As someone who spends a good deal of time decoding website data in Google Analytics with clients, I also tend to spend a lot of time researching and looking into specific questions I receive. Recently, I was looking into specific details about bounce rates for a client, when I realized that my interpretations of bounce rate and exit rate were wrong. Shocked, I dug more into these metrics, and I realized that there are many common misconceptions surrounding them. Even Google’s description of these terms is confusing!

To clear up these misunderstandings, here are the facts about bounce rates and exit rates, decoded.

Bounce Rate:

  • The bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors that get to your website, view only that one page, and then leave your site. So, a “bounce” is a single visit session.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t dependent on how long the visitor is on your page. Whether the user bounces immediately back to where they came from or they stay, read your whole page, and then leave your site, it is still considered a “bounce”.
  • It is officially calculated by dividing the total number of visits with only one page view by the total number of visits for a particular page.
  • Since it focuses on visits that are the first and only in a session, this metric is only relevant to the pages people first visit, classified by Google Analytics as landing pages.
  • A bounce isn’t just when someone clicks the “back” button to get back to the search results. Any time the visitor leaves the first page of a session it is considered a bounce, whether it is by clicking the “back” button, closing the window, clicking on an external link to another website, going to a sub-domain of your site, or by timing out the session which happens after 30 minutes.

Exit Rate:

  • The exit rate of a page is the percentage of visitors that leave a site from that particular page. This is the main difference between the two metrics. The bounce rate only applies to the first page of a session, whereas exit rate applies to the last page in the session. Visitors can go to as many pages as they want, then leave. The page that the visitor finally leaves the site on is considered the exit rate.
  • This is calculated by dividing the number of exits of a certain page by the total number of page views for that page.

Have you been misunderstanding these metrics? Now that you understand them, how will you use them to better understand your website performance? Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we’ll explain how to best use these metrics and what they can teach you about your website’s visitors.