Bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who arrive and leave via the same page. So the formula to calculate bounce rate is; {leaving visitors}/{total visitors} x 100.

Now at first glance it may appear that a high bounce rate is a problem, and from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective it can be. Most search engines penalise sites with a high bounce rate on the basis that it is less likely to be satisfying its visitor’s needs.

Of course it is quite possible that this is not the case, since the visitor may actually have found exactly what they needed on the first page they came to. Website developers should try to ensure that where this is happening, a way to encourage users to access more of the site content is put in place.

It’s worth noting that your bounce rate is completely independent of the volume of traffic to your site. Low visitor volumes can cause wide swings in calculated bounce rate.

What factors affect bounce rate?

The key factors that tend to determine your bounce rate are:

Source of links

Many website owners try to create links to their website wherever they can, particularly from other high traffic websites. If the majority of visitors to the page where the link is are not your ideal site visitors, then it is likely they will not find your site content relevant. This may cause them to ‘bounce’ by clicking back or closing their browser.

As with any marketing, sheer numbers is not the only factor you should consider when getting links but traffic is also beneficial to your site so high traffic source links do have their benefit too. On the flip side of this situation it is possible that someone may have accidentally referenced your site or created a link to your site on page containing unrelated content that generates a lot of traffic. This can unexpectedly drive traffic to your site that is of no value and is potentially detrimental from a bounce rate perspective.

Irrelevant search results

If you are getting a high bounce rate from organic search traffic then there may be a number of reasons why, each of which is a consideration of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Firstly, the content on your web site will determine for which phrases (and how high up) your web pages appear in searches.

It may be that due to frequency of certain text, poor website construction or simply the writing style of the author that your pages rank highly for phrases that have nothing to do the actual site focus. The second factor is down to the text in the links that point at your site since they also impact the search phrases for which your site will appear.

Lack of Navigation

It may sound obvious but some web pages simply don’t have anywhere for the user to click and a frustrated user is more likely to leave the site than to hunt for links if it is going to take a long time. Think carefully about your website structure and make sure no pages leave the visitor in a ‘dead end’.

Hosting issues

Technical problems with the website can mean that pages are not presented correctly or completely and will quickly put off visitors. Try to ensure that you have some method of knowing when your website is offline or generating errors. Slow performing hosting can also create higher bounce rates from visitor leaving before content is visible.

Poor quality design

A website that does not present a look and feel sufficient to give users confidence in the information it presents is much more likely to generate bounces. There are a wide range of factors that can undermine the credibility of your site including:

  • Homemade or poor resolution graphics
  • Badly designed layouts
  • Misspellings in text
  • Overlapping or incomplete content
  • Page loading delays due to overly large web pages

What Should My Bounce Rate Be?

There is no defined standard of what bounce rate should be but ideally it should be as low as possible. This indicates that your website visitors engage more with your site. Search engines reward pages with a bounce rate of 40% or less most highly and therefore the higher your bounce rate is, the less likely you are to appear high in search results.

Website owners should consider whether a high bounce rate is an issue for their site based on the following guidelines:

Source of traffic

If the majority of the traffic to your site is referred traffic, either from social media content, paid advertisements or free links then the impact of bounce rate on the search engines may not be an issue. Certainly by stopping links that drive traffic even if only a small proportion find you site useful or make a purchase then you may be making a mistake. Particularly if they generate sufficient useful traffic to justify your website on their own.

Where you plan to benefit from search traffic, bounce rate should be taken into consideration, since it will normally be an indication that you are not currently attracting the right type of visitor. Improving the factors listed above which indicate why your bounce rate may be high, is recommended.

Website Function

Some websites are not designed to provide anything other than individual pages of information, if this is case for your site then a high bounce rate is to be expected and you needn’t be concerned. Certain flash media and gaming sites are built using code that means that users never leave the page they arrive at due to dynamic or framed content.

Scope of offering

Your organisation may only be able offer services to a restricted audience, either by location, demographic or price range. It may be difficult to target this restricted group successfully without attracting irrelevant visitors. Where visitors are advised of this it can cause high bounce rates whilst still delivering a good user experience and serving your target audience.