Using Bounce Rate to Build Your Case for a Website Update

If you want to convince your boss your company website needs to be updated, you’ll need quantitative, objective proof points to justify making the investment. This isn’t hard to do with Google Analytics, which is a free tool for analyzing the effectiveness of your website. Google Analytics provides you with quantitative data about how users interact with your website to inform strategy and guide design.

In this multi-part series, we’ll guide you through how to use Google Analytics to find metrics that can serve as proof points for a website redesign. The first metric we’ll look at is your bounce rate.

Part 1: Using Bounce Rate Analytics

  • What bounce rate is
  • Reasons for high bounce rate
  • How bounce rate affects the bottom line

What Is Bounce Rate?

According to Google, bounce rate tells you the percentage of traffic in which the person left your site or app after viewing only a single page.Bounces happen when someone…

  • Clicks a link that takes them to another page
  • Clicks the back button
  • Closes the window or tab
  • Types a new URL
  • Has a session timeout

According to research from Taylor and Francis, you have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression, so keeping people from bouncing means capturing their interest quickly – and sustaining it.

Reasons For a High Bounce Rate

Site design or usability issues

  • This could mean someone gets to your website and is confused about where to go or can’t accomplish what they set out to do on your site. They get frustrated and leave.

People don’t find what they’re looking for

  • If information leading people to your page doesn’t match the content on the page, people will abandon your website to find what they’re looking for. It’s important to make sure the ads and headlines you use are extremely relevant to the content on that page to fulfill people’s expectations.
  • For example, if you are using Google Adwords to direct traffic for a particular keyword, and use a headline that offers a specific benefit, make sure your landing page immediately addresses that benefit.

People find exactly what they’re looking for but don’t feel the need to stay

  • When people are looking for specific information and find what they’re looking for, they may leave immediately if they no longer have any interest/need in looking further on your website. This isn’t necessarily a problem, depending on what the goal of your website is. High bounce rates are especially common for news sites.

People don’t like what they find

  • If your website has poorly written content, vacuous content that doesn’t provide value, boring content, too much text, not enough graphics, is confusing, or repetitive, people will not stay. This highlights why it's so critical to have high-value content on your website.
  • Research shows concise text with about half the word count as the control condition improved usability by 58%, scannable layout using the same text as the control condition in a layout that facilitated scanning improved usability by 47%, and objective language using neutral rather than subjective, boastful, or exaggerated language (otherwise the same as the control condition) increased usability by 27%. The combined version using all three improvements in writing style together: concise, scannable, and objective improved usability by 124%. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • It’s important to first plan content before you design because it is ultimately what will determine if your website is successful. If people don’t find valuable information snazzy site design won’t keep them there.

There’s no clear navigation

  • If you don’t give people an easy, intuitive way to find their way around the site, they’ll leave. Don’t expect people to be mind readers. Make it blatantly obvious.
  • It’s a good idea to have people test out your site and provide feedback. It’s hard to be objective about your own website, because you’re more familiar with the website and your company than the users who will come to your site.

There’s no call to action (CTA)

  • If you don’t give people clear direction about what step to take next, the next step they take is to leave.

Your site doesn’t work well on mobile and tablet devices

  • If your site doesn’t work well on a mobile or tablet device, this is hugely problematic, because of how many people are accessing the web from mobile devices.
  • 70% of mobile searches lead to online action within an hour. (Source: iAcquire and Survey Monkey)
  • 60% of internet access is mostly mobile. (Source: InMobi Mobile Media Consumption report)

Your site has readability issues

  • Quite simply, people are unable to read the content on your site. This could be because of poor contrast, too small of text, or a number of other reasons. Remember that it’s important to take into account how people read online. They like to scan, and appreciate text that is broken up into manageable chunks.
  • Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20%. (Source: Lin)

Your site load time is too slow

  • Instead of waiting for a slow site to load, people will leave. Make sure your website loads quickly on both desktop and mobile.
  • 40% of users will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. (Source: Akamai)
  • At peak traffic times, more than 75% of online consumers left for a competitor’s site rather than suffer delays. (Source: The Gomez Report)
  • A one-second delay in page-load can cause 7% loss in customer conversions. (Source: Tagman)

Your site doesn’t look legitimate

  • People are becoming increasingly wary of websites that do not look like they represent legitimate businesses. If your website design looks outdated and doesn’t convey a high level of professionalism, people may leave thinking it is not the right site, or worse, they cannot trust your company.
  • Consumer purchase behavior is driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content and design, in that order. (Source: Key Dimensions of Business-to-Consumer Websites)
  • According to web credibility research from Stanford, 75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design.

How Bounce Rate Affects the Bottom Line

You want to keep people engaged on your site longer because it directly impacts conversion rates. If people don’t stay on your site, they can’t convert. Simple as that.

Bounce rate is also one of many factors Google uses for site ranking, so having a high bounce rate may impact your site’s search discoverability.When people are leaving your website quickly, it means they’re not finding value in it. This means you’re not doing a good job communicating your unique value proposition.

When bounce rate relates to poor website credibility, this affects the perception of the brand as a whole. Research strongly suggests strongly suggests that brand credibility moderates consumer price sensitivity under uncertainty. Other research suggests that brand credibility primarily impacts customer satisfaction, and secondarily, loyalty commitment.


  • The bounce rate reflects the number of people who only visit one page before leaving
  • High bounce rates can occur because of poor site design and functionality, poor content, unmet expectations, no next step (CTA), and lack of trust because of poor perceived credibility
  • High bounce rates kill conversion rates
  • A high bounce rate may be the symptom of larger problems: i.e., you aren’t able to clearly communicate your value proposition, you don’t know exactly who your audience is, and/or the overall credibility of your brand is lacking
  • The average business metrics improvement after a usability redesign is now 83%, according to research from Nielsen Norman Group.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about how to analyze new vs. returning visitors to build your case for a website redesign.

Using Bounce Rate to Build Your Case for a Website Update - PW