Bounce rate—whether you’re new or experienced with reading Google Analytics data—is easily the most confusing data set anyone with a web presence deals with. Almost everyone assumes high bounce rates are proof you’re doing something wrong, while low bounce rates validate success. This isn’t supported by the facts. There’s more to the story.

There Are Different Bounce Types.

Hard. Medium. Soft. Each one tells you a different side of the story. Understanding the message each type sends helps you assess the meaning of your bounce rate data.

Hard Bounce Rates

You recognize this type of bounce by the speed of exit. They’re gone in seconds.

A hard bounce is sending you one of two messages. Either your visitor knew immediately the search result was off target, or the web page gave a negative impression of its ability to provide the information your visitor was seeking.

Your control over Google rendering an off-target search result is limited. You can do your best to ensure each page on your website has a specific target audience; however, there’s always going to be an occasional mismatch. The visitor you care about is the one who would have been a good fit, but your page failed to create instant recognition. He or she got the impression finding the ‘answer’ would take too much work.

If you’re seeing a hard bounce rate, compare the search terms bringing people to your page against the message your page delivers. Is it inconsistent with the search term you truly want to optimize for? Ask this question as well: does your visitor have to scroll to find information? Adjust your content if your answers are yes to either question.

Medium Bounce Rates

Your visitor recognizes they’ve found a potential solution, so they spend time scanning the page they landed on. However, they don’t move deeper into your website. Maybe they didn’t find what they were looking for. Or they were in the research phase. Maybe they didn’t resonate with the target audience you prepared the page content to attract.

A medium bounce rate isn’t a slam-the-door-in-your-face message. There’s even potential you’ll see this visitor again.

Soft Bounce Rates

This visitor probably found exactly what they were seeking on your page. They took the time to absorb something from your site. They may have watched part of your video if it starts automatically and read the text. However, something prevented them from staying long enough to get your bounce rate below 20%.

You can improve your soft bounce rate by considering these factors.

  • Are you using advertisements and banners on your website? Don’t let them get in the way of a positive impression. Keep them at the top or at the side. Avoid inserting them within your content. If a visitor has ever picked up adware or malware by clicking on an ad accidentally, inline advertising could bounce them away.
  • Are you forgetting ESL visitors? When English isn’t a first language, images and videos go a long way toward delivering a stay-on-a-website experience. They complement text. If visitors have to click on a video to start play, this can be set as an event, which immediately removes the ‘bounce’ tag.
  • Are you creating useful links to more information? Visitors won’t move deeper into your site unless it’s obvious they’ll benefit from doing so. Include calls to action to learn more. Use graphic links to entice your visitor deeper in.
  • Is your website WordPress based? Consider adding a plugin called ‘Reduce Bounce Rate.’ This plugin tells Google Analytics to not record a bounce after a visitor spends more than 10 seconds on your web page.

Is there work to do if your bounce rate is higher than 20%. Probably. However, bounce rates can also be proof that you’re growing!

The Good Side of Higher Bounce Rates

If your website wasn’t seeing much traffic, you may see a sharp rise in your bounce rate once you initiate an effective search engine optimization plan. It often takes months of dedication, and then suddenly traffic spikes upward.

For example, you start blogging. The blog grows in popularity. Your site begins getting traffic—exactly what you want. However, the audience you attract grows more diverse. The bounce rate goes up. Why? Because Google still counts it as a bounce if your visitor takes a peek at a blog and leaves. Yes, it may have been a soft bounce, yet they didn’t go to another page on your site.

It’s actually a good problem to have.

Other Causes for Bounces

Not every bounce that looks like a hard bounce actually is one. For example, a visitor goes to your website to get your phone number. That’s a bounce, even though they got the information they wanted.

Another cause of hard bounces is also outside of your control. When Google can’t find a local match, it may suggest your website. Because the visitor is only interested in a local service, he or she bounces away.

Take, for example, a search for “carpet”. You may find almost every search result is for a carpet company outside of your local area. Maybe this is because some of the local companies aren’t well optimized. However, it could also be caused by there being a significant number of non-local companies who have optimized well for local as well as national traffic.

Why Ongoing Analysis of Bounce Rates Matters

While all bounces aren’t bad, you do want to eliminate any obvious causal factors. You only find these if you regularly review Google’s Analytics reports. You want to identify those bounces you have some control over.

In addition to the strategies we’ve already mentioned, you’ll lower bounce rates by:

  • Separating site wide bounce rates from page bounce rates so you’re uncovering data that’s useful
  • Examining entrance pages for a correlation with traffic sources so you can segment your visitors
  • Using AdWords to segment visitors
  • Measuring conversions and working to improve content to increase them
  • Adding phone call tracking
  • Setting up event tracking for email contacts
  • Ensuring your site is loading quickly
  • Making your website mobile-friendly
  • Setting all links to open in a new window


Not all bounces are equal in importance. Familiarizing yourself with what your bounces are actually telling you is a key step toward taking effective bounce-reduction actions.

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us today.

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