Why Bounces is a Better Metric than Bounce Rate


This is the follow-up post on the bounce rate poll from Can You Answer this Simple Google Analytics Question?. If you did not vote yet, please do it before reading further.

The poll results are as it follows:

google analytics poll

The correct answer to this simple GA question

As you can see, only 23% the voters got it right (total voters 81). It’s not surprising, as some of the reports within Google Analytics can be misleading, i.e. top content, content by title or content drilldown.

To find out the number of bounces (or the real bounce rate) one have to look at the landing page report, not at the content performance reports (top content, content by title or content drilldown). The reason is for that most of the time, a page will have a bounce rate only if it serves as landing page (single page visits).

For the example used in this poll

misleading bounce rate

Misleading Bounce Rate

if one multiplies 826 (unique page views) by 52.17% (bounce rate) it results in 430 bounces, which totally wrong. Let me explain.

If you look at the landing page report (image below) for the same page, same time interval (dec 11, 2009 – jan 10, 2010), you’ll see that while the bounce is the sameas on any of the content performance report (52.71%) the real number of bounces is 24, which is not by far 52% of 826, but a merely 3% of it.

the right way to measure bounces

The Real Number of Bounces

If one will look at the Top Content report and see 10.000 unique page views (almost equal to visitors) with a 50% bounce rate, it might wrongly conclude that 5.000 visitors bounced.

So, where is this confusion coming from? While the data in the Top Content, Content by Title and Content Drilldown reports are based on page views (unique or not) the bounce rate column is actually taking into related with data from other report and it’s computed based on the entrances to that specific page.

I think that the bounce rate in the aforementioned report should be supplemented by a Bounces column.

If you wish you can use this custom report to look at the page views (I was not able to combine Unique Page views with Bounces in Google Analytics custom reports). I am looking at the page view columns as a relative importance of the page, then I look at the bounces and if the number is high compared to the page view I take a quick look at the bounce rate.

content with bounces

Custom report with pageview, bounces and bounce rate

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Traian is Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+. He is also the author of the Ecommerce SEO book.