The Most Misunderstood Metric in Website Analytics – Bounce Rate

At Network For Solutions we feel it’s critically important for our clients to track the performance of their Internet marketing.  One of the best ways to do that is by periodically looking at website traffic reports (or website analytics).  These reports provide extremely valuable information such as how many visitors a website is getting, where they are coming from, how they got there, how long they are staying on the site, how many pages of the site they visited, and percentage of new visitors vs. returning visitors.  These are some of the best metrics to look at when measuring performance and there will be future posts on each one, but right now we want to focus on one metric that we feel is the most misunderstood and often times most misleading one – the bounce rate.

The official definition of bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who view only one page of a website.  So for example, if your website gets 100 visitors in a month, and 50 of those visitors only viewed 1 page on the site, then the bounce rate of the website would be 50% for that month.

First off, whoever came up with the name bounce rate made a big mistake in our opinion.  It’s a very misleading name when considering what bounce rate actually stands for.  If you just heard the name without knowing what it means the logical first impression would be that a website bounce is when a visitor lands on a website and quickly leaves.  In reality, bounce rate has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of time a visitor stays on a website.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard someone who works in the Internet marketing industry misrepresent the meaning of bounce rate.  The most frightening instance was a couple of years ago when I witnessed a high-level executive of a very large media corporation tell a room full of small business owners that a website’s bounce rate is the “percentage of website visitors that bounce from the site within 7 seconds of arriving” (yikes!).  Now this person was not intentionally trying to mislead the business owners in the room, but it’s a scary reminder that some of the people who are considered experts in the Internet marketing industry are not as fully educated as they should be.  This results in misled business owners who deserve to know the true meanings of these metrics.

The real problem with this common myth about bounce rate is that business owners often get freaked out when they see the bounce rate of their website.  They see a bounce rate of 50% and immediately think that half of their website visitors are instantly leaving their site and chalk those up as useless traffic.

Here’s the reality:  bounce rate is actually a relatively insignificant metric for most small business websites.  A well-optimized small business website should be designed to quickly convert visitors into leads (mainly in the form of phone calls).  For most small business websites the optimal process should go something like this:

Step 1:  A consumer searches for a local service or product they need (usually on Google) and chooses a business that is highly visible in the search results.

Step 2:  The consumer arrives on the business website, is comforted by the professional design, sees that this business can serve their needs, and contacts the business by calling the phone number on the same page of the website that they arrived on.

So yes, this scenario would be considered a bounce because the website visitor only visited one page of the site.  Does a high bounce rate seem like such a bad thing now?  I know plenty of small business owners who would take website bounces all day long.

Of course not every situation is exactly the same and in some cases an extremely high bounce rate can be a red flag, but the point is that Small Business America need not fear the bounce rate!  In most cases it’s an insignificant statistic and there’s plenty of much more important metrics within your website analytics that will help you measure performance.  Have questions or feedback? (866) 234-7170 or

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