As a small business owner, navigating through Google Analytics can be pretty overwhelming. There’s so many different metrics on the screen that it’s hard to distinguish between what’s actually important and crucial to your business, and the info that’s not a huge concern. One metric in particular that gets a lot of attention is bounce rate.

What Is Bounce Rate?

Google’s definition of bounce rate is:

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).

In other words, it’s the rate at which someone comes to your website, then leaves (bounces) without going to any other pages on your site. Another time a “bounce” might be counted is when a visitor’s session times out, which usually happens after 30 minutes of being on one page.

Generally, people associate a high bounce rate with their website being bad. It’s easy to assume that someone came to your site, didn’t like what they saw, and left. And when that keeps happening, you start to worry that maybe Google won’t see your site as high quality or relevant to what people are searching, which would eventually cause your rankings to drop. But that’s not necessarily what’s going on every time.

What Your High Bounce Rate Might Mean

Before you start freaking out about your 90% bounce rate, let’s look at some other possible explanations for why people are leaving your site without visiting multiple pages.

One of the most common reasons small businesses in particular tend to have a high bounce rate is because most of the information that people are looking for is usually all on one page. For instance, someone might just need your phone number or address. Hopefully you have this info listed on every page in the header or footer of your site, so no matter what page a person lands on, they can easily find your contact information. This is particularly true if people are entering your site through the home page. Your home page will usually have all the services you offer listed, and what your business is all about.

This is a really good thing because it means people don’t have to search through 10 different pages to get the information they need, which gives them a better user experience when they’re on your site. Another thing to consider is the fact that the way people use the internet has changed over the years. With so much information available, we have a tendency to move from one site to the next. Let’s say someone is looking for a local dentist. They may go to 5 different dentists’ websites, only look at the home pages, and then close them all out once they’ve made their decision. Does that meant that your site is “bad”? Nope. It just means the person was doing some comparison shopping to find what they wanted.

When A High Bounce Rate Is A Problem

Just because a high bounce rate isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing, doesn’t mean it’s not something that you should look into. A high bounce rate alone isn’t a good indicator of a problem. Here are some of the signs you should look out for in addition to a high bounce rate:

  1. Slow page speed: If your site is loading slowly, then that could be the reason people are bouncing. You can test your site’s load time using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
  2. Sudden spikes in bounce rate: When your usually has a bounce rate of 60%, and then suddenly goes up to 90% seemingly out of nowhere, it’s time to look into it. This is usually the result of bots being counted as visitors and screwing up your data.
  3. Low time on site: When people are only staying on your site for less than 20 seconds, it could mean that they were expecting something different from what’s on the page they came to. Make sure that your meta title and description clearly explain what’s on each page.
  4. Only happens for specific pages: Google Analytics shows you bounce rate on a page level and your overall site’s bounce rate. Check the bounce rate of all of your pages and see if one page in particular is driving up the overall bounce rate. If most of your pages have a 70% bounce rate, and one has a 95%, then you should look into making improvements for that particular page like adding content or changing the layout.

 The Bottom Line

A bounce rate is more of a potential symptom of a bigger problem, than a problem itself. It’s like when your car is making a humming noise. The humming noise isn’t the problem, whatever’s causing the humming noise in the car is the problem, and you need to focus on fixing that. So if you notice that your site has a high bounce rate, look into what could be causing the high bounce rate. You might find out that it’s actually not a problem at all.