Google Analytics and Bounce Rate Loyalty

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Google Analytics and Bounce Rate Loyalty

bounce rate problemsMany people point to the bounce rate in Google Analytics and assume that those who bounced are worthless visitors. This is not the case.

Before I explain why, I want to say that I have changed the GA code so that Bounce Rate is calculated from those who spent less than 10 seconds on the site, not those who viewed one page, which is the default. The reason I did this is that many of my sites are blogs or are using blogging extensively. If a visitor enters on a category page, they can spend up to 10 minutes reading posts, yet the default GA code only sees one page viewed, and says that they bounced.

If you would like to use this bounce rate, you need setTimeout, and here the code and where to place it:

var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-xxxxx-x”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
setTimeout(‘pageTracker._trackEvent(‘NoBounce’, ‘NoBounce’, ‘Over 10 seconds’)’,10000);

Now, why are visitors who bounce not worthless? Simple, GA seems to be calculating bounces off of the most recent visit. This does not mean that the visitors have not spent time on your site before. Here is a screen shot of the Visitor Loyalty report, segmented by those who bounced.

Bounce Rate and Visitor Loyalty

(click to enlarge)

You can see that although the majority (93.5%) of visits were the 1st time to the site, around 6.5% of visitors were returning, some of them up to 9 – 14 times.

This means that these returning visitors liked what was offered on the site enough to come back, but then why did they bounce?

I believe that many of the Loyalty Bounces are looking to copy URL’s to send to other people. Yes, that may sound like wishful thinking, but when I go back to a site and leave immediately, it is usually for that very reason. Another reason may be to verify some piece of information. Every case is different, which is why Custom Segments are so important for your analytics.

To see this in action, you will need to create a custom segment by clicking on Advanced Segments in the left hand navigation of GA. Originally I used Metrics-Site Usage-Bounces with the Condition Greater than or equal to, and the Value as 1. This gave me the bounce rate of the site. Then I created another segment to combine bounce rate and returning visitors;

Dimensions – Visitors – Visitor Type – Matches Exactly – Returning Visitors

Metrics – Site Usage – Bounces – Greater than or equal to – 1

There you have it. You created a custom segment, and you can see what I call a Loyalty Bounce.

Update: When I applied this to another of my sites, I believed it confirmed my suspicions about why people are returning to the site, then bouncing. The Top Landing Pages report segmented by Loyalty Bounces was very similar to the Top Content report for all visitors. The pages that are most popular on my site are the ones giving me the Loyalty Bounce.

So a visitor that bounces is not always a bad thing. They may be spreading links.

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17 Comments

  1. Damian January 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the information. I never heard about this bounce rate and I’ll explore more into bounce rate and try to implement on my blogs.

  2. Sage Lewis January 25, 2010 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Nice find, Ben!

  3. Ben Bailey January 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Thanks Sage.

  4. Resnits January 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    I’ll try the code, interesting! thanks

  5. Scott Chapin January 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Ben,

    If the intent of changing the bounce calculation from a singe page view to visits less than 10 seconds, how does that help in the case of a single page view? Time on a page is the time between hitting page 1 and hitting page 2. If there is no page 2, then time on page (and time on site) is zero. Let me know if I’m missing something.

  6. Ben Bailey February 1, 2010 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Scott,

    Once this code is loaded, it starts a timer, and once it reaches 10 seconds, it creates an event (pageTracker._trackEvent). If the timer is not reached (due to a visitor leaving the site), then it is a bounce.

    Because of the event that is being created and tracked, I don’t need the second page anymore to set the time on site.

    Ben

  7. Trina February 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    What does this code do to historical data? I know custom segments use historical data, and I usually create segments that exclude bounced visitors anyway, so if I am comparing to a time period that is prior to implementing the SetTimeout method, then am I no longer comparing apples to apples? Is the way of defining a “bounce” different enough to cause problems with historical data?

    MY method of excluding bounced visits from a segment may have to change. it is currently “Bounces Equal to 0” – which I don’t necessarily trust, but seems to work.

    • Ben Bailey March 1, 2010 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Trina,

      This method of measuring Bounce Rate is not always best. For a blog, I like it because many people will land on the homepage, and read multiple posts, but Google Analytics only sees one page viewed, and counts it as a bounce, even when they looked at multiple posts. For another type of website, the single page viewed is a valid measurement for bounce rate.

      If you already have segmented out Bounces, then you won’t see any data if you implement this custom segment. Also, you are correct in that the bounce measurement will have changed so you will no longer be “comparing apples to apples.”

      Ben

  8. cbpredator April 10, 2010 at 2:25 am - Reply

    fantastic read Ben
    thanks

  9. Frank Motola July 24, 2010 at 7:06 am - Reply

    Is there a low limit, say 2 seconds or so that will allow a visitor to land on your page without Google analytics registering any visit? Reason I ask is that I have been testing Facebook ads and from their side my stats show say 50 clicks, but from the Google side, only 20 show up. Any idea why?
    Thanks,
    Frank

  10. Dan October 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    I’d like to ask you if Google regards a pop up on the homepage as a ‘page viewed’. In other words, if a visitor comes to my homepage that equals 1 page view. If he/she clicks on a pop up informational field that’s located on the homepage and does not require logging in, is that a 2nd page view?
    Thanks in advance
    Dan

    • Ben Bailey October 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      Dan,

      If the pop-up has no GA code tracking on it, then no. Google Analytics can only see a page that is tagged.

      If the pop-up has an onclick event to create a pageview in GA using JavaScript, then yes, it will track it.

  11. Thomas Jenkins November 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    How reliable is the bounce rate information from alexa? we’ve always used that.

  12. Tyler February 21, 2011 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Interesting. I run a information site with a blog and have a very high bounce rate but have a pretty high average time on site, I’ll have to use this, see what the results are.

  13. Randy March 9, 2011 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Ben, thanks for this article…this looks like something interesting to try out on my blog. I run GA on WordPress, with 3 posts showing at a time, and I was never really comfortable with having such a high bounce rate (similar to Tyler’s post #14 above me).

  14. niks stokes May 12, 2011 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I’d like to ask you if Google regards a pop up on the homepage as a ‘page viewed’. In other words, if a visitor comes to my homepage that equals 1 page view.

    • Ben Bailey May 13, 2011 at 6:11 am - Reply

      If you have the Analytics tracking code on your pop-up, then yes. If there is no tracking code, then Google Analytics cannot see it as a page.

      Ben

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