Ahh Bounce Rate, the Google Analytics metric that is mostly ignored by Digital Marketers and instead concentrated on (and misunderstood) by Board Directors. The reason it’s ignored a lot is for a pretty good reason, it doesn’t really tell you anything. Most people (and yes Board Directors I’m looking at you here) think that a high Bounce Rate is an extremely bad thing, whereas it’s pretty standard because of how Google Analytics actually treats a Bounce (more on that below). If I had a quid for every time bounce rate was brought up in a meeting, with the assumption it means a website or marketing activity isn’t working, I wouldn’t be working in Digital Marketing any more. Don’t get me wrong, Bounce Rate could be a good thing to use if Analytics is set up properly, which this article goes some way to explaining.
However, one thing Bounce Rate is good at telling you is if Google Analytics or part of Google Analytics isn’t set up properly, and that’s when the Bounce Rate is extremely low.
First of all, let’s talk about what a Bounce is, if you know all of this, skip to the part about diagnosing the problem and fixing it below.
What is a Bounce?
Google describes a bounce as “a single-page session on your site”. Whether you understand that or not, it essentially means the user didn’t do anything or, there was no interaction (remember this word, it’s important) with the page or site at all.
What is Bounce Rate?
Simply put, the Bounce Rate is the percentage calculation of the total number of bounces vs the number of entrances to a page during that time:
Bounce / Entrances x 100 = Bounce Rate %
So if 1000 people enter a page and 750 left without doing anything (or interacting with it) the calculation would be:
750/1000 x 100 = 75%
Let’s get something straight. A Bounce Rate of 75% is normal. To be honest, a bounce rate of 90% is actually pretty standard, and that’s because of the below.
Interaction with the site
I said to remember the word ‘interaction’ for a good reason; it’s the lack of interaction that causes a bounce. But what would you class as an interaction
- Scrolling through the page?
- Clicking on an image?
- Watching a video?
These are all examples where there has been an interaction, yet as standard Google Analytics doesn’t count them. That’s because, without help, it only classes a Page View as an interaction. That’s why you create Events through Analytics to track interactions and to tell Analytics that the user did something. We”ve create an article on How to Create Google Analytics Events Tracking Manually or in Google Tag Manager, so have a read through that if you’re unsure how to setup events
Well, the explanation kind of gives away the answer, it’s because Google is somehow miscalculating the Interactions of your pages, and below are the top reasons why this tends to happen.
Multiple Google Analytics Tags
Essentially, this means that there is more than 1 Google Analytics tag set up on a page using the same Google Analytics UA number. As we mentioned before a bounce is essentially ‘the user did nothing’. Whereas if two Google Analytics PageView tags are firing, two Views have happened on the page, by the same user, at the same time. That means two things happened, therefore, GA cancels out the bounce. If this happens on every single page on your site… well let’s do the calculation:
0 Bounces / 1000 Page Views x 100 = 0%
Double check to see if there are two tags firing in Google Tag Manager, or if one GA tag is placed within the code of the site and one fires through Tag Manager (this is probably the most common case in which it happens).
A simple way of understanding of whether this is the case is by using the Tag Assistant Chrome Plugin. We will create a more in-depth post in the future about all of the benefits of Tag Assistant, but essentially, it helps you verify that you have installed various Google tags correctly on your page.
When looking at the plugin, is your GA tag marked in yellow (which means you have an error in your GA tag)? Click into it to see if another yellow warning appears telling you that the ‘same web property ID is tracked twice’. This means there are 2 Page View tags firing in Google Tag Manager.
Or if one tag is coded into the site and one pushed through GTM, it will look like the below where it shows you two tags:
If you see either views (or maybe even both) it’s a clear sign that you need to remove one of the tags. This will normally solve the bounce rate straight away.
Incorrect Event Tags setup
If you’ve checked that you only have one Google Analytics tag setup, and everything is ok, its time to look in Google Tag Manager to see if one or more of your Event Tags are setup incorrectly. I’ve specifically called out Tag Manager users here, because 99% of the time, it’s the case.
If it’s to do with an Event tag (and it normally is) it probably boils down to a misunderstood aspect of an event, the Non-Interaction Hit.
Let’s go into it a bit more.
The non-interactive option in a GTM event essentially dictates whether a bounce occurred or not. It’s a compulsory field in an Event and is set to ‘false’ by default. Google gives a bit of information about it in this post, but it’s a bit wordy. Basically, it allows you to decide whether tracking the event means an actual interaction takes place. These are the rules:
- A non-interaction set to false means an interaction did take place
- A non-interaction set to true means an interaction didn’t take place
It’s confusing isn’t it, but once you get your head around it, it makes sense.
If an interaction takes place (non-interaction = false), it cancels out the Bounce, because the user did something on the page. If an interaction did not take place (non-interaction = true) the Bounce stays.
Here’s a couple of examples of how you would use it:
Non-Interaction = False
- The user clicks on a product image
- The user fills out a form
- The user clicks on an interactive map
- The user presses play on a video
All of the above means the user did something on the page, which mean the Bounce needs to be cancelled.
Non-Interaction = True
- A video starts playing when the user lands on the page
- The user has seen a product
- The user landed on a page
- A banner has popped up on the page
For the above, the user didn’t actually do anything, they have just seen something. So as a result, they haven’t really interacted with the page, meaning the Bounce stays.
So how do you fix it? Well, you need to dig into Google Analytics a bit more to see if the bounce rate is affected across the site, or is it specific to a certain page type?
When you have the answer, look at the Events in Google Tag Manager which would fire on these pages to see if the Non-Interactive Hit needs changing.
You will notice an instant uplift in your bounce rate
People don’t associate Scroll Tracking with an Event, because that’s how you track it in Google Analytics. However, should you class it as an interaction? If you’ve ever used Scroll Tracking, you might notice that as soon as you land on a page the GTM debug tool tells you that you’ve scrolled down to 10%, but haven’t actually interacted with the page, and yet an Event will fire that will cancel out the Bounce.
Scroll Tracking should have a Non-Interaction Hit of True.
Enhanced Ecommerce is not Setup Correctly
This is basically the same as the above, but a lot of people are not aware that there are various stages on Enhanced Ecommerce that are run through GTM Events rather than a Page View tag. This is mainly because interactions happen after a user has landed on a page (addToCart, removeFromCart etc), but there are 2 aspects in EE that don’t involve the user doing anything:
- Product Impression (the user has seen a product)
- Promotion Impression (the user has seen an internal promotion)
For both of the above, if your EE DataLayer loads after your GA tag, and you have an event set to track this, see if the Non-Interaction hit is set to False. If it is, change it to True.
If you’ve seen a large drop in your bounce rate, it doesn’t normally mean you’ve done something well on the site, it’s normally that something has gone wrong. By checking and fixing the above point, you will normally fix the Bounce Rate immediately.
If you want to talk about this, or any other GA/GTM issues, then Propellernet offers Google Tag Manager Training and Google Analytics Training in Brighton and London. Please contact us for more information