Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate: Which Should I Improve?
February 14, 2019
by Eyal Katz
You pivot, filter, compare, repeat, and you’re still not sure if your web pages are working or not. There’s no point in beating your keyboard to a buttony pulp—many marketers struggle to measure engagement with content or product pages.
Though there are many reasons why this is difficult, one of the most common is that you’re using the wrong measurement. It’s a conflict as old as the Internet herself: how do you measure (dis)engagement, using bounce rate or exit rate?
The answer is… it depends.
What is Bounce Rate and How is it Measured?
It’s very easy to get bounce rate and exit rate confused. The difference between them may be tricky to grasp, but it’s an important one.
A “bounce” refers to website visitor exiting their initial page visit without interacting with any of its elements or visiting any other pages on that website. The bounce rate is calculated by taking the total number of bounces divided by the total number of page views, giving you a percentage of single-page sessions.
For example, say you create a landing page for a marketing campaign and want to know the bounce rate for that page over a one-week period. If you get 1,000 visits, and 800 of those only visited the landing page and didn’t click on any links, fill out any forms, or otherwise engage with the site, then your bounce rate is 80%. Clearly–in this case–you need a better landing page.
What is Exit Rate and How is it Measured?
A web page’s exit rate is the percentage of multi-page browsing sessions that ended with that particular page. In other words, how many visitors stopped engaging with your site and departed after they reached that page. Divide the total number of exits by the total number of page views, and you’ve got the exit rate for a page.
So the exit rate is for pages that were the last visit in a user’s session, and the bounce rate is for pages that were the only visit in a user’s session.
Let’s look at a day in the life of a hypothetical website and calculate the bounce and exit rates for its pages.
- Visitor A lands on the “Home Page” from a search engine, clicks on the “About Us” page, and leaves.
- Visitor B lands on a “Product Info” page from an affiliate link and leaves immediately.
- Visitor C lands on the “Home Page” from a search engine, clicks on a “Product Info” page, clicks on the “About Us” page, and leaves.
- Visitor D lands on a “Product Info” page from a search engine, and leaves immediately.
- Visitor E lands on the “Home Page” from a search engine, clicks on a “Product Info” page, places an order, is redirected to the “Order Confirmation” page, and leaves.
What would the Google Analytics report look like for each page?
- Home Page: 3 entrances, 3 page views, 0% bounce rate, 0% exit rate.
- About Us Page: 0 entrances, 2 page views, 0% bounce rate, 100% exit rate.
- Product Info Page: 2 entrances, 4 page views, 50% bounce rate, 0% exit rate.
- Order Confirmation Page: 0 entrances, 1 page view, 0% bounce rate, 100% exit rate.
This example highlights the importance of looking beyond the raw numbers when it comes to interpreting what these metrics mean. The 100% exit rate for the Order Confirmation Page shouldn’t necessarily concern us, but the same percentage on the About Us Page might make us wonder if there’s something about that page that’s turning visitors off.
When Should You Measure Bounce Rate?
Bounce rate is a key metric for gauging visitor interest in your landing pages or blog pages. These are the pages your users will typically arrive at first with a specific intent. If they’re not succeeding at capturing users’ interest and getting them to interact with the content, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
When it comes to organic or SEM traffic, bounce rates should be given special attention. The reason is that search traffic usually lands with a purpose in mind. Therefore, it can exit from the same page but the journey would be considered a success. However, if organic traffic bounces without engaging your content then this is an issue. So, when it comes to search traffic, bounce rate is what you want to measure.
It can also be useful to track changes in the bounce rate when you make modifications to a landing page, in order to see if they’re achieving the desired results.
How to Reduce Bounce Rate
It’s not always easy to tell why some visitors are landing on a certain page, thinking “Nah,” and immediately running off to some other web page. Sometimes, there are deeper site issues at play.
However, there are a few things you can do to make pages a little less likely to drive visitors away:
- Improve readability: Get rid of the weird fonts, intricate background images, and soft colors. Break up big paragraphs and avoid long walls of text.
- Avoid unnecessary pop-ups: If a visitor is checking out your site, it’s rarely a good idea to distract them by shoving something that they didn’t ask to see in front of whatever they were looking at.
- Load faster: Don’t expect visitors to have endless patience while a page downloads hundreds of megabytes of media content just to create a little atmosphere.
- Include a call to action: Sometimes visitors like a page just fine, but don’t really have any direction for where to go after they’re done reading it. All your pages need to do at least some explicit shepherding to get visitors to engage with the site in the way you want them to.
- Better keywords and targeted landing pages: Make sure your SEO endeavors are bringing in visitors who actually want what your site is offering, and that they’re arriving at pages that are relevant to their interests.
When Should You Measure Exit Rate?
A high exit rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing—you’d expect an order confirmation page to have a high exit rate, for example. However, for a page that’s intended to lead a user into deeper engagement with your site, a high exit rate can be a powerful signal that something is wrong.
Exit rate metrics are a good way of determining when your website’s conversion funnel isn’t working as intended. In the example we laid out above, the Home Page seemed to be doing its job just fine: every visitor who landed there went on to click on some other internal link to visit a different part of the site. The Product Info Page had some bounces, but everybody who got there from another part of the site stuck around to investigate further.
If bounce rate is a good KPI to measure the performance of landing pages or blog posts, designed to answer a specific intent, then exit rate is a good measurement to consider for portal type pages like a homepage. These pages are supposed to send a user or customer on an exploratory journey through the website. When a page like that has high exit rates it’s not doing its job.
Analyzing exit rates tells us that the real problem might be the About Us Page. Nobody who reached that page seemed to want to stick around the site any longer.
How to Reduce Exit Rate
Many of the same approaches used to reduce bounce rate can be applied here as well. Just make sure you don’t have any “dead end” pages that have no obvious or logical links back to the conversion funnel.
One controversial, yet effective tactic is to use exit intent pop-ups. These pop-ups read cursor location and mouse speed in an attempt to predict when a visitor is about to leave your page. Then, the pop-up entices them to stay, or at least explain why they’re leaving.
No Two Marketing Analytics Platforms are Alike
Keep in mind that these rates may vary, depending on who is providing your analytics. Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture SiteCatalyst handle visit length, bot identification, time zones, and other data differently, so you may get different results depending on which service you use.
In order to compare exit rate vs bounce rate in a way that yields actionable data, it’s important to know which issues you’re trying to solve or improve, and where your traffic is coming from. Pay close attention to how well your website is funneling visitors down to pages which capture sign-ups, orders, and other engagement objectives.
When your goals are clear, and you understand the differences between bounces and exits, it’s easy to choose the right metrics to drill down on.