Real Bounce Rate vs. Analytics Bounce Rate

Taswir Haider from the Top Blogger recently wrote an article about why Google Analytics sometimes shows a visit duration of 0 seconds on your blog. Google analytics is a top notch service but like everything, it has its own faults and it’s far from being perfect.

Still, if you’re not using it, I really recommend you to install Google Analytics in your WordPress blog. Let it gather some information for a few weeks and you can learn a lot from your readers without asking them directly.

This time, we’re going to talk about the Bounce Rate, and why you should fix it (yes, fix it manually) to your needs and interests instead of just believing what Google shows in the GA Dashboard.

I’ll start with an example of WHY, and then I’ll tell you how to do it. So we have 2 different situations here:

Case 1: Real Bounced Visitor

Imagine yourself surfing trough Google Pages trying to find an answer to a problem you’re having with your computer at that moment. You fire up Google and type a keyword. Google returns a thousand of results and the first 10 appear on your screen.

It’s normally easy to know when an article isn’t going to help you just by looking at the meta data or title, but you still open some of them.back button bounce rate

It turns out that the first result is crap and you close it after 3 seconds of scrolling down. That happened because the article didn’t solve the problem you were having, and it wasn’t even remotely related to it. Or perhaps it was a social bookmark or coupon page which still, doesn’t help you.

The point is, it didn’t help you at all and you didn’t waste more than 5 seconds on it. If you were the Webmaster of that website, would you consider it a Bounced Visitor?

I’d say yes. And Google Analytics thinks the same.

However, let’s move to the second situation.

Case 2: Bounced Visitor???

Now imagine you’re still looking for a page that actually solves the problem you’re having with your computer.

You open the second result, and it talks something about it, but it’s not solving it, so you skip it after 5 seconds. Bounced Visit.

You open the third result and this one actually has some nice information on it but still it doesn’t match your profile so you skip it and hit the back button after 5-10 seconds. Bounced Visit.

Finally, you open the 4th result and you actually find the information needed. It convers EVERYTHING you wanted to know. If we’re talking about a simple computer problem, perhaps this article shows:

  • Why it happens
  • The traditional problems
  • Specific problems
  • How to fix it if X
  • How to fix it if Y
  • And additional information on how to avoid it

I mean, the article is perfect, and you read it all.

Usually, unless it’s a simple post you’ll need at least a pair of minutes to read it all. Perhaps a little bit more. Sometimes I can take up to 5-10 minutes just to read a great post.

Well, it turns out that this one is the articleI you were looking for, and after 3 minutes it helps you solve the problem and you close the tab or the whole browser and get back to work on another program.

Is that a bounced visitor for you?

Well, for Google Analytics, it’s still a bounced visitor.

What? Why?

Because the visitor didn’t click or interacted on any other page. He just landed to your page, read the information he needed and then leaved.

But you still helped the reader, right? Yes, but Google counts it as a bounced visitor because he didn’t engage more.

Of course it’s cool if the visitor clicks a link, reads a related post, writes a comment or even subscribed to your page.  However, sometimes you just need some information and no more. A good example of this could be Wikipedia.

I wonder how many people lands on Wikipedia as a first result for a definition of something, reads the whole thing and then leaves.

The thing is that I want to know how many visitors are actually reading my blog, even if they don’t subscribe or click to another page on my blog. And it’s a very simple process.

Install Google Analytics Real Bounce Rate code

So you know when you install Google Analytics you just need to copy and paste a code in every page of your blog so it can start tracking your statistics?

Well, you only need to modify a few things and it will help you know the real Bounce Rate of your traffic.

Here’s the code I use:

<script type=”text/javascript”>

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-X']);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
setTimeout(“_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '60_seconds', 'read'])”,60000);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

</script>

Install that code on every page of your blog and you’ll be able to measure the real bounce rate according to your needs.

In my blog, I use the Genesis framework and I like to put it right on the Genesis options:

Real Bounce Rate

Install that code on the Genesis Panel

Then, you’ll need to tweak a pair of things marked on bold.

