The Role of Adjusted Bounce Rate in Google Analytics in Understanding Content Engagement

Bounce rate is a key engagement level statistic that many website owners rightly pay a lot of attention to. If you are unfamiliar with the concept then a bounce occurs if someone lands on your website and then leaves without any further interaction (e.g. clicking through to another page). The bounce rate is simply the percentage of visitors that leave.

In practice a bounce can be a little more complex depending upon how you've configured Google Analytics. If you have a standard setup then a bounce occurs when someone leaves at a landing page without viewing any additional content.

With more advanced tracking however - for example if you've implemented virtual page views or event tracking - things get a little more complex. If a virtual page view is generated e.g. by someone downloading a file from a landing page then that additional interaction will adjust the bounce rate.

If you use event tracking you can choose whether the event being triggered should influence the bounce rate or not via a "non interaction" setting. For example you may decide that an event triggered when someone plays a video should influence the bounce rate but if someone clicks onto an outbound link the bounce rate should remain the same.

Bounce rate and engagement

Bear in mind that a bounce is not always a bad thing. If you are directing people to a page that answers all of the questions a web visitor is likely to have about a particular topic or service then there may be no need for them to click through to elsewhere.

For example blogs may often contain a range of quite discrete articles written on specific topics. With blog content often found via search results a post may well answer the initial questions the visitor had. As such many sites often witness that blog content has a much higher bounce rate than the rest of their site.

The challenge for informational sites

For largely informational sites where content on a single page often provides sufficient information to answer a visitors query this poses a challenge. How do you measure engagement if a significant proportion of people reaching the site may well get what they need from a landing page and thus be expected to bounce?

Adjusting the bounce rate

For such sites the answer can often be to adjust the bounce rate. Via tracking changes, or easier still via Google Tag Manager, it's possible to create timer events that fire after a set time duration (set in milliseconds). For example you could create a 30 second (i.e. 30,000 milliseconds) trigger to fire off an event on blog content with the "non-interaction" value set to false so that the event fired is captured as an additional interaction that influences the bounce rate. In choosing an appropriate time period you'll need to take into account the typical length of the content provided - much shorter articles may well be less likely to reach a 30 second threshold than longer ones.

Working with an adjusted bounce rate

Having adjusted the bounce rate you'll get a better feel for how engaged visitors are with your content. A big fall off in the bounce rate for your blog for example gives you the reassurance that people are actually reading your articles rather than reaching your site and then rapidly leaving. Similarly landing pages that retain a higher than average bounce rate will need to be understood and potentially revised.

Depending upon the goals of your site whilst an adjusted bounce rate can give you some reassurance that people are engaging with your content if you are looking to generate leads or sales if visitors are not moving beyond a landing page you may still have a problem. In such cases a lower bounce rate could potentially provide false comfort.

You can review page depth (and apply segments) to the Audience / Behaviour / Engagement / Page Depth reports but bounce rate is a key statistic that appears in very wide range of reports.

As such it can be a good idea to create an additional view that mirrors your main view but which has an exclusion filter to remove the event (by event category) that adjusts your bounce rate. This will mean you have access to reports showing both your unadjusted and adjusted bounce rate.

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