Bounce Rate is one of the most important metrics in Google Analytics. It’s a measure of how many people leave your site wanting nothing to do with it – or, as Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik puts it: “I came, I puked, I left”. You should definitely keep an eye on your bounce rate, as it’s a way to measure how good your website copy and design are at doing their jobs.
However, you should also know that Bounce Rate, as calculated by Google Analytics, is not accurate. I’ll explain why this is, and then show you how you can improve the accuracy of your Bounce Rate.
How Analytics Figures Out Your Bounce Rate
Analytics calculates your Bounce Rate by taking the total number of starting visits to a page (i.e. visitors who weren’t on your website before), and finding the percentage of those visitors who leave without interacting with your website further (i.e. they don’t click any links or trigger any events).
Let’s work through a simple example.
Say I do a Google search and land on Page A. I read the content and then decide to close my browser. This will count as a bounce.
Or I might land on Page A, and then click on a link to Page B, and then close my browser. This will not count as a bounce.
This method of calculating Bounce Rate is not an accurate representation of a page’s performance. For example, perhaps you have a web page with a great deal of content. Perhaps it features a case study showing how you’ve helped a customer, and goes into great detail explaining how you’ve achieved great results.
Now if I were to land on that page, read the page entirely, and then leave, that would count as a bounce and create the illusion that the copy was weak or needed improving, despite the fact that I read the entire page.
By default, no interaction with a web page before a visitor leaves indicates to Analytics that the visit was a bounce. To solve this, we simply need to create an interaction that triggers when a visitor stays on a web page for a certain period of time. In this day and age of short attention spans, if a visitor is on a webpage for 15 seconds or more, it’s probable that they are engaged with your web page and interacting with your brand or product.
So we simply tell Analytics that a visitor has been on the page for 15 seconds or more by creating an event. Analytics views events as interactions as they are usually triggered by something (as I point out in my review of GAS (Google Analytics on Steroids) which uses events to track all kinds of interactions).
Here’s how to do it. Change your Analytics tracking code to look like the following:
Line 5 will tell the browser that after 15 seconds it must send an event to Analytics – which will register an interaction with the web page and not count as a bounce!
Why 15 seconds?
We’ve found 15 seconds to be a good measure for our company website, given the typical length and nature of our pages and posts. However, if you find 15 is too low or too high for your website, then don’t hesitate to change the number.*