Are Bounce Rates Important?

Recently accountantSEO have seen several conversations in various marketing forums and emails about bounce rates and what is a good or poor bounce rate so we thought we would put together a few thoughts about it as it relates to accountant’s websites.

What is bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that visit your site and leave the site without visiting any other page so, if you have 100 visitors with 20 of them landing on a page (any page) and then leaving the site you would have a 20% bounce rate.  The visitor could be leaving your site in any one of several ways :-

  1. They click the “back” button and go back to the page they have come from (usually a page of search results).
  2. They close the browser window or tab
  3. They type a new URL (web address) into the browser address bar
  4. They do nothing and remain on the page (most bounce rate calculations kick in if the visitor doesn’t change their page in 30 minutes or so, although some software will reduce the time to as little as 15 minutes).

What is a good bounce rate?

There are various figures bandied about the web for the bounce rate that you should be “aiming at” – these vary from as little as 2% to as much as 50%.   The problem with all of the figures you will see is that they are “guesstimates” and as we will show you below there is no one figure that you can say above that is bad and below that is good.

When thinking about bounce rates you need to consider several elements.

First, how statistically valid are the figures?  You may have a page that has had 4 visitors in a set time period and each of these have looked at a second page – this means that your bounce rate for those visitors is zero.  The question here though is how valid is it to judge something on 4 visitors – I am sure that you have all seen adverts on the tv that say things like 92% of 37 people asked say that their hair feels better , would you really trust something that only 34 people (37 * 0.92) say works?  Of course this is less of a problem when you have 1,000s of visitors to a page as you can be more sure that the figure is statistically correct, however there are still problems with this as you will see.

Secondly, what were people looking for when they visited your page?  If, for example, you are looking at the bounce rate for your contact page we would suggest that the majority of people would be looking for your contact details (address, phone, fax or email), as long as the contact page lists this information why should people then click on other pages of your site?  By giving them the information that they need the bounce rate will be relatively high – so you need to think about how what people were looking for affects the statistics.

Thirdly, and this is similar to the point we have just covered, what does your page look like?  If someone comes to your site looking for VAT advice do you talk about VAT on the page they have landed on?  Does the page have your contact details on (phone number / email address)?  If so then it’s more than possible that the visitor will contact you via one of these methods and leave the site  – being a “bounce” in the process.  It is considered good internet marketing for websites such as those for Accountants, to list the contact details on every page (often clearly displayed in the header or footer of the page) as this helps people contact you easily.

Should I worry about bounce rate then?

Our view is that as long as you understand the factors that can affect the bounce rate and are comparing like for like then it’s a useful indication of changes to your visitor profile, but it’s not a figure that you can just do a quick check on as there are too many factors involved.  So on the balance of things, unless you have the time to spare on really digging into the details we wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Do you look at your bounce rates?  Do you understand what they are telling you?  We would be delighted to hear from you with your views, just fill in the comment box below.

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