Why Bounce Rate is not a KPI…

When discussions around Bounce Rate began years ago and became popular, it was seen by many, including myself as a great gauge of how well landing pages were performing. Role on to 2009 when conversion is the key note on many brands agenda, how much does Bounce Rate really tell you about your landing page?

  • “My bounce rate is low, the landing page must be doing really well”

  • Is it really? There are 2 sides of the coin. If you bounce rate is low and, say, your sales from that page or sign-ups are doing well (you’d need to define well) then it is probably safe to assume that your bounce rate being low is a good thing.

    So how about a low bounce rate and not so good sales figures? Perhaps your bounce rate is low because when a user lands on the page, they have no idea about your product proposition and need to click various links to find out what whether your product is right for them.

    What do you do about this?

    First things first, how many page views do you have from that page? How much time was spent on the site from that page? A recent website I analysed had a fantastic bounce rate of 3% however had numerous 2 page visits lasting less than 10 seconds! Therefore whilst of a sample of 100, one could assume only 3 left without progressing further, tallying up the 2 page visits lasting less than 10 seconds showed that in fact the real bounce rate, based on this theory was closed to 40%. Eeek! Whilst we’re not concerned with actual numbers in this analysis, the key is that 40% paints a completely different picture to 3%.

    The fact that the bounce rate is so much higher shows that this website has fantastic potential, because users are willing to try and find what they’re looking for, even though they did not see what they expected initially.

    Matching intentions with relevant content

    Analysing search terms that drove visitors to this website was a good start. Search terms help greatly to understand user intentions. If searching for “help with my ipod” this is easily different to “games for my ipod”. Based on this and grouping the types of intentions (information Vs product Vs whatever) you can tailor your landing page to delivering as much of what the customer wants as possible. You’ll rarely capture every single intention but a little effort could well help ensure the user gets what they want.

  • “My bounce rate is high, my landing page is not working!”

  • Is this really true? Well you’d think so, based on the discussion above. What if your marketing department were working so hard on driving visitors to the website that, lets say, 1 in 4 that received the marketing material were not potential customers? Simply put, you might expect a 25% bounce rate from the landing page in question. Lets say another marketing piece is highly targetted with 100% potential visitors. In this instance, a 25% bounce rate is not so good…

    What can you do about this?

    First of all, understand the context of your landing page and it’s purpose. If the landing page is part of new guest acquisition marketing, then you may expect a higher bounce rate than a repeat customer landing page.

    Secondly if you’re trying to get someone to buy from the landing page as opposed to sign-up for enews, ensure the proposition and journey is clear and relevant.

    Traffic targetting

    Here’s something else worth considering. If your bounce rate, on a really well-set landing page seems generally high, are you targetting the right traffic? If you sell Apple iPods and get traffic from people searching for Apple Macs then whilst your marketing might be driving lots of traffic, is it the right traffic?

    The other side of bounce rates that many do not comprehend is that a higher bounce rate for a given page can be a good thing! If your landing page is optimally setup,then those that would have clicked further to find out more without understanding the proposition, will now leave your website and contribute to your bounce rate. Perfect for going back to your marketing team and asking them to work a little harder on targetting the right customer!

So why is Bounce Rate not a KPI? Because any KPI that needs context and further analysis to understand the result is not a Key Performance Indicator, it is simply a Performance Indicator.



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