If you don’t know Jared Spool, he’s the highly respected and influential principal at uie.com. A good proportion of our library is represented by publications from his various UI conferences so we hold him in pretty high regard here at iQ Towers.
However, I spotted something he tweeted last week.
Yes, some metrics are truly awful, even dangerous. Time on page could be one good example. But other metrics, like bounce rate are awesome. So, in my book, he’s only half right.
In defence of the humble bounce rate
First, what is bounce rate?
Bounce rate measures the percentage of people who come to your website and then leave without having visited a second page (here’s a better definition – watch the video that follows it too).
So, with that in mind, here’s why I think bounce rate is one of the most useful metrics in analytics.
1. It’s simple to understand.
2. It can be applied to many of your efforts.
3. It’s actionable.
Most of the time, a high bounce rate is a good indicator that you really suck at something (though it’s not always the case).
So, what can bounce rate do for us?
1. Give you insight to the quality of your marketing efforts
- When you segment your traffic sources, bounce rate can tell you which sources of traffic are sending you the right traffic and which ones are sending you accidental tourists.
- It helps us answer the question “Should we spend less here or focus more of our attention there”?
2. Measure the warmness of your welcome
Assuming that the offsite traffic acquisition piece is working, perhaps your landing page sucks at welcoming all that great traffic. Why?
Well, maybe the page purpose could be so unclear so that what drove customers to the page and what they expect to be able to do on it are not aligned closely enough.
This can happen for a number of reasons:
- the content hierarchy may be poor
- your content may not be concise or compelling enough or just badly written
- the call to action, if there is one, may not obvious enough.
3. Helps identify the “fix me now” issues
Ultimately, bounce rate is a metric that can help quickly identify “fix me quick” issues – those things you need to work on right now whether it’s those landing pages which need some love or poorly performing traffic acquisition sources.
When bounce rate is less useful
That said, bounce rate is not without limitations – it’s a quality assurance metric, not a conversion metric – you still need to set up conversion metrics specific to your site to measure “success”.
And sometimes, a high bounce rate is perfectly fine. A page with your contact details or a site like jamieoliver.com, where visitors got exactly what they were looking for in a one page visit, then left. Context is what matters here.
UX & marketing need to get along
When well known UX professionals tweet absolutisms, it serves to shut down conversation and pitches UX against analytics/marketing when the different disciplines should be looking for common ground and a shared understanding and appreciation for what each can bring to the table. The user experience begins well before landing on your website, and as UX peeps we need to acknowledge that.
What I’d love to see here or over on uie.com, is some deeper discourse as to exactly why bounce rate is useful or useless and for that you’ll probably need more than 140 characters.
So, let’s get the ball rolling. What do you think? Bounce rate – useful or useless?