Bounce rate has become a hot topic in the search community. It's a bit of a buzz word, and if you're doing any sort of SEO or even PPC consulting  you'll likely have clients concerned about theirs. In analyzing a site's bounce rate, I like to look at three main factors:
Bounce Rate Factor #1: Traffic Source
Often times the place traffic comes from (search, direct, referral) can have a major impact on bounce rate and can be an indication of irrelevant traffic (some perhaps that you may be paying for). There are a variety of ways you can quickly diagnose problems using analytics packages.
Bounce Rate Factor #2: Page Content/Structure
Obviously the way you’re structuring the page or the content therein may cause people to bounce quickly. By carefully syncing your pages' headlines with the messaging people followed to reach your site and by strategically leveraging internal links , you can extend a visitor's stay.
Bounce Rate Factor #3: Exit Destinations
When people leave your site, where are they going? This can give an indication as to the reason people are exiting your site. This is the factor we'll focus on for this post.
Exit Destinations & Bounce Rates: Where are They Going?
An important thing to note about bounce rate is that it is a directionally indicative metric, and not a KPI (key performance indicator) for most businesses. Included in your bounce rate will be people who may be exiting your site to:
- Visit a sister site or another Web property you own
- Visit your social networking profiles (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Return to a search page (in the event that search sent a visitor for an unrelated query, they may "bounce back")
- Jump to a competitor's site
And there are various other possibilities. Obviously the level of concern you'd feel about the above varies pretty wildly, so it's nice to have an idea where the majority of your traffic is actually off to.
Using Compete Pro to Analyze Bounce Rates
I recently had the opportunity to use Compete Pro to analyze a Web site I was working on, and found the exit destination analytics feature pretty handy. It's worth noting that the Compete data, like any competitive data source, is never 100% accurate, but I find it's generally directionally useful.
Since I just watched a great video featuring their founder, let's take a look at the exit destinations from Mint.com:
The Compete interface is really clean and simple, as you can see above. Once we've selected our site we get a nice list of top exits we can then export:
Once we export the data we can pull it together in a more palatable format (for us and for our clients). Here I've grabbed the top 25 exit destinations, for the sake of simplicity:
In the above we can quickly grasp that:
- The biggest single exit destination is Google.com, and Yahoo.com is amongst the highest
- Much of the exit traffic is going to sites like Digg, Twitter, etc. This likely means that people are sharing content and driving more traffic back to the site.
- Many of the exits are to banking sites. Since Mint.com is a major affiliate site, these are actual very positive exits.
From here we'll want to dig much deeper: we'd want to look at the way Mint has set up their analytics to see which of these actions are actually being factored into bounce rate, we'd want to analyze their on-page content and keyword targeting to see if there is any way to reduce the number of people bouncing back to Google, and we'll want to look more closely at how many people are exiting to desired actions. Much of our "bounce rate" may actually be comprised of people sharing content and generating revenue for our business!
What's Missing From This Bounce Rate Analysis?
Basically, the above is just a nice way to get a quick, high-level overview of potential issues to investigate. You'll also want to look at traffic sources, the way you're structuring your content, and you'll likely want to do an even more thorough analysis of where people are going and why than the above. Also it's worth noting that bounce rate is directionally indicative. Ultimately the most valuable numbers are the ones that directly make you money (whether those be conversions, sales, impressions, etc.), but bounce rate is often a nice way to unearth issues and help you to identify problems with your site.