%, depending on the type of website. It is far more useful to compare the figures for your website with others in your field of business. It also makes sense to make comparisons within your website, for example why my blog for article A has a bounce rate of only 30% while the one for article B shows a rate of over 60%. It would seem that article A has awakened the interest of my readers, who are then motivated to explore the rest of my website. Perhaps the subject matter of article B is not as relevant for my readers? Is the article boring? Have I structured the text well and suitably, made it more attractive with pictures and graphs, or is it difficult to read?

bar chart

It is also a question of the aim of a page. If one of my pages purely offers a service, for example states my opening hours or gives my contact details, a high bounce rate shows that visitors have found the information they were looking for quickly. However, if I want visitors to do something in particular, for example subscribe to a newsletter, buy a product or fill in a contact form, a high bounce rate is a bad sign. Leaving the website immediately shows that the visitor has not done what the operator hoped.

How can I design my website so that my visitors do not leave it immediately?

  • Use keywords so that the search engines can match your website to the correct content. For example, instead of writing in your meta-description “Donkeys run as fast as cars”, put “Fun for the whole family at donkey races in Bad Plümenau”.
  • Design texts clearly by using titles, paragraphs and lists. Make texts more interesting by including pictures and relevant graphs.
  • Make sure that your website has an attractive design which is appropriate for the target group and use suitable colours, pictures and fonts. Visitors should find your pages appealing and clear and believe in your trustworthy and professional approach.
  • Of course, technology also plays a role and visitors should not be put off by long page load times.

Is the bounce rate a ranking factor?

The criteria used by search machines for their ranking are not all publicly disclosed and views differ on whether the bounce rate is a direct ranking factor. The SERP-Return-Rate, for example, is a more reliable value for search machines. This shows how many visitors to a website return to the search machine results within a certain time and then click on a different website.

SEO is important, but the main point of internet presence is to be attractive to and useful for visitors. The bounce rate can be useful when analysing web presence in order to detect and correct weaknesses. However, this figure should always be considered in context.

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