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Why 'bounce rate' isn’t a good measure of website performance

Once you have a website you're happy with, the next step is to track how it's performing, usually with Google Analytics. But there are so many measurements you can look at on its dashboard, it's hard to know where to start.

What's the Bounce Rate?

A lot of online articles will tell you to look at your Bounce Rate. This measures how many people arrive on your site, view a single page and then leave. If everyone who visits you does this, your bounce rate would be 100 per cent.

At first glance, then, a high bounce rate would suggest that your site isn't doing what it should – people are arriving, not finding the content interesting enough to explore further, and leaving.

So a high bounce rate is bad?

Don't jump to any conclusions based on your bounce rate alone. You need to look at some other measures too.

For some websites, a high bounce rate is absolutely fine. Here's an example. A potential customer finds the site on a search engine, clicks through to the home page and finds a phone number. They make a call direct and then close the website down. If all customers do the same, the bounce rate is 100% - and yet the company had new business come in by phone as a result.

And, in some cases, a high bounce rate could actually mean you're over performing! Say a customer 100 miles away from you is looking for a local accountant. But instead of searching the name of their town, they search for the service they need, e.g. 'accounting and payroll services'. Your site comes top of the list, because you have lots of good content around accounting and payroll. The customer hits your site, realises you're too far away, and goes back to their search.

In that scenario, you're doing everything right – you just don't match the customer's needs.

What to look at instead

Bounce rate is a useful measure, but it's best used as one of a number of statistics. Other key measures you should look at include your visitor numbers – to check that a decent number of people are able to find your site. Then, look at the average time on site. If people are spending a minute or more exploring your website and visiting different pages, that's a good sign that they're interested in what you have to say.

Also take a look at the Pages statistics to find out which pages people are visiting the most. This tells you more about what they're interested in – which can help you strengthen your content further.

So, like many things in life, you shouldn't dwell too much on a single aspect of what's happening. Get a more rounded view and you'll have a better understanding.

Do bear in mind, too, that you don't have to be a Google Analytics expert if it's outside your comfort zone. There are plenty of web experts out there who can help. accSYS build and manage thousands of accountancy websites which are proven to perform well on Google – on Bounce Rate and any other measure.

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