Have you ever looked at Google Analytics and been concerned by your site’s high bounce rate?
Is a high bounce rate good, or bad?
Is a bounce rate a meaningful metric? Read on to see why we focus on Dwell Time as a more useful metric, and what we’ve learned over the years to help improve it.
What is a bounce rate?
A bounce is a single page session on a website. That is, when a user visits your site, reads one page and then exits the site.
The bounce rate is calculated as a percentage, that can be measured by a single page, or site wide. For example, if you have 10 visitors to your site, and 6 out of 10 only visit one page before exiting your website, you have a bounce rate of 60%.
What is a good bounce rate?
Less than 40%. Although there are many factors that contribute to bounce rates, an optimal bounce rate is considered between 25 and 40%. Any bounce rates below 25% should be met with suspicion and it’s worth investigating your Google Analytics setup, to ensure it’s collecting data accurately.
Bounce rates do fluctuate, depending on many factors, including:
- Industry– blogs/portals have a notoriously high bounce rate
- Source/medium: social media sessions generally have a higher bounce rate
- Website factors: speed/usability etc
In many industries, with traffic originating from paid ads, it’s not uncommon to see bounce rates in the 90-100% range.
Why does the bounce rate matter?
Truth be told…it doesn’t! At least, not to the extent that it’s been made out to. The bounce rate taken in isolation is practically a worthless measure, as it doesn’t differentiate between those users that spent 1 second on a page and those that spent 10 minutes reading every single aspect of your webpage.
Using the bounce rate alone, you also miss the reason why the user bounced. It might have been because:
- the page loaded too slowly
- the design was unappealing
- the content was poorly written or outdated
- the question they were searching for was solved
- the user got distracted
The cause of the bounce could be any of the above, and a high bounce rate on its own doesn’t help to solve the equation. That’s why most website owners should focus more on using the related metrics of dwell time and time on page.
What is Dwell Time?
Dwell time is the amount of time spent in-between the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and the webpage. That is, from the moment the user performs a search in the search engine, to the click that takes the user to the website found in the search results, the time the user has spent reading the web page, all the way until they click back to return them to the SERP.
Dwell Time assists Google to understand whether searchers are happy with a given search result, thus it’s perceived that Google uses Dwell Time as a ranking signal. It makes sense, as if someone lands on a site and hits the back button right away, it’s clear they aren’t satisfied with the search result click.
How to measure Dwell Time
It would be great if this metric were baked into Google Analytics itself. Since it isn’t, you’ll need to add a line to your site’s Google Analytics code to measure the Dwell Time in Google Analytics. This is worth the effort though, as it is a very important metric to measure user experience.
How to improve Dwell Time on a website
Ensure content is above the fold
Ensure the searcher is taken straight to text, rather than a large, featured image or oversized title that fills the view.
Intros are often what make or break your site’s performance. The intros shouldn’t be dull or too simplistic for the readers.
Long form content
It takes longer for a user to read a 2,000 word blog post than a 300 word post, resulting in a longer Dwell Time. Also, if you thoroughly answer the searcher’s question, they will not have a need to revert to the search results to find a “better” answer.
It’s especially important for longer form articles to be split up by sub headings. Add a compelling sub heading for at least every 200 words.
Use words and phrases to keep people interested in your content and draw them down the page. “So”, “on the other hand”, “the bottom line”, “the best part” etc can be used to engage readers to continue the flow.
Embedding videos in your blogs are an excellent way to boost dwell time. Readers can watch the embedded video on your page, which will increase the time spent on the page.
Logical internal linking
Having internal links to other relevant pages a user might be interested in reading is a great method of increasing dwell time.
What is Average Time on Page?
Average time on page is a component of Dwell Time, but measures the average time spent by users on that particular page. This differs from Dwell Time, as with average time on page, the user may continue on anywhere, such as other pages on the website, SERP, exit the browsing session etc.
Average Time on Page is a very useful metric, as we’d like visitors to spend considerable amounts of time reading the content, not just a few seconds and then leaving.
What is a good average time on page?
2-3 minutes. This will fluctuate based on the content length and embedded videos as mentioned previously. Any less than two minutes, it’s worth re-visiting your content to ensure it’s of sufficient length and quality to fully answer the searcher’s question.
In summary, many website owners are focused on bounce rate as a metric of user satisfaction. In actual fact, the bounce rate (on its own) is worthless. Website owners would get more value focusing on time on page and Dwell Time to increase user satisfaction.