If there was one metric I could take out of Google Analytics, it would be Bounce Rate. I am quite certain it has sent more people down fruitless rabbit holes than most other metrics combined.

Bounce Rate is simply not useful when you’re just getting started optimizing your online marketing. Yet “How do I fix my bounce rate?” or “Should I worry about my bounce rate?” are two of the most eternal questions in online marketing.

Granted, I don’t fault anyone who asks, because the system is practically designed to elicit those very questions:

  • Bounce Rates are usually quite high,
  • A high bounce rate evokes a visceral reaction as being “bad”
  • Google has featured the stat as one of only 4 key numbers on the Google Analytics login page.

Considering those factors, it’s quite logical to conclude that Bounce Rate is something that needs to be worked on. My advice? Don’t. If I were making a list of 100 things to work on in your online marketing, it wouldn’t even make the list at 101. Try thinking about it this way:

Handily enough, one of the other four stats featured on your Google Analytics home page is Goal Conversion Rate. Perhaps because this number defaults to “0”, and isn’t named something that “sounds bad” like “bounce”, it gets virtually no attention. [Usability friends, take note – Google Analytics could use a hand here.]

Ultimately, online marketing exists to help make sales. You make more sales when you maximize the micro-transactions that lead up to the sale. The key to maximizing the micro-transactions is measuring them; then taking action to improve the numbers.

The funny thing is, you’d be surprised how many otherwise successful companies haven’t yet bothered to do their conversion rate homework. Lucky for you if they’re in your industry – you just found a way to level up – and maybe even get ahead.

Hopefully you’re sufficiently intrigued, because it will take some work to get the system of measurement set up, and even more work to optimize it. Fortunately, Glenn Gabe (@GlennGabe) wrote a nice article in Search Engine Journal summarizing the steps here: A beginner’s guide to conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Glenn walks you through what to measure in Lesson 1, various goal types in Lesson 2 (Hint: the only one you need to start with is Event Tracking) and touches on analysis in lesson 3. While I’d take a slightly different approach in analysis (his is more of a list of what’s possible vs. how to approach analysis), Lessons 1 & 2 are solid.

As with so much of online marketing, half the battle is knowing what’s important. Even if you never logged into Google Analytics again, going through the process of setting up Conversion Goals will be a useful exercise. Once you understand what people come to your site to do, and turn your focus to helping them achieve their goals as easily as possible, you’re well on the road to online marketing success.

To your success!

One thought on “Oh, dearest bounce rate, how do I love thee… Not!

  1. I completely agree Catherine! Bounce rate is a lagging indicator just like the Adwords quality score. Focus on improving your content, UX and funnel and let the bounce rate do what it does… Different types of traffic will have inherently different bounce rates too.

    Focusing solely on bounce rate would lead you to stop nurturing a traffic source that bounced at 70% and converted at 15%, to go after people who spend a lot of time clicking around but only convert at 8%.

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