When we launched our new Landing Page, we were surprised to see our Bounce Rate exceeding 80%. So we started digging and discovered that the problem wasn't our landing page, but how Google Analytics collects the data! This post explains how Google Analytics calculates your Bounce Rate, why Bounce Rate matters for SEO, and what you can do to fix it.

So, Why Do You Want An Accurate Bounce Rate?

Your Bounce Rate is one of the factors that can affect your SEO page ranking. Low quality web pages tend to have higher Bounce Rates because Google sees visitor lack of engagement as a sign that the website content isn't relavent. So, if you have a very high Bounce Rate, your site may be ranked lower than similar competitors.

How Does Google Calculate Your Website Bounce Rate?

Google Analytics calculates the Bounce Rate as the percentage of sessions/(visits) where only one interaction occurs. They do this by measuring the time of first arrival of a visitor, and if there isn't a second interaction within 30 minutes – it counts as "a Bounce".

What does Bounce Rate mean?

For example, say someone arrives on your site (perhaps from a marketing campaign), Google by default will record a "Page View". This is the initial action. Now, if your visitor doesn't interact with your site a second time within 30 minutes of that first Page View, Google will count this as "a Bounce".

Well, suppose that a visitor actually found your content interesting. Suppose they scrolled down the page and read your content for 15 minutes. Suppose they clicked on your pricing tab, or watched your video? Did they REALLY bounce? No, of course not – they engaged. But if Google doesn't record a second interaction within 30 minutes of the visitor arriving they count it as "a Bounce". So, how can you decrease your Bounce Rate?

The Secret: In-Page Events

Well, here's the secret. Google actually counts two types of interactions in the Bounce Rate: Page Views and Events.

Google tracks Page Views by default every time a visitor views a page. (These are often referred to as "page hits".) So, the first approach is simply to get people to click on other pages in your website. However if you have one long landing page, this won't work. Besides, it doesn't tell you what people are actually doing within your page. For that, you need something else, something much better, something called "events".

Events Overview From Google Analytics

Events track how a visitor engages within your page. Events can track when a visitor watches a video, signs up for newsletter, downloads a PDF document, clicks to a section further down the page, etc. Each event requires some additional custom code in your website, but events are way more valuable as they show how the user is interacting within your page.

This is especially problematic for sites that don't load new pages frequently, like long form Landing Pages which are increasingly popular these days.

It's also problematic for modern one-page apps (Backbone etc) and sites that rely heavily on Ajax or Flash.

So, here's the secret recipe. If you add events to your pages, then when users interact on the same page, Google will get notified, and that visit won't be treated as "a Bounce".

So How Can You Discover Your True Bounce Rate?

On your website, add events to each interesting action where a visitor could interact on the page, like on menus, links, and buttons. For example, on our Landing Page, we added events as follows: "Watch Video", "View Pricing (menu)", "View Features (menu)", "Sign up (button)", etc.

We also added more events for actions lower in the page, after a visitor had clicked a link, or scrolled down. These events weren't so essential for Bounce Rate, but they helped us have a better understanding of visitor interaction, and were helpful for situations where a visitor landed and scrolled down the page before they clicked on anything.

As a result, we now get a true picture of our visitor interaction, plus, our Bounce Rate has dropped dramatically as you can see in the Google Analytics report below.

Bounce Rate Recovered after Adding Events in google Analytics

Our Bounce Rate was initially over 80%. But once we started adding events to our landing page during Jan/Feb this year, our "true" Bounce Rate started dropping. Occasionaly we added a new feature and our bounce rate went back up, until we tracked it. This explains the bumps.

Also, in April we experimented by sending an event every time a page loaded. That was pretty extreme, but shows the power of sending events. We removed the page load events again in June and our Bounce Rate has now stabilized around 35%. (We've come a long way since that 80% Bounce Rate in January!)

While you can send visitor interaction events for everything interesting on your landing pages to get an accurate Bounce Rate, we aren't suggesting you should start actually "looking" at every event in Google Analytics. That's way too much information.

External links don't count as interaction. Google will treat them as "a Bounce".

Depending on your Google Analytics configuration, links to subdomains will also be treated as "a Bounce". For example, links from www.popcornmetrics.com to blog.popcornmetrics.com. (So we also added an event to our Blog menu link.)

