Bounce rate, simply put, is the percentage of people who come to your site, then immediately leave without viewing any of the inside content pages. Think of it like window shopping. Say you browse by a shop and don't really care to enter based on what you saw at first glance through the window. The window in this case is your home page. A bad first impression, or irrelevant content, can chase away a visitor and stop them from freely investigating the full content of your site.
Google Analytics defines bounce rate as:
"The percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality - a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren't relevant to your visitors."
Therefore, a high bounce rate is bad but a low bounce rate is a positive sign that your visitors are engaging and exploring your website. So what constitutes a good rate? This is a very hard question to answer, but if you do some research, most say it needs to be under 50%. It also will depend on the type of site that you have. For example, if you're a blogger, many times a visitor will come to your blog to read the latest updates then leave. Thus more often a blog will have a higher bounce rate than a "normal" site as there is no need for them to go any deeper.
How do you know what your bounce rate is? One free program that makes it easy is "Google Analytics". Register, list your sites and paste some HTML code on your pages and you're ready
to go. You'll clearly see your bounce rate go up and down as you view the in-depth reports.
So, how can you improve your bounce rate? First, you'll need to track the rate over time, and also look at the amount of time your visitors are sticking around. Also, take note of the traffic sources. Where is the majority of the traffic coming from? Search engines, direct links, social networking sites like Stumble Upon or Twitter, etc. The source of the traffic and the quality of that traffic will contribute to the overall bounce rate being higher or lower for the week. Some traffic, depending on the source will naturally convert better than others.
Once you know your statistical rate, you'll need to start making small changes, then run tests to see if it improves over time. It all starts with trying to improve the usability of your site's landing page. Translation: what people see when they come to your home page.
You can make changes to the design, look and feel of your site. Make sure there are other links readily available to peak the visitor's interest so they'll want to dive further into your content. Of course, you always want to make sure your site's navigation is user friendly, and that the site itself is easy to use and well organized. Another trick is to play around with different headlines, even change your website's copy. Another big problem is a heavy load time. Make sure your site loads quickly so the visitor isn't reaching for their back button before it even finishes loading.
Change one thing at a time, and keep your eye on the bounce rate to see if it improves. If you're not doing so already, have Google Analytics email your site reports weekly in PDF format. This will make your homework a little easier.
As you can see, bounce rate is an important statistical measure and says a lot about the "stickiness/effectiveness" of your website. There are also those who believe it plays a role in search engine algorithms and how they rank your site. If this is true or not, I don't know - but if it is true it gives you some extra motivation in working on improving it. For more on this controversial subject see:
By studying your site's bounce rate, you really can learn a lot as to what's working and what's not with your website. It really is an important number to know and one you'll want to continually strive to improve upon.
Like costly heated air leaking out a drafty window, you'll want to do what you can to plug those leaks and try to keep visitors at your site a little longer. It's only when they are fully engaged that they'll make a purchase, subscribe to your ezine or do whatever action you consider a conversion. In the end, isn't that what it's all about? If your site's been losing visitors as fast as they enter, it's time to follow the "bounce rate" and make some much needed changes.