Exit Rate vs. Bounce Rate

Exit Rate vs. Bounce Rate

All visitors to your web site leave at some point, whether they visit one page or one hundred. The last page they visit is their Exit Page, an event your analytics application records.

You might think that your analysis of the Top Exit Pages for your site would reveal some important information. But it turns out that the Top Exit Pages report is not that helpful.

Top Exit Pages does not tell you intent

Here’s why. Buyers visit your site for a variety of reasons. They leave when they are satisfied or when they can’t find what they are looking for.

When visitors leave your site from a particular page, you can’t know from the clickstream why they leave because you can’t know their intent. Maybe they found exactly what they wanted, maybe they didn’t.

If you don’t know the intent of your visitors, you can’t infer much just because you know the last page they visited.

A real world example

Imagine you had a store in the middle of a mall and the store had five entrances. People could enter or exit any of the five doors.

If your “exit rate” for one door was higher than the others, would you be concerned? Not necessarily.

Maybe that door is next to the food court and most people are hungry when they leave your store, so they use the food court exit. Or maybe the “high exit rate” door is next to the checkout stand and so people who buy something simply leave through the closest door.

The problem is that if you only know the number of exits or the exit rate, you don’t know the intent. Which visitors got what they wanted and exited satisfied? Which ones had become frustrated or disappointed and left unhappy? You don’t know.

One exception: Pay attention when visitors leave your site in the middle of a structured experience like a checkout sequence to make a purchase. If the sequence is four pages and you have a high Exit Rate on anything but the fourth page, look into the cause.

How can you discover the intent behind pages with high exit rates? Since clickstream analysis can’t help you, try surveys or usability tests.

Bounce Rate is your friend

Bounce rate is a different story. The Bounce Rate is your friend.

Bounces from your website occur when a visitor lands on a page on your site, stays for a very short period, and leaves without visiting any other pages on your site. Visitors who bounce from your site did not find what they wanted or expected.

Let’s continue with the analogy of your store at the mall. What if many people walked in one of the doors, briefly looked inside, and then left but did not browse or buy anything? Would you be concerned? Of course you would. Something about that entrance casues people to leave. You would send someone over immediately to see what was wrong.

Just like the door at the mall, high bounce rates on a page tell you something is wrong and that you need to investigate immediately.

Use Bounce Rate in these five situations

Avinash Kaushik suggests five situations where the bounce rate will reveal something about buyer behavior and buyer intent. They are the Bounce Rate of your:

  • Overall website – Bounce rate for your website gives you a sense of whether visitors from all sources engage with your site. Watch this trend over time for changes that need your attention.
  • Traffic sources – Which sources of traffic engage with your site and which ones leave immediately upon arrival? Look at the sources with high bounce rates to understand the mismatch between what they expected and what they received.
  • Search keyword – Look at which keywords from search engines send visitors with high bounce rates or low bounce rates. Use more keywords on the topics that send high-quality visitors and fewer of the keyword topics that send low quality visitors.
  • Pay-Per-Click campaigns – Since you pay for every one of these visits to your site, it makes sense to examine their bounce rates. If people click on one of your ads and then immediately leave your site, what is wrong? Mismatch between the ad copy and the topic of your page? Trouble with the landing page? Better check it out.
  • Top trafficked pages – Lots of people visit these pages. How long do they stay? At least long enough to visit other pages? If not, then investigate why they leave a popular page so quickly.

One exception to the bounce rate: blogs. Many people come to a blog post from a feed reader which sends them directly to the post. They read the post and leave your site. It’s recorded as a “bounce,” but in fact the visitors got what they wanted and left your site satisfied. Therefore, blog pages often have higher bounce rates and that’s ok.