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Google Analytics: Bounce vs Exit Rate

By: Nick Harrison
Last Updated: May 16, 2019

People often confuse the bounce rate and exit rate in Google Analytics. While they both deal with website users navigating or not throughout a website, they are different metrics and knowing that is important.

What is a bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the number of people who land on a web page and leave without navigating to any other page on the website.

An example:

1,000 visitors visit this blog post, 400 of them leave without looking at all of our other amazing content. The bounce rate would be 40%.

400 / 1000 = 40%

Why does a bounce rate matter?

The degree of how much it matters will depend on your website and goals. But in most cases, we want website visitors to interact with the website, go to various pages and either buy something, remember us, subscribe and/or contact us.

What is a good bounce rate?

Well, you see, that depends… There is a lot of grey area involved and I don’t mean Christian and Anastasia.

The general rules are:

Under 40% is excellent
41% to 55% is average
56% to 70% is above average
70% The sky is falling if you aren’t the media or a blog

These however are averages, subjective and don’t necessarily equate to your own website.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that websites are different. They have different calls to action, engagement, content, purposes, means of getting traffic.

If you have a blog or news site, you will likely have a higher bounce rate because a lot of your traffic will come from organic SEO based on a question or particular topic someone searched for. Once they visit your site and get or not get the information they were after, they are likely to then move on.

An example of this, is this website. If you came to this website because you were looking for the most awesome digital agency ever, you were looking for web design, development and/or SEM, there is a chance you would click on a few links to learn about us. However, if you were looking for how to make your website load super fast and weren’t looking for an awesome digital agency, you might just read this article and leave.

The more blog articles you write, the more traffic you are going to receive where visitors arrive that aren’t necessarily looking for your offering because the less direct you can be. Take this article. The ideology behind writing it is that a few of you might think “hey, we should hire Dashal to manage our SEM, etc.” It is passive salesmanship because there are only so many times you can be active. If I wrote a page or article that specifically had to do with “SEO agency in Chicago” there is only so much content that could be published without beating a dead horse.

The key is to know what your current bounce rate is and make steps to improve it.

How? Great question!

How to improve your bounce rate

There are many ways to improve your bounce rate, and some of those depend on what type of site you have.

Here are some easy ways to lower your bounce rate.

  • Site speed: People are impatient, especially on mobile. If your site doesn’t load in three seconds they are likely to leave. I recently wrote an article how to improve this. We also offer this service.
  • Fix broken links: 404 errors are likely to lead to a bounce. There are many online free tools to check. If you remove a page, think about creating a 301 redirect.
  • Internal links: It’s always a good idea to have a link or several to other areas of your website. This encourages website visitors to poke around more and become engaged.
  • Calls to action: If you would like your website visitor to do something, make it clear and to the point.
  • Readability: Increase your content’s readability.
  • Fresh Content: Keep your content fresh. I’ve written several blog posts throughout the years. While at the time they made sense, a lot of them don’t now because of how things have evolved, changed. Update your old content or possibly remove it (after creating a 301 redirect).
  • It’s about them, not you: Are you ever sitting next to people on a date and one of them feels the need to talk about themselves nonstop? I was recently having an adult beverage at a local pub and within 30 minutes I read half of the bartenders audio-book of his biography. I didn’t know whether to run or drink more because it was that annoying. This blog is to help you. Our services are about making you have better ROI. This isn’t about me, this is about you. Write content for your user and not for you, it will help them see the value more clearly.
  • Be consistent and write good content: Over the past 5 years, a metamorphosis happened in Webworld. It used to be that you could write a short 200-500 page article and get high SEO rankings. That really isn’t the case anymore. A lot of this has to do with people caring more and more about the quality of the content because there is so much of it available. The better the content, the more likely website visitors will come back, look for more of your content, click stuff, signup yada yada yada.
  • Categories, tags, recommended posts: If your website visitor happened upon your blog post, there is a great chance they are interested in the topic (of course Google isn’t perfect and you may have come to this page looking for a grilled cheese sandwich (I’m writing this near lunch-time)). If the category and/or tag the current post is in, is visible, the visitor who already came to your page because of the topic, may be interested in viewing other pages around the same topic. While, displaying the next and previous post is great, think about having recommended blog posts as well based on the same subject that are on your site. All of this is part of internal linking.    

Look at individual pages

Google analytics is an invaluable tool as are most analytics when you know what to look for and how to interpret. Most people (including me at times), look at the high-level numbers. Instead of only looking at what your website’s bounce rate is, also look at the individual pages. Maybe some pages are performing a lot better than others. That type of info can help you make those under-performing pages perform better.

Consider the type of page

Often times, a landing page will have a much different result than a regular website page or blog post. This is because there is normally a direct in your face call to action (if it was designed correctly). There are also normally very few other links. Both of these things can really change the bounce rate results versus other pages. Consider keeping landing pages separate or at least keep them in mind if you have a lot of them. Having a high bounce rate on your landing pages, can also tell you that the marketing to get the user to the page and/or the offer and content itself is no bueno.

What is a exit rate?

The exit rate is page specific. It’s the percentage of website visitors who visited a particular page and then left your site from that same page. Unlike your bounce rate, the exit rate doesn’t care if you visited any prior pages.

Page specific is important here. While you can also look at specific pages for bounce rates (and you should), your overall exit rate will always be 100% if you view it generally. Everyone will eventually leave your site or leave the session. That’s not to say that there isn’t an average exit rate.  

Why does your exit rate matter for a particular page?

Like your individual page bounce rate, it can tell you if a particular page isn’t performing well. If you have that knowledge, if you know that on a particular page, website visitors are leaving without going to another page, without clicking a call to action, that particular page might need to be fixed/adjusted.

Keep in mind though that a high exit rate for a particular page isn’t always bad. For instance, having a high exit rate on a thank you page might be perfectly fine because that website visitor served a purpose.

The same ways to increase your bounce rate that I listed above can also be applied to your exit rate.

Conclusion:

Your bounce rate is people visiting your site and leaving without going to another page.

Your exit rate is the number of people who visited a particular page and left and doesn’t care if they visited previous pages on the same site.

Both are important. Both let you know of a stoppage point for user navigation. They aren’t the same though. One has the ability to tell you the story of how the user navigated to a particular page and left, one just tells you when they got there, they bailed.