How To Add In-Page Events To You Website

Ok, so, there you have it. To discover what your visitors do inside your page and reduce your Bounce Rate, you need to add events to track the actions that really matter to you. Be it a signup for your newsletter, checking out your vídeo or other in-page activities. So, how do you track in-page events?

  1. Write custom event code: You can manually add custom code to your web pages to send events to Google Analytics whenever a user takes a valuable action. This can be very time consuming, and makes you dependent on engineers. See the Custom Events guide for Developers.

  2. Use a tool to do the hard work: You can use a tool like Google Tag Manager or Popcorn Metrics to let you add events to your website without you needing to write custom code or depend on engineers.

Remember, you don't have to track "everything". Its up to you to decide what's important to you. If your user clicks on the "pricing" tab, maybe it's an interested user (therefore, not "a Bounce") maybe not. That's for you to decide. For us? We'd track it.

Setting Up Events Using Popcorn Metrics

Okay, so head over to Popcorn Metrics, sign-up for an account and install their snippet on your website. Then add some tracking to Google Analytics, as follows:

Step 1. Open The Tracker Tool And Load Your Website

Enter the URL of your website and click Load Page.

Step 2. Right Click To Add An Event

Right click on the Watch the Video Button, enter a name and click

Setting up Events in Popcorn Metrics

Save.

Step 3. Click Publish

If you haven't already selected your destination, and you will be prompted to choose where to send events. Here, I'm choosing to send to Google Analytics, but you can send your events to a growing list of analytics tools.

Step 4. Click Publish again and you're finished!

It takes around 10 minutes to publish the event tracking across the internet. I got an email alert as soon as it was ready – after just 10 mins. You'll see that everything that is tracked is marked with a blue border in the tool.

Setting Up Events Using Google Tag Manager

Okay, so head over to Google Tag Manager, sign-up for an account and install their snippet on your website. Then add some tracking to Google Analytics, as follows:

Step 1. Add a Click Listener

  1. Add a new Tag, name it Click Listener and give it a Tag Type of Click Listener.
  2. Then add a Firing Rule to fire on all pages. Select conditions shown:

Using Google Tag Manager

{{url}} matches Regex *

Regex just means "regular expression" and "*" just means any page).

Step 2. Track the Actual Element to Google Analytics

Add a new Tag, name it Google Analytics Event.

Set the Tag Type to "Universal Analytics" or "Classic Google Analytics", depending on what you use on your website.

Enter your Google Analytics Tracking ID.

Adding Rules in Google Analytics

Set Track Type to "Event".

Optionally you can set the parameters for the event. (I put GTM so I'd know the event was fired by Google Tag Manager, and added a path {{url path}} to the Label so I'd know what page the event occurred on.)

Add the Firing Rules (we'll need two).

Rule 1. Add gtm.click rule:

{{event}} contains gtm.click![Image 4 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][12]![Image 5 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][13]![Image 6 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][14]![Image 7 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][15]![Image 8 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][16]![Image 9 - Why Bounce Rate is Wrong][17]

Rule 2. Add Element Identification:

{{element id}} equals id-video (or the id of the element you want to track)

Step 3. Publish

When you're done, click Publish.

Let me tell you something. I spent over an hour getting this wrong before I finally got it working. Maybe I'm a slow learner. Honestly the only reasons I continued was (a) to write this blog post and (b) to understand Google Tag Manager better, given that its an alternate to our own product,

I want to understand better the kind of problems people may have.

Overall I have to say Google Tag Manager "looks" awesome. It's got a ton of rules and settings that makes me think I should get to grips with it. It's clearly very powerful in what it can do, but for ease of use and setting up tracking quickly I found it pretty tricky. Especially the fact that to track just this one button, I had to create 2 tags and 3 firing rules. That gives a lot of scope to get stuff wrong.

But, to track something simple, really, for me it wasn't intuitive or easy. And I'm always looking for fast easy ways to do stuff. I tried to use the tool without any tutorials (this being my test for usability). If I have to read a bunch of manuals, maybe its not what I'm looking for. In the end I had to follow a tutorial before I could make it work.

What Next With Bounce Rate?

So, now that you know how to add events and track what people actually do on your website, its time to get to work! After all, your site is only useful if it serves a purpose. And if you want to get started tracking events on your own website check out our visual tracker tool.