Bounce rate reporting in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Bounce rate

I don't know about you, but I often look at my analytics reports to see how my site is working.  In fact, I look at the analytics, pretty much every day.  I have watched my bounce rate go back and forth, especially when the site was brand new.  There were days that would show a bounce rate of 0% and days when the bounce rate was 100%.  And I had to scratch my head.  


How could I have a bounce rate of 0%?  People have to exit the website, so in essence, that generates a bounce right?  Well, no, not exactly.  People exiting the site are tracked.  If they visit more than 1 page of the site, the exit tracking is in the exit metric, if the user visits only 1 page, that is recorded in the bounce rate metric.  

There are several factors to how the bounce rate is calculated and the first ties back to how long the user session is active.  Google Analytics considers a session to be complete if no activity has occurred after 29 minutes.  So, a bounce could be generated from an external link pop out!  Time duration does not affect the bounce rate.  So, someone who visits only 1 page of your site within that 29 minute window is considered a bounce; where as someone who visits your site and hits 2 or more pages, even in a 10 second window, is not considered a bounce.

So, lets take a user who visits your site over a 5 day period:

The user's path might work something like this:

Day 1:
    •    Home page
    •    About page
    •    Services page
    •    exit

Day 2:
    •    Services page
    •    Service detail page
    •    exit

Day 3:
    •    Service detail page
    •    exit

Day 4:
    •    User comes to the site via search to a blog page.
    •    Exit

Day 5:
    •    Blog page from day 4
    •    Service detail page
    •    Contact form
    •    Thank you page
    •    exit

Exit Rate Calculations

First, lets look at the exit rate.  Exit  rates are based on the last page on the site that was viewed prior to leaving the site.  It is calculated by the number of Pageviews (not people) that resulted in an exit (no further pages viewed) divided by number of total Pageviews for that page.

So,  for this particular user, the exit rates are :
Home page:  0%
About page: 0%
Services page: 50%  -  The page was viewed 2 times, and 1 time the user exited.
Service Detail page: 66% - The page was viewed 3 times, and the user exited 2 times on the page.
Blog page:  50% - The page was viewed 2 times and 1 time the user exited.
Contact form: 0%
Thank you page: 100%

Bounce Rate Calculations
The bounce rate for the visit above would look like this:
Home page: 0%
About page 0%
Services page: 0%
Service detail page: 33%
Blog page:  50%
Contact form: 0%
Thank you page: 0%

There are many other factors that will affect the bounce rate on a single page view.  For instance, if there was a video, or some other engagement on the Blog page (pop-up, video, etc), and the user took an action on that page, even without going to another page, Google Analytics would not consider this to be a bounce.  

Bounce rates are a great metric to utilize to see what pages of your site are attracting visitors who are not finding what they are searching for.  Looking at pages that have a high bounce rate and making changes to them will improve your overall site experience, especially when you take the steps to improve the keyword density of the page to accurately reflect what the page is about.