High bounce rate? No problem
For many people, bounce rate measures the percent of visit to your website where people leave almost right away.
To use Avinash’s words “I [the visitor] came, I saw, Yuck, I am out of here“. Using this definition, a bounce visit is bad. An high level of bounce rate means that your website is not able to deliver the content expected by the visitor, make them rushing to the exit.
How Google Analytics measure Bounce Rate
In Google Analytics the bounce rate has a different definition. A bounced visit is a one page visit. Period. the duration of this one page visit is not considered. Why? because Google Analytic cannot compute the visit duration of one page visit, nor the duration of the time spent on the last page view.
If the visitor spent 2 hours reading your 59 pages long blog post and leave, yep that will be a bounced visit too.
You don’t believe me? Try this simple exercise. Create a custom segment called “1 page visit” where you will include all traffic with page depth Exactly matching 1, and take a look at the main report,
the bounce rate will be 100% and the average time on site will be 00:00:00. How can this be possible? Every one that read just one page close their browser right away???
How Google Analytics measure Time on Site
Time is measure by computing the elapse seconds between calls to Google Analytics server. When the first page is loaded, the GA snippet make a call to the GA server, at 1:00 PM. 2 minutes later, the visitor click on link to go to the next page, another call is made to the server at 1:02 pm.
At the end of the session Google compute the time spent on the first page by subtracting the timestamp of page 2 (1:02) minus the timestamps of page 1 (1:00) the visit length is then 2 minutes.
Now the visitor spend 25 minutes on page 2 before leaving the website (by either closing the browser, or typing something else).
When the website is left or the session expire, no call is made to the GA server, so of course. Since Google cannot know when the visit was finished is simply conclude that it was a time 00:00:00.
When bounce rate = problem
You should be nervous when the bounce rate is high for a page having a clear call to action – “Click here! Click here! You will like it! Click Here”. The bounce rate indicates that visitors are not viewing your second page. But if your website is a blog and a longtime subscriber visit your website to read your latest post and leave, I don’t think this is necessarily bad.
How to better sleep at night
In the future, every time you see bounce rate in Google Analytics, replace it by One page visits rate. You will know when there is a real problem, or when it is perfectly Ok. It will reduce your stress level and help you sleep better at night.