Bounce Rates in GA Demistified
Understanding Bounce Rates in Analytics
Bounce rates are a prominant stat in Google Analytics. This metric tells us if people came to a page, and left it. This stat can be slightly misleading, so we will examine it a bit more closely.
Many people believe that Bounce rates effect your organic search ranking. Technically, the bounce rate as shown in Analytics is NOT believed to affect your organic ranking. This is because many sites may not have Analytics set up correctly. Google also denies that this figure affects your rank.
However, most observers do believe that Bounce rates which involve quickly returning from a link back to the search page, is a ranking signal. This is not necessarily what Bounce rate in Analytics indicates. Bounce can include people visiting a page, getting the info they want, and leaving. In Analytics Bounces are recorded in a different way as seen by Googles search engines. This is because Google Analytics tracking code for sessions only fires when additional events or pages is triggered. If this does not happen, the session duration data is recorded as zero, and a ‘bounce’.
Bounces in Analytics are Not Usually Bounces
In Analytics, a bounce always is given as a session duration of 0 seconds, and pages per session of 1. Of course its unlikely most recorded bounces were truly visitors of just 0 seconds per session.
In fact this zero seconds figure occurs because of a flaw in how sessions are recorded. Google Analytics cannot record the session duration of the last page you visit. So, if a person visited, spent 5 minutes on the page, and then leaves your site, it records as zero seconds and a bounce. Because the visitors last page was the entry page, it records as zero. A session is recorded only once a visitor goes to another page, or triggers another event to be recorded.
The average session duration is based on the previous page, not the last page. Sounds confusing? Well, yes. The reason is that your Analytics code can only record the length of time a person was on a page when they visit another page on your site! So if no other pages viewed, no data gets collected about session duration. Google Analytics then just presumes it was zero! Analytics is just calculating session duration by subtracting one event time from another event.
In fact the cut out time for a session is 30 minutes. So if they dont visit any other page inside that, they could be there 30 minutes and still record as no time and a bounce.
Remember, the session time is based on previous pages you visit, but not time on the very last page of the session.
The Solution – Create Goal Conversions to Record Activity
Of note, when you have Conversion tracking set up correctly and recording, any engagement on that page WILL record. You will therefore see session duration data even if their was no other pages visited. In this case, visits that have 1 page and a session duration reflect a conversion, and are NOT bounces. Here, you get the strongest indication that the page is doing well. Because search query data is imported into Google Analytics from AdWords, your paid adverts give you the search query data you need.
You could include such actions as an ‘add to cart’ event conversion in order to track on page activity.
Another approach would be ‘scroll tracking’. This records the sessions where a particular part of the page has been reached via scrolling. You can add this as a conversion inside Analytics Goals area. To impliment this you will need to add some event code via Google Tag Manager.
Custom Reports to Identify Keywords or Search Queries With Poor Interaction
From a PPC optimising point of view, Bounce Rates in Analytics can be very useful to help you optimise. The problem is that this stat does not get imported into AdWords as is. There is another it uses called ‘interaction rate’. This does not reflect Bounce Rates but uses Clicks and other actions. For example, if your ad is clicked on, the Interaction Rate is exactly the same as your Click Through Rate. But Interaction Rate also includes other actions, such as click to call, so it is an ‘enhanced CTR’ metric.
To make use of bounce rate data, and other metrics like pages per session, search query and average session duration, you will need to build a Custom Report inb analytics and use it to help refine your adwords campaigns. This data can also give an indication of Organic performance when combined with search query data.
Go to Custom Reports in the top left – select Metric Groups and add which ever goal conversions you want. Then add in Bounce Rate, Average Session Duration and Pages per Session. Next, in the Dimension drill down, select Search Query, or Keyword. Finally, you can put filters in such as Medium is Exact, CPC. See below
This can show you important information, like which search queries may be going to poorly matched landing pages. A high number of pages per session can indicate that. This will help you potentially improve your Quality Score and gain more conversions.