Bounce Rate Doesn't Mean What You Think it Means

Tennis ball stuck on the net at a clay court

People for a long time have talked about "bounces" when referring to website analytics. As experts in engagement, we believe that the way it has been commonly defined leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. So let's clear this up.  You'll see in a minute why this is relevant to your site revenue.

According to Google, "A bounce is a single-page session on your site." An intuitive understanding of the word "bounce" would lead one to think of someone who never engages on the site at all. But that is not the case. Based on the conventional definition, bounces include people who come and read an entire webpage in full and then leave. But is that really a "bounce"? Consider a recipe website. It's great if visitors come and consume many recipes. But are those visitors who come and read only one to be dismissed as "bounces"?

In our analytics, we have two separate stats: "immediate bounces" and "single page sessions". These are distinguished based on whether visitors engaged in any way on the page before leaving. Google Analytics does not attempt to make this distinction because they do not really measure user engagement as we do.

Immediate bounces tend to cover two cases:

  • People who are impatient while a page is loading and leave before it does; and
  • Pageviews resulting from browser refreshes (often automatic on mobile devices) sometime after the original pageview where the visitor was not even intending to look at the page again.

By contrast, single-page sessions are those where the visitor has engaged with the content (clicking, scrolling, etc.) but consume only one page during the visit -- i.e., they do not choose to click through to another page on the same site during their visit.


In the chart above, you'll see actual RPM data from one of our sites where we divided every session into one of three categories (immediate bounce, single-page, and multi-page).  The chart shows you the average RPM for each of these three groups.  You can see that getting people engaged makes a big difference to your revenue!

Across our sites, we see typical immediate bounce rates from 10% to 20%. The best thing you can do to minimize immediate bounces is to improve page load times. But we rarely see immediate bounce rates below 10% and we attribute this to automated browser refreshes -- especially on mobile devices.

The best thing you can do to decrease single-page sessions (and, thereby, increase pageviews/session) is to give visitors an easy way to find other content on your site that may interest them. We help with that via our recommendation and search features in our Engagement Suite. But, of course, the best thing you can do to increase engagement is to offer your visitors excellent content! They will want more.