Difference Between Google Bounce Rate and Drop-offs
The latest version of Google Analytics introduced “drop-offs” in their Visitors Flow section. Even though you might think drop-offs should be the same as the bounce rate, this is not the case.
According to Google, the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that see only one page during a visit to your site. A bounce is calculated as a single-page view or single-event trigger in a session or visit. This means that if you’re using event tracking, those events will lower your bounce rate even if your drop-off rate for landing pages remains the same.
This might be the main reason why bounce rate and total drop-off rates for landing pages don’t match up. You should also check to make sure your tracking code is installed correctly on every page of the site.
The following situations qualify as bounces:
– A user clicks on a link deep into your site sent by a friend, reads the information on the page, and closes the browser.
– A user comes to your home page, looks around for a minute or two, and immediately leaves.
– A user comes directly to a reference page on your site from a web search, leaves the page available in the browser while completing other tasks in other browser windows and the session times out.
According to Google, Visitors Flow is a graphical representation of the paths visitors took through your site, from the source, through the various pages, and where along their paths they drop off your site. It uses “nodes” which show the metrics used (countries, pages, group of pages etc.) and the paths or “connections” from one node to the next.
In Visitors Flow you can see how many visitors drop-off after the first, second, third etc. page; as compared to bounce rate which only shows how many visitors viewed only one page.
Visitors Flow is very useful in determining traffic pattern in general and comparing volumes of traffic from different sources. It’s also a great tool for keyword analysis: you might have a keyword that delivers a lot of initial traffic, but with many visitors dropping off after the first page, while another keyword brings in less initial traffic, but visitors stay to view more pages.
You can also use drop-off rates to determine if visitors might have problems with viewing your pages: If you notice a significant drop-off from a page, it might not be rendering properly in that browser or at that resolution. For example, your page may not render correctly in a mobile browser or at a smaller resolution, which might make links or buttons unavailable or not easily seen.
A visitor that bounces has only seen one page, whereas a drop-off can occur after any number of pages. This should then mean that, assuming your tracking code is installed correctly and you’re not tracking your events (i.e. with _trackEvent() or _trackPageview functions), the bounce rate for your site should be about the same as the average total drop-off rate for landing pages in Visitor Flow.
You’ll have to do the math yourself with the drop-off rate because right now Google only displays total number of drop-offs and not the total average percentage. Our numbers matched up closely but not perfectly, so there must be other factors at play as well, or we missed accounting for events that aren’t obvious.
High bounce or drop-off rates
Regardless whether you’re looking at bounce rate or drop-off rate, if either number is very high (40% to 60% is considered average), or if your visitors don’t progress through your site as planned, it’s time to look at your navigation, graphic design and how it renders in different browsers to make sure they’re optimal for helping your visitor finding what he or she needs. You’ll also have to take a look at your content to make sure it still meets the interest of your visitors.
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