Common Myths about your Website’s Bounce Rate

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4 min read

Bounce rates were one of the earliest Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in web analytics, and a metric that many manufacturers zero in on for car dealers. Everyone has heard their manufacturer rep broach the topic of bounce rates, and perhaps you keep a close eye on your own. The prevalence in the industry of the bounce rate metric has caused some less than true perceptions to spring up surrounding it and its relevance to your website health. While some myths have a kernel of truth to them, many are not based in reality. Here are 5 bounce rate myths we commonly hear, and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: A bounce occurs when a visitor enters your website and leaves immediately.

This is one of the most common understandings of a bounce, and not entirely correct. While a visitor instantly leaving a webpage will register as a bounce, time spent on site has nothing to do with it factoring as a bounce.  A bounce only occurs when a user only views a single website page and exits, no matter how long they spent on that page.

Let’s say you deep page link a campaign directly to where the customer wants to go. After they click through, the page loads and a session is triggered in Google Analytics. They then spend five minutes digesting the information on the page, find everything they’re looking for and decide to leave without browsing father. Their session counts as a bounce, and despite spending 5:00 on the page and finding everything they need, the session is recorded as a bounce with 0:00 on site in Google Analytics. This is due to Google Analytics needing two reference points, the initial trigger of the code on the landing page, and the trigger on the next page, to establish a session duration. Any session without a second trigger is recorded as 0:00.

Myth 2: A high bounce rate points to a problem with your website.

While a high bounce rate can be an indicator of a website issue, that is not always the case. A campaign generating a high bounce rate could point to an issue with the campaign’s targeting, linking strategy, or both.  Campaigns should be targeted specifically for the vehicle you’re promoting, and the landing page should correspond specifically with the creative being promoted. If there’s any disparity here, it could be contributing to higher than normal bounce rates.

Don’t feel like reading on? View our bounce rate myth video and get caught up that way!

Myth 3: You want your bounce rate to be as low as possible.

Super low bounce rates sound great but are strong indicators of a deeper issue.  An extremely low bounce rate suggests that visitors to your site are not finding what they need quickly and easily. If your visitors are not finding what they came for in the first page or two, the structure of your website and your campaign linking strategy needs to be re-evaluated to bring that information front and center.  The more clicks a visitor must go through to convert, the less likely that conversion becomes.

Extremely low bounce rates are also symptoms of conflicting Analytics codes on the website. When codes are installed improperly, they can conflict with each other and skew data. If your website was consistently running at a 40% bounce rate and suddenly drops to 5%, don’t celebrate too quickly. Contact your web provider and make sure there haven’t been any changes to the code implementation recently and have them audit and re-install the code.

Myth 4: If a visitor bounced, they didn’t complete the action you wanted them to.

It is 100% possible to complete a conversion action and still bounce.  As discussed in Myth 1, a person can spend up to 30 minutes on a single page and complete any number of actions on that page still register as a bounce.

Let’s say a customer lands on a lease special landing page from a display advertisement. They read the details of the lease, all the disclaimers and the copy on the page about the car’s features and specifications.   They decide they want to lease the vehicle right away and pick up the phone dial the phone number on the page and call to schedule an appointment.  If they click out of that window after the call, it still counts as a bounce.

If your campaigns are properly linked, and the content of the ads matches the content the clicker expects on the landing page, you should be gaining conversions from sessions which are recorded as bounces.

Myth 5: A high bounce rate impacts your SEO ranking.

This is one of the most pervasive myths in all of online marketing, and it has no basis in reality.  There is no evidence that suggests that Google Analytics bounce rate has any impact whatsoever on your SEO ranking.  

Using bounce rate as a search ranking tool is actually not even be a practical way for Google to rank sites. Did we just blow your mind? Think about it this way – all websites are structured differently and will have different bounce rates consequently.  As mentioned above, sometimes a high bounce rate is a good thing, and it would be nearly impossible for Google to tell a good bounce from a bad bounce based purely on numbers alone.

To top it off, 47.1% of all websites do not use Google Analytics.  If Google used bounce rates as a factor, they would be writing off nearly half the internet from their algorithm.   This myth has even been directly denied by Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of Webspam, yet the rumor still prevails, and is repeated frequently by marketing professionals and amateurs alike.

So once and for all: your Google Analytics bounce rate has no impact whatsoever on your SEO ranking.

Bounce rates are a very interesting metric to track regarding your website, but without proper context they can go from useful to completely arbitrary. Keeping in mind these myths when assessing your bounce rate will help bring valuable perspective to your analysis and give a clearer picture of where your dealership stands online.

Whether you’re diving into your own Google Analytics, or reviewing your metrics with a rep, it’s a good idea to have someone you trust reviewing the metrics with you. A good automotive digital advertising partner will help you. All reporting from Digital to Dealer Direct comes directly from Google Analytics. This help us stay transparent and help us review real time metrics with you so you get a clear picture of what’s going on with your website.

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