The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, What is the Difference and Why You Should Care


The Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate in Web AnalyticsOver the past year, I’ve received more and more questions about two important metrics in web marketing, Bounce Rate and Exit Rate. It seems there is some confusion about differences between the two, why they are important, what they tell you, and how to improve them. So, I decided to write this post to demystify them a bit.

The Definition of Bounce Rate and Exit Rate
Let’s start with some definitions. The definition of Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that hit your website on a given page and don’t visit any other pages on your site. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through to your site, and then leaves your site without visiting any other pages. He bounced. You can learn more about lowering your bounce rate here.

Note: If you're a small business looking to learn more about web analytics, then you should check out my internet marketing ebook, Taking Control of Your Online Marketing. There's an entire chapter on Web Analytics covering the setup, installation, sections of reporting, how to track conversion, events, etc. It's a great place to start.

The definition of Exit Rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your site from a given page based on the number of visits to that page (or pageviews in some cases). Sounds similar to Bounce Rate, doesn’t it? There’s a difference, though. The visitor who exits might have visited other pages on your site, but just exited on that specific page. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through your site, reads a blog post, then clicks the About Us link. After finding out more about your company, John clicks the contact us link and fills out a contact form. He then exits your site. The contact us page is where he exited. In contrast, if he simply visited the site via organic search and left without visiting any other page, it would have been a bounce. Make sense?

Why are Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Important?
Both metrics are important in web analytics and can help online marketing people glean insights from the data, but they are definitely used differently. Bounce Rate is extremely important for determining how your landing pages perform as compared to visitor expectations. For example, if you run paid search campaigns, then you know the importance of testing a landing page (optimizing the landing page). I find that bounce rate at the aggregate level doesn’t tell you very much (site level bounce rate), but I find that bounce rate at the page level is extremely useful. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. For example, if you are driving paid search visitors to your landing page selling Coffee Makers {OK, it’s 5AM and I’m tired :-)}, and you have a 70% Bounce Rate on that page, you’ve got a problem. Why are that many visitors bouncing after clicking through your paid search ad and landing on a page that theoretically should be highly targeted? This is actually the fun part…digging into the data, optimizing the page, and using multivariate testing to lower your bounce rate and to increase conversion. As you can see, bounce rate can help you determine how well your landing pages perform (which directly affects revenue and ROAS).

In my opinion, Exit Rate is more important for determining which page in a process isn’t performing up to expectations. For example, if you have mapped out scent trails on your site (ala Persuasion Architecture), and you find visitors are exiting the site on a webpage that clearly is a stepping stone to a more important page, then you should probably take a hard look at that page’s content. Are the calls to action not compelling enough? Does the page provide content that throws off visitors? Is there a technical issue with the page? Does it take too long to load? So on and so forth. Note, that for specific processes like cart checkout, you should use funnel analysis, but analyzing exit rate for more open ended processes works well (like targeting a type of buyer and providing a scent trail for them to get to a registration form.)

Different Yet Important
As you can see, both metrics are very different, but both are important. My recommendation is to start analyzing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate for key pages and processes on your site. I would begin with a focused effort, like a landing page that receives a lot of paid search traffic (for Bounce Rate) and possibly a lead generation process on the site for Exit Rate (if you have one). I won’t cover the process of optimizing your content in this post, but you can read an introduction to multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer to learn more about website testing. I believe multivariate testing is a critical component to increasing conversion and lowering bounce rate for your key landing pages. It can help you increase revenue without adding one more new visitor to your site. Intriguing, isn’t it? :-)

In closing, who thought that bouncing and exiting would be an interesting topic in marketing? ;-) Addressing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate can help you meet customer expectations, which can lead to higher conversion rates (whether that means sales, registrations, RSS subscriptions, etc.) There is one more point worth mentioning… although you can learn a lot from both Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, don’t forget about qualitative data. During your optimization process, ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS AND VISITORS about your key landing pages via surveys, focus groups, phone calls, etc. You may be too close to the content to see what’s wrong and you would be amazed to read and hear what actual visitors have to say.

GG

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32 Comments:

  • At 10:46 AM, Anonymous kristy said…

    Thanks a lot for your post. It is really useful! I belive the bounce rate 70% is really bad, however, the bounce rate we tracked for our client's campaign landing page is over 90%...Based on your ample experiences, could you help to share some information with me.:)

    1. What is the usual bounce rate for a landing page?
    2. Whether the bounce rate standard change depending on the purpose of the page? eg. campaign landing page or company homepage...