  • The first one is your Google Analytics account. Replace it with the account you’ve setup for your blog.
  • The second one allows you to manually select how you want to measure a bounced Rate: setTimeout(“_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '60_seconds', 'read'])”,60000);

What you need to modify here is the number at the end of the code, which allows you to select the desired time (in mili seconds) before and after a bounce rate.

So in this example, I’m using a 60,000 ms value which means any visitor that stays more than 60 seconds on my page won’t count as a bounced visit anymore.

If the visitor lands on my blog and stays for 10, 20, 30 or even 59 seconds and then hits the back button it will count as a bounced visitor, but after that, it won’t be a bounced number anymore.

I decided to use that number because of course nobody can read my posts in 10 seconds, but I know some people will just scroll down and look for a solution on my blog, and that might take them 30 seconds or perhaps a little bit more.

60 seconds should be enough to at least, read a pair of things or a couple of paragraphs and know the results (my posts are usually 1,000-2,000 words long).

And the bounce Rate went from 60-70% to less than 10%, which means a lot of people (most of it coming from Search Engines) are reading my posts for at least 60 seconds but not all of them engage or subscribe at that moment.

actual Bounce Rate ResultsThat’s good to know, because I was really worried that 70% of the people just who landed into my blog would hit the back button in less than 5 seconds. Now I know that only 5% of them actually do that, and the other 95% at least stay for 60 seconds, if not more.

Play with your Bounce Rate

You can always go back (no pun intended) to your code and tweak it until you find the results you one.

For example, if you have an e-store and you know most people don’t need more than 2 minutes to buy something, then move it to 60-120 seconds. If you have a simple Q & A blog (Yahoo answers could be an example), you know that most people don’t need more than 20 seconds to read everything and leave.

The point here is that there’s no sweet spot. You need to tweak it according to your niche and the kind of content on your website.

You can also set this depending on the average time your visitors spend reading your blog. Do you get the idea?

Well, then leave a comment below if this is something new for you and the results you’ve received after tweaking your code. The changes can be seen immediately. So if you change the code today, you should have some results the day after tomorrow.

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Comments

  1. says

    We always try to decrease bounce rate of our website so that we can improve online presence or visitor. and You have good try to measure real bounce rate. I should be use for my website. Thank S. Silva

  2. Sourav says

    This is an excellent information. But unfortunately I am having some problem which is of the opposite nature.
    For any visit to my site, Analytics is counting 2 pageviews for that visit (it’s happening for all hits to my site, even if the visitor is there just for a few seconds).

    I have no idea why this is happening, and as a result, my bounce rate is very low. Any help about why this is happening?

    • says

      Hello Sourav. Is working OK with me.
      Are you sure you didn´t left the code anywhere else? If not, let me check it and I´ll come back to you next week as you’re the second to show this problem.

  3. says

    Excellent job in finding this! It’s a really interesting idea in the case of real bounces and those analytics finds and the fix you implement seems to be helping. I’m interested to know whether the bounce rates on my site are because of this issue, and I may have to implement the fix.

  4. says

    Well this is amazing, let me try this and I will update my comment once I get the result ( that’s tomorrow ). Thanks for this great guide.

      • says

        I think your code didn’t wordked for me. I lost the whole day traffic analysis and the second day I removed the code and everything started working.

        Problem : setTimeout(“_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '60_seconds', 'read'])”,60000);

        I did exactly you have shown in the image.. obviously I replaced UA-XXXXXXX-X with mine.

        After adding the code Google analytic was not showing even a single visitor, even when I was their.

  5. says

    Your this article clear my lots of doubts and problems regarding bounce rate…I have just 1 more doubt friend if u can help. how can i calculate bounce rate of particular web page (I know it shows me anlytics) but i want to calculate it using formulas ,It would be great if you can help

  6. says

    I never knew about this mechanism . Thanks for sharing this in such great detail. Knowing the real bounce rate would be a great tool.

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