The most misleading report in Google Analytics

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Article written by Claudiu Murariu

I see many times people looking at the above report and when they spot a big bounce rate   they panic. They start screaming the page is good for nothing as only 17% of the people stay on the website while the others are leaving.

Sorry to tell you, but no, it’s not really like that.

First, bounce rate is not calculated in reference to page views but to visits. To look at the above report and say that 83.33% of   1681 people bounced is simply wrong. Just as it is to say that 83.33% of 1427 bounced (if you relate to unique views).

So, how to interpret the above report

If you are really interested to find out how many people bounced from this page we need to find out first how many people landed on it. Bounce rate is reported only to people (actually, visit sessions) who land on a page. People that visit it by coming from another page on the same website are not counted for bounce rate (they didn’t bounce in the first place).

So, go to “Top landing pages” and check the numbers for the page you are interested in. Here is what we get for the above page:

Just 5 people bounced. Really, no need to panic. :)

So, before doing radical changes on your website to improve bounce rate just make sure you got it right. Bounce rate can be a deceiving metric. If you really are interested in measuring it right, try implementing the real bounce rate in Google Analytics.

Here is another article on the same topic: Why Bounces is a Better Metric than Bounce Rate.

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  • http://www.waomarketing.com/blog Jacques Warren

    I believe BR is calculated on Visits, not “people”, which would be “Absolute Unique Visitors” in GA parlance. You are right to point out that there could be confusion in the particular example you give. However, I have rarely seen a page that would be viewed thousands of times, but be the Entry Page for only 5 or 6 visits. Not impossible (cf. your example), but not very common in my experience. This means that a high BR for any page (OK, let’s say critical ones) should always be closely examined. Of course, if people bounced only in the 0,3% of cases where the page is an ENtry Page, there is no statistical reason to panic.

    • Claudiu

      Hi Jacques,

      You’re right about visits and not people. I guess I was trying too much to get my message across.
      However, the behavior is not rare. You can spot it on the majority of pages that are not entry points for a website. Yes, the bounce rate is not always high, but still, unrelated to the number of times the page has been accessed.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.hipo.ro Dragos

    Nice post. I was always wondering about the bounce rate :)

  • http://www.youshouldtestthat.com TraiaN

    Hi Claudiu. Nice to see this topic talked about again. If you read my post on the bounce rate you will see that out of 57 GA users only 11 got it right. The follow up post is actually explaining why bounces is a better metric than bounce rate. I hope you’ll enjoy the reading. Cheers.

  • http://allinonestats.com Thomas Bosilevac

    Great post, and great products. You are certainly a company to be watched. One best practice of mine is to always calculate the “% as Entry”, simply Entry Visits / Total Visits. Then I sort metrics such as Page Views, Bounce Rate, and Engagement Rate, etc by this.

    If any of the KPI’s are outta whack on the Top 5 Entry Pages … actionable insight will soon follow. We tend to highlight the campaign driven “landing pages” a lot, but these are the pages where a majority people are making their first impression (at least during that session ;)

  • Sharon

    Bounce rate can be a deceiving metric just like any other metric if you read it wrong…

    Time on site is deceiving (since time on site is calculated without the last page). Even pageviews can be deceiving if you do not know its definition.

    I agree Google Analytics should add at least the amount of entrances to the summary report. The only other metric you can sometime rely on is % exit (usually, high bounce rate and low exit indicates on a non-landing page).

    If you have a page with high bounce rate, besides making sure this page is not a landing page you should keep an eye on it (6 visits can become 100 next month. Make sure you trace back the traffic source and act accordingly – 5 out of 6 is a lot…)