     
  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Kristy.

    I’m glad you found my blog and that this post could be of assistance. Regarding your client’s landing page bounce rate of 90%, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of work to do. ;-)

    Regarding your two questions, I’d love to be able to give you an answer, but there really isn’t an average bounce rate for a campaign landing page. It really depends on the specific campaign, your target market, product, creative, etc.

    Regarding your second question, yes, the bounce rate will look very different depending on the purpose of the page. It makes a lot of sense, though. Compare a campaign landing page where you are sending targeted traffic to an optimized page for a specific group of buyers with your website's homepage, which may get traffic from many sources (and for many reasons)...

    I’d love to hear more about your campaign…why don’t you send me an email with your contact information (which I won’t share of course), and we can talk more about your specific situation. Reach me at info {at} gsqinteractive.com.

    In the meantime, definitely check out the following posts on increasing conversion with multivariate testing and determining why my homepage bounce rate is so high. I think they will help you further.

    GG

     
  • At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Kristy said…

    Hi Glenn,

    Glad to see your reply. Thanks for your sharing.:) Let me get more data and will come back to you later.

    Kristy

     
  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    That sounds good Kristy. Just let me know if you have any other questions.

    I'll speak with you soon.

    GG

     
  • At 4:43 PM, Anonymous cindybug said…

    Question about high bounce rate...
    If on the landing page the links open up a page in a new window-the visitor goes to those pages and looks at them, then leaves/closes the original landing page...is this counted as a bounce?

    Cindy Chenard
    Vice President
    StockTiming.com

     
  • At 5:23 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Cindybug. Thanks for stopping by and that's a great question! If your web analytics package is using JavaScript tagging to track visitors (and most popular packages on the market do), and your new pages (which are being opened in a new window) include your JavaScript tagging, then theoretically it should not count as a bounce. Which analytics package are you using? You might want to check a landing page navigation report to view the pages that visitors navigate to after the landing page in question. Note, I'm assuming that the landing page in question is opening links in a new window.

    Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks again.

     
  • At 7:30 AM, Blogger Sudhir said…

    To GG

    all information is really great. I would like to know is there any tool or website where i can find avg bounce rate for my website compare to competitors website. so, there is will be a benchmark for my company to improve. as mentioned by you that is difficult to find avg benchmark for any site.
    i believe if we compare to competitors website's bouce rate, it will give an idea to improve the same, because content would be more or less same.
    avg. bounce rate for my website is 34.34%. is that ok?

     
  • At 3:35 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Sudhir. I apologize for the delay in my response!

    I’m glad my post was helpful. I would definitely focus on key areas of your website with regard to bounce rate versus trying to compare against competitors. A website’s bounce rate (at the aggregate level) doesn’t really mean much… I actually wrote about this in a previous post. I would focus on key pages on your website and work to lower your bounce rate (there is always room for improvement). For example, on your campaign landing pages, key product detail pages, etc.

    BTW, your website bounce rate of only 34% is extremely low (if that’s your aggregate bounce rate). Now, compare that to your specific landing pages and see how they match up. Theoretically, your landing pages should be even lower, considering those visitors should be highly targeted… i.e. Someone searching for a “high end laser printer” and having that visitor land on a targeted landing page. If you are seeing high bounce rates on your landing pages, then you definitely need to run testing to lower your bounce rate and increase conversion.

    I hope this helps.

    Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you have subscribed to my feed!

    GG

     
  • At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post! Now I am very clear about the difference between Bounce Rate & Exit Rate.

    From FreePressIndex

     
  • At 11:02 PM, Anonymous pakkretair said…

    thx a lot for this article.

    i search this blog from google.

    i'm very amazing about bounce rate & exite rate.

     
  • At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks so much for the great articles about bounce and exit rate. Very enjoyable and informative!

     
  • At 7:08 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Glad you liked the post. More to come soon about bounce rate. Stay tuned. :)

    GG

     
  • At 7:52 AM, Blogger Terri said…

    our main page has an average bounce rate of 19% - based on what you are saying, this is low... however, we have other pages (it is a retail store, and these are details of products) that are 100% - is this an issue or simply the way the data is read? thanks - terri

     
  • At 8:31 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Terri. Yes, I wouldn’t worry about your homepage bounce rate of 19%. That is relatively low if you aren’t driving campaign traffic there (which you shouldn’t be). i.e. Running paid search and sending this traffic to your homepage. But that’s another issue for another day!

