Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is a good bounce rate?

This is an interesting question I thought I'd answer, primarily following a series of debates with friends and associates in the digital industry.

For those unsure what exactly is meant by the bounce rate, it is usually defined as those visitors to a site who only view one page of the same site in any one browsing session. The metric is calculated by dividing the total number of visitors by those who only view one page and then expressing this as a percentage. 

But is a high or low bounce rate a particularly good or bad thing? Let's take an example....

Imagine a company has a website that showcases their products and uses both SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques as well as Google Adwords for Pay-per-click digital marketing. When investigating bounce rates from their digital analytics we see that visitors from organic search engine sources have an approximately 40% bounce rate. This compares with a rate of around 55% for those coming from pay per click adverts over the same period.

Surely the bounce rate generated from the organic source is healthier? As less people come to the site and disappear straight away, this must surely mean that they are 'better' users is some way?

Or to flip it around, doesn't it therefore follow that the paid PPC campaigns are delivering less value than those from search engines?

Not necessarily.  

 A different bounce rate from different acquisition sources makes sense if you consider these factors:

1.      The landing pages for paid and organic traffic could be different.
Search engine optimisation is not an exact science and depending upon the search terms used, the page displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs) might well be different from the one you really want them to go to. This may also be different from search engine to search engine. If this is the case, it is likely your paid efforts are pointing visitors to the page of your choosing and one that may well be optimised for this purpose.
Note: this may well mean that the users’ paths to complete their required goals are different and could affect the conversion rate.

2.      The paid advert copy might be different from your organic listing
Now far be it if for me to suggest that any upstanding company would deliberately mis-represent their site in PPC adverts to potential visitors.. but I have seen examples where the Ad Words copy significantly differs from the content of the target page. Now I’m all for experimentation to understand the optimum copy in each circumstance… but when the paid advert content sets an expectation with the person about to click on an ad, don’t be surprised if they bounce straight out if the page doesn’t meet those expectations.

3.      Different visitors use different searching techniques.
I know that I have differing browsing behaviour depending upon: the frame of mind I'm in, the device I'm using and the amount of time I have. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Online users also click on different paid placements depending on whether there are other PPC adverts displayed and the quality of the organic listings displayed alongside or below those precious Google Adwords ads.

Whatever your bounce rate, you should always take whatever steps you can, not just to minimise it, but to focus on optimising your collective set of site KPI’s and maximising the commercial opportunities your online presence gives you.
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