AnalyzeWebsite Traffic

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.

Bounce rate:

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.

Drop-off:

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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29 Comments

  1. May 4, 2017 at 8:06 am

    This was very helpful in showing to a client the main differences.

  2. Tibo
    October 25, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks.

  3. […] This will determine the type of shareability of your content. What was the drop-off rate (or visitors flow)? The more you narrow down your analytics (even to individual user patterns), the better you become […]

  4. July 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    The reason is probably event-triggers on that page. Once GA tracks an event on a page it does not count that visit as a bounce any more. Read the very first paragraph again. This is because an event, just like a page visit, is classified as an ‘interaction request’. Google has more about what kind of events could be tracked here https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033068?hl=en

  5. Alex
    June 28, 2016 at 9:20 am

    My bounce rate on a page from American visitors is around 46% (landing page report) whereas in the Audience: User flow, from the United States the drop-off rate after the starting page (first page of visit) is much higher (more like 80%). These are both for United States visitors and on the same page. Why might this be the case?

  6. Zack
    May 25, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks for explaining this in more detail.

  7. Jason
    April 25, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Informative article. Our website currently has a bounce rate of 57% however that is mostly due to the website being worked on for improvements.

  8. April 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

    The overall bounce rate (in ‘overview’) always refers to your whole website. The bounce rate on a page refers to a single page visit on that page, meaning the landing page is also the exit page. The exit rate refers to how often users leave your site from that page, regardless if that page was the landing page or one of many pages viewed.

  9. Guy
    April 5, 2016 at 5:19 am

    What about exit/exit rate? What’s the difference between bounce and exit?

  10. January 23, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Atul, you’re comparing site bounce rate data to data from a single page. It could mean that when visitors get to other pages besides your homepage they stay to view at least another page (unless you have events on other pages which would skew bounce rates). If visitors complete goals (that you set up in GA) on the other pages then you might look into optimizing your homepage for visitors better so they will stay. This could be design, speed etc.

  11. January 20, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    The information on distinction between Bounce Rate and Drop-off is very useful. But in our case, we have a significant diversion between the bounce rate and the drop-offs. Our site wide average bounce rate is 18.2% which is unbelievable. But looking at the behaviour flow, drop-off from the home page is almost 90%, which does not make any sense. Any ideas about this difference?

  12. December 7, 2015 at 11:03 am

    You’re welcome Rajan.

  13. December 3, 2015 at 12:28 am

    The information you wrote it was very beneficial for me because I was confused about bounce rate & drop off. It helps me to understand the way how bounce rate & drop off is important for us.

  14. Samay
    September 26, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Hello Marita,
    Thanks for your info, I really like this post. My website bounce rate 18.90 is that good?

  15. June 10, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Naveed, page bounce rate refers to a landing page that is also an exit page. The exit rate for a page refers to how often your visitors left your site through that page.

  16. June 3, 2015 at 2:25 am

    Ok if we take the difference between Drop Offs and Bounce Rate as stated above, then how could we differentiate between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?

  17. […] RankRaiser’s Marita Meegan encourages companies investigating bounce and drop off to check for visit patterns on individual pages; a page that doesn’t render properly on mobile devices may be the […]

  18. May 10, 2015 at 9:11 am

    You’re welcome Tatakos.

  19. Tatakos
    May 5, 2015 at 2:13 am

    Thank you. You really helped me!

  20. April 20, 2015 at 1:12 am

    You’re welcome Peters.

  21. peters
    April 13, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Thanks, very informative

  22. December 16, 2014 at 8:12 am

    You’re welcome Krisada!

  23. December 15, 2014 at 5:36 am

    We have gained a large ratio of international visitors. I hadn’t considered comparing drop offs with bounce rates. Thanks for the insight.

  24. October 15, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Google’s reporting might be off because of timing or other factors. Most reports on Google are not real-time. I would start by narrowing down the dates of all bounces/drop offs to see if that brings any insight.

  25. Robin Allain
    October 15, 2014 at 7:54 am

    my bounce rate and dropoff rate on first page are really different +/- 15%…
    what could it be? I have no events

  26. April 20, 2014 at 11:03 am

    You’re welcome John.

  27. John
    April 16, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Thanks for the very informative post. It is very common to confuse oneself between the two terms, so it is a very helpful post. Thanks again

  28. March 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

    You’re welcome Michael.

  29. March 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Very useful information. Thank you!

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