Analytics & Testing

Bounce Rates, Time on Site and Event Tracking

There’s still a lot of misunderstanding of the definition of a bounce rate, how negatively it’s impacting your site, and how you can work to improve it. Since most of you are utilizing Google Analytics, an understanding of how Google treats a bounce is important.

First, you may not realize it but Average Time on Site for bounced visitors always equals zero. In other words, as you’re looking at Average Time on Site, it’s only showing the time spent on your site for those visitors that do not bounce. That seems rather peculiar to me. I’d love to know how long people are staying before they bounce to see if I’m at least capturing their attention. Unfortunately, that’s not possible without some hacks. Test it yourself… the image here shows a report filtered for only bounced visitors… resulting in a Average Time on Site of 0.

Interestingly enough, if your visitor interacts with your page in any trackable manner (outside of leaving), they are not classified as a bounce! So… if you add event tracking on a play button or a call to action, and the person clicks… they aren’t classified as a bounce. Most people think that a bounce is anyone that landed on your site and then leaves. It’s not… it’s anyone who lands on your site, doesn’t interact in any way, and then leaves.

If you track events or additional pageviews on a page, that person technically did not bounce. So if you’re a marketing manager that’s struggling with high bounce rates, you need to at least see if visitors are interacting with your site in any way before they leave. This can be accomplished by adding event tracking everywhere possible.

Think about page elements where you can embed event tracking:

  • If you have links on your page that drive traffic offsite on purpose, you may either want to track that event. It requires a little bit of code, though, to ensure that the event is captured before you leave the page.
  • If you have a jQuery enabled site with controls for visitors to interact with sliders or other elements, you can add a jQuery Google Analytics plugin that makes it easy to track events on activity.
  • Even if you have a YouTube video, you can utilize the YouTube JavaScript code and add event tracking.

Another advanced option is to add a second Google Analytics account to your page and track an immediate second pageview when the page loads. This will reduce your bounce rate to 0 on that account but will provide you with average time on site statistics for every visitor. Then you can add a segment with a filter of less than 3 page views. That will filter out anyone who technically didn’t bounce and supply you with time on site data.

And don’t forget to track industry bounce rates to see how your site compares. One note – we tend to see sites that have great search ranking bounce at a much higher rate. Visitor behavior for those coming from a search tend to reflect more browsing activity where they’re checking out several search results and leaving after getting a quick snapshot of the page. So don’t be surprised if you capture more search traffic and your bounce rate increases!

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