Also updated for the new beta Google Analytics Asynchronous Tracking.
Bounce Rate has been a hot subject lately. The problem with bounce rate starts with its definition. In his (great) book, Web Analytics An Hour a Day, Avinash Kaushik defines bounce rate as being the percent of traffic that stayed on your website for fewer than 10 seconds. Why I find his definition to being the most accurate?
If somebody gets to spend 2 minutes on your website reading a whole article, without visiting a second page, doesn’t mean he bounced, but rather that he didn’t engage further… at least not in this visit session.
What is wrong with the bounce rate we get now from web analytics tools is that it only gives you the rate of users that had only one page view visit sessions. Bloggers know what I talk about: an article gets lots of buzz, people talk about it, however the bounce rate for it it’s way up there, above 50%. It just doesn’t make sense.
Google Analytics can report the real Bounce Rate
All Google Analytics accounts have access to event tracking by this time, so you can use the following hack in order to get real reports of bounce rate without skewing any of your data. Even more, the hack will help Google Analytics track better (not perfect though) the time spent on site by each visitor.
What you need to do is to fire up an event each time a user spends more than 10 seconds (or you can define your own standard) on the website. Just add the following line under the pageTracker._trackPageview(); line:
setTimeout('pageTracker._trackEvent(\'NoBounce\', \'NoBounce\', \'Over 10 seconds\')',10000);
In case you have decided to already update to the new Google Analytics Asynchronous Tracking code here is how the hack would be applied (place it as the last
setTimeout('_gaq.push([\'_trackEvent\', \'NoBounce\', \'Over 10 seconds\'])',10000);
10000 refers to the number of milliseconds after which you want to fire up the above code. If you want to do it after 15 seconds than you need to place there 15000.The hack will not alter your data in any way. It will just record in the Events section all the non-bouncers.
The New Bounce Rate
With the above hack Google Analytics shows you how many users leave your website without spending even 10 seconds on it and not clicking on any internal link. No interaction at all. However, don’t just implement the hack and go to your management bragging with the new super cool bounce rate. The fact is that it doesn’t change at all the fact that many users visit only one page in your website.
The good thing is that you still have access to how many people only see one page in your website. (Visitors > Visitor Loyalty > Depth of Visit report)
The percentage of visits that sees only one page will be identical with what used to be bounce rate. You can rely on this report to see how many visitors never get to the second page and use the Real Bounce Rate report to see how many people drop your website without spending even 10 seconds.
Reports don’t matter. It matters what you do with them.
Don’t apply the hack and never use the new data. If it is not going to help your strategy, better focus on something else and keep the hack in mind for other projects it might prove useful for.
According to the projects I’ve worked with and implemented the above hack a Real Bounce Rate higher than 15% meant trouble. More than 15% of the users not spending even 10 seconds on the website just didn’t satisfy us. I would usually segment between different entrance sources and try to identify where the problem sits. I am sure the rates will differ from a website to another but I expect the differencies to be much smaller.