Recently, I’ve received more and more questions regarding two important key metrics in the search engine marketing world, bounce rate and exit rate. There seems to be some confusion about the difference between the two, what they actually measure, and how they are valuable tools in a digital marketing campaign. I thought I would use the second installment of my “Back to the Basics” blog to help clarify these mysterious performance indicators.
Bounce rate by definition is the percentage of visitors who land on the website and view only one page (without visiting any other pages) before leaving. For example: Kurt sees a pay-per-click ad which was advertising a wetsuit sale at a local surf shop. He clicks on the ad which takes him to the “sale” landing page. After he reads the page he then leaves the website to go back to Google and start another search. Typical ways a bounce is recorded is by:
• Clicking on an internal link to a page outside of the website • Closing the browser window or tab • Simply typing in a new URL • Clicking the “back” button and leaving the site • Session-timeout*
*A session-timeout is when a visitor views a specific page, doesn’t look at another page, and leaves the browser idle for a certain amount of time. A commonly used session-timeout threshold is 30 minutes; so once this time limit has been reached a bounce is recorded.
Exit rate by definition is the percentage of visitors who leave the website from a specific page based on the number of visits to that page. The difference between bounce rate and exit rate is that the visitor who exited from this specific landing page may have viewed many other pages on the website before landing on this specific page and then exiting from here. For example: Kurt sees a pay-per-click ad for a local surf shop that just opened. He clicks on the ad which brings him to the home page of the website. He views a few different pages before going to the “sale” page. After he reads the “sale” page he then closes his browser window, hops in his car and speeds to the surf shop.
How to use these metrics: Both of these performance indicators can create actionable insight, but are used very differently. Bounce rate is important for determining how your landing page might be performing. If you have a ppc ad running and you find that you have a 75% bounce rate for the specific product page which your ad brings the user to, then there is a problem with the landing page. Why would so many users leave a page that was specifically targeted for them? What about the page is preventing them from moving onto other correlated pages within the site? Optimizing the page, multivariate testing, and statistical analysis may help you determine what the root cause and solution may be.
Exit rate is important for determining how a particular page is performing in the sales process. If, as an advertiser, you have mapped out a specific sales (page) funnel, and visitors seem to be exiting from one specific page in that funnel, then you know that that page is problematic and needs to be optimized. As you can see, both metrics can be powerful tools in identifying specific problems in the user interaction process and help you determine what changes are needed to increase sales and ensure a better return on your ad spend.
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