I wanted to start a series on misused metrics (#MisusedMetrics) in the context of e-commerce.
Let me begin with Bounce Rate. Often praised for the right reasons by Analytics Pundits like Avinash Kaushik
First the definitions:
Bounces are the single page view visits. So, if a visitors lands on a page from outside and exits the website without refreshing the page or visiting any other page on the site.
Bounce Rate (for a page) is the number of bounces on the page divide by the total number of visits where the page is the first point of entry on the website (landing page)
Bounce Rate (for the website) is meaningless. :-) The number can be calculated but is not actionable.
With that out of the way,
What would you say is a “good bounce rate”? If a page has 10% bounce rate, is it better than a page having 20% bounce rate?
Both the questions are incorrect.
Let me explain: Assuming certain minimal standards for the page are maintained (content, images etc.), bounce rate is not necessarily a reflection of the page itself. It has as much to do with where the visitors are coming from.
If we consider a new / relatively new page, which seems to have a high bounce rate. Think about the possible sources of traffic.
- Organic Search: Would Google display the page in the first page results for specific keywords, if the content were not relevant? Ignore the keywords driving low volumes of traffic individually.
- Direct traffic: Either the visitor enters the URL in the browser or clicks on the bookmark. If latter, I am not entirely sure if bounce for a bookmarked page is really a worry. If it is the case where the user enters the URL, I will probably spend more time thinking about how they managed to remember and type the exact URL for the page. It must have been through some online or offline campaigns (Press ad, Radio/TV ad, AdWords etc.)
- Online Advertising / Paid Search and Email: This is where I probably will spend the most time. After all, the chance of traffic coming directly to a new page is greatest where we (the website owners) have greatest influence. Whether it is a banner or a text based (AdWords) advertisement leading to the page, the message communicated through the Ad might be the problem. Say, I invite you for a poker night and when you arrive you notice my kids birthday party being celebrated. You are likely to “bounce”. The problem is not the birthday party BUT my invitation (to a Poker Night).
- Affiliates and Referrals: There are two ways of looking at this. 1) It really doesn’t matter since the affiliates will realize the problem and fix it on their own. 2) We have a more formal feedback mechanism in place for the quality of traffic coming from them. (And this goes way beyond bounce rate)
Bounce Rate is a metric to be followed religiously by the teams running the marketing campaigns.
The traffic being channelised should find the landing page relevant (not vice versa).
So, is a page with 10% bounce rate better than a page with 20% bounce rate?
If the proportion of traffic that lands on the page to the total traffic on the page (Landing Page) is low, bounce rate may actually be diverting your attention to the wrong priorities.
My checks when looking at bounce rate metric for any page
1) What proportion of the total traffic to the page is landing directly on the page (proportion of the total traffic where the page is an Entry Page)? If it is low, you could de-prioritize bounce rate analysis till you have sorted out the more important items.
2) What proportion of the traffic that lands on the page is from sources that I can influence directly, right now? Paid search, Banners etc. Go fix them, immediately.
3) Am I expecting more traffic from the same source? Primarily, Offline activity, newspaper ad, catalogue, flyers and emails. (The bullet has been fired, what can I do now?) In this case, I may have to create new content on the page to make it more relevant for these visitors who already have some expecation from the page.