November 6, 2013

If you use Google Analytics, you're likely familiar with your bounce rate. And while many of us don't stress over this number, it should still be an accurate representation of how our visitors are interacting on our pages.

Essentially, your bounce rate determines the number or ratio of people that come to your site and "bounce" off without interacting on your site. This is usually correlated with situations like finding a page in a search result and then realizing the content doesn't match what you were looking for, so you leave without looking around the page/site further.

The problem with blogs is that regular readers come to your site on a regular basis. They read the article, then they "bounce" because they simply wanted to read your latest article. They don't usually navigate around and check out other pages, because they already know what's there.

And so, I and other bloggers consistently contribute to other blogs having high bounce rates. But this seems unfair. We visit weekly, or even daily, but Google Analytics thinks we're bad visitors. Now you understand why many of us don't put much stock in our bounce rates.

But what if there was a way to "correct" this analytic? A way to more accurately account for the traffic and readers we get to our blogs.

I recently read an article by Adrienne Smith that discussed ways to correct and reduce bounce rates. In her article she discusses a line of code that can be inserted to make corrections for time on a blog. She reduced her bounce rate to 13%. That's pretty impressive!

So I went about figuring out what I needed to do to correct my bounce rate too. I came across a really good article by Brian Cray that describes the process Google Analytics uses to calculate your bounce rate. I recommed you read this for more insight into this process. And, in this article he also lists a section of code that you can insert to correct your bounce rate.

The code listed in this article is based on 10 second intervals spent on your site. This means that if a visitor stays longer that 10 seconds, they are not considered a bounce even if they don't navigate around other pages. 10 seconds seems like a fair number to me. If someone really isn't interested in your page, they will leave in under 10 seconds.

The more research I did, I came across an article by Mathieu Sarrasin, which also references the article and code from Brian Cray. However, Mathieu went a step further and created a WordPress plugin that does the same thing the code does. (You can download the plugin directly from this article.) Let's face it, I'd rather install a plugin than mess with coding. So, I gave it a try!

And here's what happened:

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised! Within just a couple days, my bounce rate significantly decreased! My previous bounce rate average was around 75%. But now, it hovers around 10%.

This plugin is also based on the 10 second interval. So, while not every user may be a fully engaged user, staying minutes on my site, they definitely aren't bouncing immediately either.

But, as I started looking at my stats after installing the plugin, I noticed something else happening in my analytics. My "Average Visit Duration" started to increase significantly as well!

If you read the article by Mathieu Sarrasin, you'll notice he talks about how Google Analytics calculates actual time spent on the site. This is often a flawed statistic in the regular Google Analytic results. However, with the plugin (or code) installed, a correction is also made for the time spent on your site.

Before I installed the plugin, the average time spent on my site was about one and half minutes. Now, it's averaging about 20 minutes!

I will admit that I think this stat may be a little high and slightly disproportionate. However, I have noticed that it is a more accurate representation of the trend of time spent on my site. For example, I spoke with someone who had read numerous posts after fist finding my site. And I spoke with someone else who had spent an hour navigating my old blog posts. Both of these occurrences correlate directly with a couple of the spikes shown above.

Obviously, if people really are spending 20 minutes on my site daily, I am super excited about that! But, like most things, I take this stat with a grain of salt. It is nice to see people staying longer that a minute though.

So, if you want to correct your bounce rate and better understand how visitors are interacting on your page, go to this article from Mathieu Sarrasin and download the plugin. It takes only 2-3 days to start seeing corrected results!

And if you do install it, please come back here and tell us in the comments how it worked for you. I'd love to see it working for you too 🙂

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
    1. I’m so glad you’re gonna try it out Amy! I look forward to hearing how it works for you.

  1. You rock! Thanks for the information. I can’t wait to try this out. I’ve always wondered how the bouncing system works on blogs since so much of our information is found on the first page.

    1. Thanks Amy! I’m so glad you found this useful 🙂 The bounce rate is difficult to assess on blogs but I hope this helps clarify your stats for you.

  2. Hi Jenn,

    Thank you so much for sharing this invaluable information, especially in a way that was so easy to digest! A lot of bloggers, such as myself, run at the words “coding,” but WordPress plugins are the way to go!

    1. Hi Nicole! I’m so glad you found this valuable 🙂 I’m with you when it comes to coding! I’ll do my best and lose some hair doing it if I have to but when the option for a plugin is there, that’s definitely the preference! Good luck with this and let me know if it helps correct your numbers.

  3. Hey Jenn,

    Thanks for sharing this. I also been wondering about my bounce rate. I am using GA and Lead Converter and LC is telling me a whole different story. So yes!

    Thank you for sharing this with me and I really appreciate.

    Have a blessed weekend!

    1. My pleasure Reginald 🙂 I hope this tip helps you make more sense of your stats and maybe they’ll be more in line with what you’re seeing from LC.

  4. Thanks so much for this great info.
    As a photographer, I frequently get this type of erroneous definition of Bounce Back in my GA data.
    It’s typical for users to come to my blog to see a single photo-related post (with numerous photos) and they never get captured properly. So this will hopefully capture their online behaviour more accurately

    I will be reporting actual use.
    Thank you very much!

    1. Yes, it sounds like you probably have a similar issue that I and other bloggers experience. I hope this helps better calculates your bounce rate for you too 🙂

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