Is Bounce Rate Still Important?

Senior Digital Analyst
Published 4/20/16
Share This Post: 

Share This:

Now, I know those words will sound pretty blasphemous in digital-marketing and analytics circles because we’re all taught that bounce rate is one of the most important indicators of website performance.

But is that still true? Is bounce rate as relevant to website performance as it was only a few years ago?

Well, let’s back up and talk about the definition of bounce rate: Google says bounce rate is “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page.)”

That’s actually two definitions in one. The first part, “percentage of single-page sessions,” means the percentage of visits where the user visited only one page on the site and then left the site. But that second part, about interacting with the page, is a big part of how bounce rate has changed. That second part means you could “interact” with that one page, leave the site, and yet not be a bounce.

How is that? 

Early on, bounce rate was simply that first part of the definition: users entering a site and then leaving without visiting another page. If you had a high bounce rate, it meant visitors weren’t going to a second page on your site.

However, the ability to track visitor behavior and interaction with your website has changed the definition of bounce rate and, in doing so, changed the relevance of this measurement altogether.

If a visitor goes to your site and clicks on a link that takes them offsite to a partner website, that interaction can be tracked in your analytics platform. That user, though only visiting one page and leaving the site, interacted with that page and is not a bounce. That’s where that second part of the definition above comes in.

With custom analytics event tracking, you can adjust (re: lower) your site’s overall bounce rate by tracking video views; outbound links; how long a visitor is on a page; how far the visitor scrolls down a page; form submissions; and much more. All of these interactions tell you a great deal about user behavior on your site.

So back to the original question: Is bounce rate still important? If by tracking important user behavior on your site, and by doing so improve bounce rate, is bounce rate still relevant?

It depends on your goals. Bounce rate has become more “personal” to the website owner. If the goal of your site is to drive traffic to partner/advertiser sites, then you want to track that behavior. If the goal is video views or entering a contest, again, understanding that behavior is critical to the success of your website. Some sites have a lot of blog content that brings in a great deal of social media traffic; using scroll tracking or time tracking, you’d get a really good idea of how that traffic interacts with content. 

Our take: Bounce rate alone isn’t as strong of an indicator of site engagement as it once was, but it still matters when given context. What matters more, however, is using custom event tracking to better understand user interaction and behavior on your site—and using that data to improve user experience and define website success rather than relying solely on one measurement.