    Your product detail pages at 100% bounce rate concern me. I would identify where your traffic is coming from for those pages and determine what’s going on. For example, did they search Google for an unrelated keyword and end up on your page? Are they from paid search, email, referring sites, etc. and figure out what the problem is. Is it your pricing, page layout, call to action, etc. The first place to start is to figure out where they are coming from and if you have an off-site issue (targeting) or an on-site problem (design, layout, call to action, etc.)

    It’s hard to give you an answer without looking at the page, the data, etc. I hope this helps.

    GG

     
  • At 12:33 AM, Anonymous India SEO said…

    Hi...

    A doubt...

    Should exit rate be always greater than the bounce rate for a given page? because if someone visits some other pages and exits through this page, it is counted in exit rate but not in bounce, right?

    Now, in our case, I see bounce rate of many pages more than the exit rate...any idea how is that possible? :|

     
  • At 7:49 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Exit rate and bounce rate will be calculated separately, so you won't see exit rate always higher than bounce rate. For example, if someone lands on a page and bounces, that will be counted towards bounce rate. If someone comes in and visits multiple pages and then exits the site from that page, then it will be counted towards exit rate.

    Also, bounce rate is focused the amount of times someone visits that 1 page and then leaves immediately, where exit rate is based on the number of exits from that 1 page. I know it can get confusing…

    I hope that makes sense and I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. Thanks.

    GG

     
  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    I forgot to address your question about bounce rate being higher than exit rate for a page. That can definitely be true. Again the calculations are separate, so you can have 100 people land on a page and 95 bounce (95% BR). However, let's say someone came into the site on another page, found their way to the page you are tracking, then visited your about page, and exited there. Remember, they didn't exit from the page you are tracking. If that happens enough, then the exit rate for that page will be much lower than the bounce rate.

    I hope that helps.

    GG

     
  • At 5:20 AM, Blogger Josh said…

    Thanks for a really useful blog post - I've been struggling to clarify the difference between bounce and exit and you've put it very clearly. We're a charity that finds IT professionals to volunteer with other charities so it's really important for us to motivate visitors to complete the registration pages so more charities get help.

     
  • At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very useful information. In my opinion, I think the numerator and the denominator of Bounce Rate and Exit Rate are both different. The numerator and denominator of the Exit Rate includes the numerator and denominator of the Bounce Rate.

     
  • At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Kjetil T. said…

    I wonder what the bounce rate for this page is :-)

     
  • At 5:49 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Kjetil T, great question.

    This post has a bounce rate of 62% and many of the people hitting the post navigate to my other posts about bounce rate, which makes a lot of sense.

    I've also written specifically about blog bounce rate and how it can be very different than other types of sites and pages. You might want to check it out.

    GG

     
  • At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Chris said…

    Great article. thank you for the information

     
  • At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Lorne Pike said…

    Thanks Glenn. I'm always looking for a simpler way to explain a concept. You've summarized this one very nicely; one of the best explanations I've seen anywhere.

    Best wishes to you and your clients!

     
  • At 8:44 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks Lorne. I appreciate it.

    I'm glad you liked my post. I've found that there's a lot of confusion with various metrics, so I've tried to clarify them in my posts about web analytics. Bounce Rate is probably my favorite metric, and I've written several posts about it here on my blog.

    Thanks again.

    GG

     
  • At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Logaholic said…

    Hi Glenn, a very useful post and the questions really contributed to your explanation! My experience shows that the bounce rate really depends on the content of the site.

    With blogs, for instance, a high bounce rate shouldn't be considered a negative thing, since there you want your visitors to quickly scan and read posts, which are almost always on the landing/home page. In a blog return visitors are way more important than bounce rate (which tells you little about how interesting your content is). Also, for university pages, where the home page contains links to external pages ( e.g a university site with the different faculty pages) the bounce rate for this page would be 100% most of the time but this doesn't reflect the actualy performance of the site.

     
  • At 12:30 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks @Logaholic. I'm glad you liked my post. I agree with you about blog bounce rate. Actually, I wrote an entire post about it. :)

    You can definitely see blog posts with higher bounce rates, since people search for a topic, find your post, get what they need, and move on. However, adding related posts help direct visitors to other relevant information.

