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Using the Google Analytics Dashboard: Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate Report and how to use them to increase profitability on your website

Do you wish you could mine more specific information about visitor behavior on your website? You should! And the good news is, you can use bounce rate and exit rate reporting, found on your Google Analytics Dashboard, to pinpoint what your visitors are viewing, when they’re leaving, and why they’re doing so.

First, let’s explore the difference between a bounce rate and an exit rate (listed as % exit rate on your GA dashboard).

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your site, don’t take any action and leave from the same page they landed on. It shows how well your website matches the needs and/or expectations of your users. The bounce rate shows how many viewers you’ve lost on your doorstep.

Look at it this way, you’re having a party; you’ve sent out invitations, you’ve received 200 RSVPs, and everyone’s talking about how awesome your event is going to be. On the night of the party, you have 180 people walk right up to your door and peer inside, but only 10 people decide to walk through the doorway and join. Meaning you’ve navigated them to your doorstep but failed to get them to come in, you’ve failed to convert. And you’ve lost the time and money you’ve spent to lead the potential attendee to your doorstep.

Meaning the other 170 people who were at your doorway thinking about stepping through, left without going any further, they bounced from your party.  A bounce rate of over 50% should be a red flag–those are users who come to your site but are not satisfied or interested in the content you’re providing.

So bounce rate is the proverbial; you’ve led your horse to water, but you’ve yet to convince him to drink. Reducing bounce rate will equal better ROI on your marketing campaigns.

Exit rate is the percentage of visitors who browse more than one page on your site before leaving. While a high bounce rate is a bad sign, a high exit rate isn’t necessarily. There are obvious pages where people naturally leave your site, such as the thank you page where they leave after having achieved their goal, or if they navigate to an external e-commerce link to make a purchase.

The exit rate will identify where people are exiting from your conversion funnel, so if you see substantial exit rates mid-funnel, you know you’ve got some work to do. Reducing your exit rates on crucial pages will get you higher conversion.

Going back to our party analogy, your 10 attendees had dinner, 7 stayed for games and 5 remained for dancing. If dancing was your main event (or your call to action) only half left at the desired time, while you lost the other attendees early.

Here’s where it can get tricky. If a visitor navigates to your site from an external link and left without interaction, it counts as both a bounce and an exit.

But the bounce rate and exit rate have different denominators. When analyzing the bounce rate, you should look at the number of entrances to a particular page but the exit rate shows the number of unique pageviews. A page can have a high bounce rate and a low exit rate when there are only a small number of sessions that start from a particular page in comparison with the overall number of sessions that include this page. So when analyzing the exit rate always look at the level of the bounce rate and compare the number of entrances with unique page views.

Use your Google Analytics Dashboard to provide a window into your visitor’s behavior once they’ve navigated to your site. From the dashboard, you can compare the bounce rate versus the exit rate for the pages on your site. To begin, go to your Google Analytics site, scroll down the left side to Behavior, click on the drop down for Site Content and click on All Pages.

Next, choose to compare Bounce rate vs. % Exit in the Explorer tab.

At the top of the page, you’ll see a visual comparison between the bounce rate and exit rate for all of your pages. You can then drill down to see further data for each page.

Now you have this powerful information at your fingertips, so how do you use it to make strategic changes to make your website more engaging for viewers and more profitable for you?

Let’s take a deeper dive into these two rates to help decide what actions you need to take.

As I’ve stated before, when your viewer comes to your page, whether through a referral or a direct URL, possibly read the content (look at length of time on page to distinguish), but didn’t take any further action and left–the interaction sent a hit to Google Analytics who reported it to you as a page view. A page view is recorded every time a page is viewed and includes when a visitor hits the back button or refresh.

While bounce rates are a good metric when analyzing your landing page, the exit rate will show you how far visitors are making it through your funnel or where you are losing them. Pay attention to the exit rates on particular pages through the steps of the funnel.

Further, an interaction, virtual page view, transaction, or social share would count as an exit.

It’s helpful to understand what each of these Google Analytics actions means;

  • An interaction event is a user interaction with content you can choose to track independently from a web page or a screen load; for instance, a download, mobile ad clicks, gadgets, flash elements, AJAX embedded elements and video plays.
  • A virtual pageview is a hit that tracks as a page view even when no new web page has been loaded. These include guides and freebies; the link will show a page view even when there is no view, but a download or a click is completed.
  • A transaction allows you to analyze purchase activity on your site or app.
  • A social share is a page view that occurs from a link generated from a social media platform.

GA reports an exit as the last hit on a given page in a session. Take the total number of exits, divided by the total number of unique page views to calculate the exact exit rate. This rate will show you how many users left your site from that particular page.

You should use data to analyze both rates for a different reason. First, use bounce rates do a better job of showing how to keep viewers on your website. If you’re experiencing a high bounce rate, it could be for several reasons;

  • Hard to read landing pages. This can be due to several reasons–poor grammar, spelling mistakes, or distracting elements which reduce the credibility of your site.
  • Making it hard to find what the visitor came to view–his includes serving up unrelated or unexpected content or making the content hard to browse through.
  • Sending the wrong demographic to your landing page. If you aren’t sending your ideal customer or perfect avatar to your landing page, the traffic you’re getting may not be interested in what you have to offer.
  • Bombarding your visitors with too many offers or advertisements as soon as they land on your site. This will make users feel like they’re being scammed and will hasten their departure from your site.
  • Having too many attention-grabbing images taking away from your call to action or not having a clear next step. You want to have an attractive website, but not when it overtakes your call to action. Your call to action should be concise and clear to anyone visiting your site.
  • Overall site issues; this could include slow load times, low-quality content, or ugly landing pages (yes, I said it). Take a critical look at your pages if you are experiencing high bounce rates and don’t sugar coat what those issues might be.
  • Asking for too much information, especially right off the bat. Remember, you’re there to help the viewer in some way and asking for their life story immediately is a great way to lose them fast.
  • Not having a mobile-friendly site. It’s imperative that you website is mobile-friendly, it’s no longer a consideration.

Then take a look at your exit rates to determine where in your conversion funnel you are losing viewers.

There are several issues that may cause premature exit;

  • Problems with the navigation. If users can’t find which way to go further or can’t find the too-small call-to-action button, they’ll get frustrated and leave the page.
  • Problems with customer paths. You need to lead users through the process, from entering the landing page to your desired conversion. If the pathway isn’t clear, your visitors will leave.
  • A dead end, a page containing no further links. If your visitor gets stuck on this page they are left with no choice but to exit.
  • A selling proposition that isn’t compelling.

Take steps to strengthen those areas of your site where you see problems to increase the likelihood of leading your audience easily through the whole journey from first impressions to a successful conversion.

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