Google Bounce Rate Value

Does Google Bounce Rate Analytic Have Any Real Value

SEO experts tell us a low bounce rate is important for site ranking in Google SERP. Bounce rate is an indicator of quality content on our blogs and websites. The lower the bounce rate, the better our sites will rank…

Google Analytics shows a bounce rate statistic for our sites. Just how accurate is this analytic statistic, how much credence should we give it?

What is Bounce Rate?

Simply put, bounce rate is the ratio between visitors arriving on our site and viewing more than one page to the number of arriving visitors who leave immediately. If we have a high percent of visitors who stay around to read more than one post we can assume they found our blog useful and interesting.

If they left straight away, they either didn’t find what they were wanting, or didn’t like what we had published. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

Google Analytics Bounce Rate Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

The data Google Analytics provides on bounce rate doesn’t tell us the whole story about the way site visitors behaved on our site. Lets take a look at one example, my recreational fishing site “Fishing South Africa“.

google bounce rate and page views statistics from google analytics

The Google Analytics chart above shows us the site had a bounce rate over 56% for the sampled day. A 56% bounce rate is fair and we don’t need to panic. Immediately we get the impression most visitors read just under 2 pages.

But looking a bit further, we see the average visit resulted just over 3 pages read (pages per visit)! Surely something is not right. We can go a bit further and pull out our calculator; take the number of page views and divide this by the number of unique visitors – which is 72 according to the chart. Then we get a different result. Considering unique visitors only, each new visitor read 3.5 pages.

It appears the “bounce rate” should be reported as 28.5%, not 56% as indicated. But that’s not how it works. Google only uses the number of visitors leaving immediately and the number of total visitors to calculate bounce rate. In the complex field of statistics this is the wrong way to analyse this stat; it’s not a statistic result, just a simple arithmetical calculation.

We recommend our clients look at the bigger picture before being concerned about Google Analytics “bounce rate”. Visitor retention is a far better indication of the value of our content.

3 Pages per Visitor is Good Visitor Retention

When your average visitor opens 3 or more pages, it means they have found something they really like. Not many sites can claim an average of 3 pages per visitor, let alone over 3 1/2.

Returning visitors is another sign of blog success. Visitors will only return to a site they like… From the chart above we see 72 visitors produced 83 visits on the day. That means 11 of the 72 visitors had visited the site before. 18% were returning visitors, which is a good percentage.

Consider What Visitors Were Doing When they Read your Articles

To get a good idea of visitor behaviour, we must look at what the visitors were doing when the came to your site. It’s accepted most people surf the web from work! The Chart shows us most visits occurred from 9 AM to 4 PM.

We already know from other stats most of this site’s traffic comes from our local region, in this case South Africa. 9 to 4 is working time, so the ‘visit from work’ rule holds true – most local visitors came to this site during work hours.

When visitors to our sites do so from work, they may have to leave the site suddenly (if the boss walks into the office). So they are likely to came back if they weren’t finished reading.

Treat Google Analytics Statistics as Indication Only

All Google Analytics statistics, except possibly for those reporting Google Ad traffic as inaccurate. It’s common knowledge search terms reported in Google Analytics is completely useless since they started removing Goggle account holders use of the search engine from this report.

google analytics search term report imageLooking at the screen-shot above, we see 94 searches led visitors to the site. 86 of those terms are (not provided).

However there’s more discrepancies. WordPress (Jetpack) Stats shows 81 visitors and 224 page views. This is neither the 72 visitors, 83 visits nor 254 page views reported in Analytics.

For a long time Google Analytics was regarded as the most accurate source of website traffic data. The methods used to gather and report stats varies between systems used to grab this data and report it, so there’ll always be differences.

We can take the comparison further, and look at a months worth of data from Google Analytics’s, Jetpack Stats and Awstats (CPanel server logs). We don’t have Awstats data for a month for this site yet (first month self-hosted), but from experience with our other sites we see large discrepancies between GA and the other systems.

The most difficult to get useful info from is Awstats as it records a lot of stuff we don’t want in the data (Awstats reports WordPress scripts and style-sheets loads as pages for one, it also records bots) To use the data we need to dig deeper into the page traffic, entry and exit processes.

All Stats Need Interpretation

Clearly we have to interpret the data provided from any traffic reporting system, including the Google Analytics’s bounce rate and visitor data. This data is pretty useless and misleading if taken at face value.

During a discussion about Google Analytics’s data with a client, the client remarked “who would have thought reading Google Analytics stats was an art form and a science”. The client was correct. Interpreting the information provided is both an art form and a science.

The confusion surrounding what web traffic reports really means is something ruthlessly exploited by the SEO industry (SEO Sharks). They will tell you your site needs this, that or the next thing to get you to pay them to improve it. At best all they do is take your money. At worst they do so much harm “SEOing” your blog you lose Google ranking for an over-SEOed site.

Next time you have a look at your Google Analytics and see a terrible bounce rate, look deeper into what’s going on before panicking.

If you regularly publish good well-written meaty content (I don’t mean minimum 300 word articles, I mean good valuable reads with 1000 words and more) and you get visitors you are on the right track. Keep publishing this sort of content and your readership will grow, visitor retention will improve, and the bounce rate will drop.

me on google plus+Mike Otgaar

Further Reading:

About Mike

Web Developer and Techno-geek Saltwater fishing nut Blogger

Posted on March 13, 2014, in Google and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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