    And you're also right about linking out. However, you could tag those outbound links as pageviews, if the content you are linking to would be considered your own. It depends on the setup.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    GG

     
  • At 12:26 AM, Anonymous DG said…

    Hello GG,

    Great informative tips. Thanks for sharing it.
    BTW, if we need our website (a marine electronics website) to have the visitors visiting the "contact us" page at the end of thier visit and leave the website from that specific page, then that should reflect a 100% or close to 100% EXIT RATE on that "Contact Us" page if the website performs as intended. right? or may be, even a higher EXIT RATE than any other pages?

    Thanks again.

     
  • At 8:40 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks @DG, I'm glad you found my post informative. Yes, there's a good chance you'll see a higher exit rate on the confirmation page for your contact form.

    Chances are, you won't see 100%, but it should be pretty high (such as over 80%). The reason you won't see 100% is because some people will inevitably hop back to other pages... they might click back to the homepage, your services pages, your blog, etc.

    GG

     
  • At 5:25 AM, Anonymous John A said…

    Glenn

    Excellent info well articulated - thanks. A question if I may. Given the homepage receives the most amount of un-targeted traffic, from a variety of sources as you say, does it follow then that it will always have the highest relative bounce rate? Can something similar be said of a typically highest exit page?

     
  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks John. Not necessarily. There are pages that can have a very high bounce rate, but still be extremely valuable for visitors. I wrote a post about blog bounce rate, which goes deeper into this topic. i.e. You write a killer post about how to do "x". It ranks #1 for dozens of targeted keywords. But, you see it has an 85% bounce rate. That can make sense, if people hit the page, get what they need, and then leave. Pages like that are much different than campaign landing pages (where you have a goal in mind).

    Regarding exit rate, pages where a conversion occurs could have higher exit rates. i.e. Someone registers for your email newsletter and leaves the site. You have to look at each specific situation to provide context for the metrics. I hope that helps.

    GG

     
  • At 3:15 AM, Blogger John said…

    Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for your very informative article.

    A question.

    When website visitor landed on home page then went through aboutus page and then contact us page and then exit from contact us page.

    Now in this case, what is a exit rate and bounce rate of contact us page?

    Thanks
    Yp

     
  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi John. I apologize for the late response.

    In the situation you listed above, the Contact Us page's bounce rate would not be affected. Its exit rate would. If someone hits a landing page and moves to another page, then the original landing page's bounce rate isn't affected.

    Let me know if that makes sense.

    GG

     
  • At 2:33 PM, Card said…

    Hey Glen,

    Thank you for your article, it sorted out some things, but I still have a question. Is bounce rate counted only for pages which have been viewed only once?

    I have some pages on the web-site which cannot be accessed otherwise, than by clicking through other pages and for some reason, I still have bounce rate there. In case described above I should expect to see BR at 0 level, since everything should be counted through exit rate because users viewed more than 1 page.

    Please correct me if I misunderstood something.

    Thanks in advance,
    Ausitn

     
  • At 6:40 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Austin.

    Does the page show up in your top landing pages report? If so, then dimension the page by Source to see where people are coming from. You're right that the page should not have a bounce rate if it's not accessible directly. That said, I have a feeling visitors are accessing the page directly if you are seeing a bounce rate there...

    Let me know if that makes sense and what you find.

    GG

     
  • At 9:19 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    Im sorry, I'm very confused. I dont understand how the exit rate can be lower than the bounce rate. Surely if someone exits a page then that also counts as a bounce?

    Or do they not count as bounce and only count as exit if they have previously been on other pages on the site? If this is the case, that the bounce rate is only counting people who landed on that specific page from another site like google, then i'm confused as to how some of our checkout pages have bounce rates of around 20%, but i wouldnt have thought anyone lands straight on these pages from google, because you can only really get there from other pages on our site.

     
  • At 6:34 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Sara.

    Exit Rate focuses on how many people leave a specific page (but that might be their second, third, or fourth jump on the site.) Bounce rate tells you how many people landed on a specific page and left without visiting any other pages.

    Regarding pages that have a bounce rate that aren't supposed to, I would check the sources of traffic leading to those pages. You might find that some of your own pages aren't tagged with the Google Analytics snippet, so it looks like the page in question is actually the landing page. Or, you might find that people are actually linking deeper into the site (to the pages you mention). It's hard to tell wtihout looking at the actual reporting.

    I hope that helps!

    GG

     

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