Have a One Page Website? You've Gotta Adjust Your Bounce Rate

A short code snippet to modify your bounce rate measure in Google Analytics.

Bounce Rate is an extremely useful analytics stat. I like to think of it as the "first-impression meter."

High bounce rate means your first impression was a lousy one. You didn't do enough to convince your visitors to stick around so they left from the page they landed on. :(
Low bounce rate means people love what you're delivering. So much so, that they continue browsing your site. :)

The problem is that bounce rate is determined as a percentage of the people who only view a single page of your website before leaving. It doesn't take into account the fact that 40% of your bounced visitors could have actually enjoyed your website.

e.g. Some visitors bringing your bounce rate up could have spent over a minute reading your content, found an answer they were looking for or used the tool/service you provided all on the same page they landed on before leaving. Those don't sound like visits worth counting toward your bounce rate.

So, let's fix it!

How you ask? By adding an awesome little bit of code that I got from Mike Fulcher's blog, Drawing a Blank, to your Google analytics tracking script. Just paste it in and voila. Your bounce rate will plummet! Unless, you really are serving garbage to the world (then it will probably stay the same).

setTimeout(function() {
    window.onscroll = function() {
      window.onscroll = null; // Only track the event once
      _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'scroll', 'read']);
    }
  }, 15000);

That bit of code tells Google analytics that if someone both scrolls and stays on your page for at least 15 seconds, they should not be calculated as a negative part of your bounce rate. The idea is that if someone has taken the time to scroll and look around for at least 15 seconds, you probably left some breadcrumb of who you are in their mind. More likely, however, the visitor found exactly what they were looking for on the one page they landed on, with no need to continue clicking.

Who should use an Adjusted Bounce Rate?

You should consider using an adjusted bounce rate if you're running a single-page website or a blog with followers who are already familiar with the rest of your site and only need to come back to read your latest post.

With an adjusted bounce rate, you'll have a clearer picture of how many truly valuable visitors are stopping by vs. the percentage of those who found little to no value and left immediately. From there, you can spend more time focused on tweaking your layout and content to learn the realistic, measurable impact of each change you make.

How Do You Increase or Decrease the Time Someone Needs to Spend on Your Site Before They no Longer Count as a "Bounce?"

It's really simple. See that last number (15000) in the code above? That's the number, in milliseconds, someone needs to spend on your site in order to be eliminated as a "bounce." Just change it to any amount of time you think is appropriate for your site. 30 seconds would be 30000 and for 5 seconds you should use 5000. Feel free to play around and use a time that's best suited for your content and design.

More Reading

Check out my earlier article for ways to improve bounce rate on your site.

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