Bounce Rate and Average Time on Page: More Analytical Ammunition

April 27, 2017

Posted by Bailey Reiners


Let's say that, at minimum, you fire up your analytics tool for your website once a month. You probably look over some of the metrics to get a feel for what kind of traffic your website is getting, with visits and page views held in high esteem. And I’m sure you’re looking at where the website traffic is coming from, too. All of that search engine optimization (SEO) work you did a few months ago better be paying off, right?

There might be a few analytic components you’re overlooking, though. Have you paid much attention to the bounce rate that your site is experiencing or maybe even the average amount of time visitors spend on your pages?

If not, you’re not alone. Bounce rates and the average time spent on pages often get overlooked and are not considered “important” analytics by many. The truth, though, is that both of those metrics give deeper insights into how visitors are interacting with your site.

What Do Bounce Rate and Average Time On Page Mean?

Alright, let’s get some definitions out of the way so we’re speaking the same lingo. The technical definition of bounce rate from HubSpot is, “the percentage of people who land on a page on your website and then leave without clicking on anything else or navigating to any other pages on your site.” An example of this would be someone finding one of your blogs on a search engine results page (SERP), clicking on it, reading the post, and then not visiting any other pages on your site.

Average time on page is much easier to understand. This is just an average amount of time all visitors spend on a particular page. Pretty self explanatory, right? What we’ve got here is a good metric to see if visitors are actually reading your content. For instance, if the average time on page for a lengthy blog post is only 10 seconds, it’s safe to assume that most visitors aren’t actually reading the post…unless you have the speediest readers on the web.

What Are Good Numbers For Bounce Rate and Average Time On Page?

There isn’t a golden number for bounce rate or average time on page. Also, many factors can go into these metrics, such as what kind of traffic your site is attracting and the SEO that’s been done. To get an idea of the variations in bounce rate, check out this graph below created by ITX Design showing the average bounce rate for various industry web pages.

In general, you should aim for a bounce rate below 40%. If it’s above 55%, you should look for reasons why people may be leaving your site and for ways to improve. Unsure of where to start? Check out these tips by Exposure Ninja.

A large factor influencing bounce rate is what kind of page you’re looking at and what content is on it. If the page is largely informational without many links to other parts of your site, then a bounce rate above 55% wouldn’t be out of the norm. However, if the page is mainly a directory of links to, say, products you make or services you offer, then you should see a much lower bounce rate.

Your ideal number for average time on page will vary. As mentioned before, a short average time for a blog post or a page with lots of content is suspicious and definitely not good news. You’ll need to use your intuition for each page to figure out how long you think someone should be on it. If someone is staying, on average, for 40-50 seconds, consider that a good start. Try browsing the web with your morning coffee and have a stopwatch going (sounds crazy, I know, but consider it an experiment). Start and stop it for each page you go to. This will give you a good idea of how much time you’re spending on certain types—and you might be surprised at how little time was spent on each.

High bounce rates may not be entirely your fault—here's why:

  1. Mobile. With 77% of adults in the U.S. owning smartphones in 2017, you likely know how difficult it can be to do extensive research on a small device. Therefore, more people are likely to bounce sooner when using their mobile devices rather than their computers or even tablets. This is just another reason why it’s important to optimize your website for mobile and for mobile apps so that it’s easier for people to navigate and read text on your website.
  2. Popular blog posts. While blogs that rank high in search engines and are frequently shared throughout the internet and social media platforms may attract a lot of traffic, that traffic it’s likely going to be looking for answers to a specific question. Sure, blogs are often considered the front door of your website, greeting people as they arrive and answering their questions, but once they’ve found the answers, most people are going to bounce to another site in search of other answers.
  3. Social traffic. The traffic you acquire from social is often not going to be from prospects looking to research your company and its products and services, so they tend to have a higher bounce rate.
  4. Some pages are loved more than others. When looking at your analytics, there may be a disproportionate amount of time spent on different pages. For example, single CTA landing pages are likely to have a much higher bounce rate than in-depth content pages.
  5. Structural issues. If you have extremely high bounce rates (more than 70%), then try to look at your pages from a visitor’s perspective. Maybe there’s something obviously wrong that you couldn’t see from your analytic viewpoint. Make sure there’s not an error, like a 404 error page, and that the content of your page matches your meta description. These are some quick and easy fixes.

None of the above items apply to your webpage? Let’s check out some more serious issues.

My Numbers are Horrible for These Metrics! What Do I Do?

Don’t panic! Some crafty work can easily remedy a high bounce rate and/or low average time on page.

If your bounce rate is high, the first place to look is your site design. Make sure links are easily identifiable, relevant and intuitive on each page. Main site navigation links should be located on every page of your site, with the exception of landing pages. The aesthetics of your site should also be up-to-date since an ugly or out-of-date site can cause a user to turn away instantly. Unfortunately,  flashy confetti .gif animations on the sidebars are not as attractive as they were a decade ago.

SEO is another place to look if your bounce rate is through the roof. Make sure you’re using relevant keywords, page descriptions and titles throughout your site. It’s great to generate a large number of visitors, but if they aren’t sticking around, you’re missing opportunities to engage them further.

Look at how long it takes to load pages on your site. If you have a ton of large, high-resolution images, pages may take too long to load. People are impatient and will most likely hop off your page and go onto the next if the load time is excessive.

The same tricks can be used to improve your average time on page as well (except for the page loading time issue). Finally, write amazing (and relevant) content! It will help you see the largest improvements because visitors will be more likely to stick around and read what you have to offer.

More Best Practices to Improve Bounce Rates

  • Don’t use large bodies of text. It can be difficult to read, so break it up!
  • Use section headings to break up text and make it easier for visitors to navigate a page.
  • Don’t use pop-ups, they’re annoying.
  • Regularly write and repurpose blog content, advanced content and press releases.
  • Use keywords that your prospects will enter into search engines to ensure high quality traffic.
  • Carefully craft your meta-descriptions because that’s what people will view before they click on your page.
  • Create enticing Call-to-Action (CTA) and Landing Pages to draw visitors into your meaty, in-depth content.

Now that you know what bounce rate and average time on page entail, you have a few more metrics to add to your arsenal. These metrics should give you more insight into how users are interacting with your site. Use this information to better tailor your site to visitors’ behaviors and enhance your SEO.

SEO Survival Guide From Weidert Group 

Topics: Search Engine Optimization, Analytics & Performance

whole brain marketing blog author
Written by Bailey Reiners

Bailey Reiners is a current student at Lawrence University and serves as an inbound marketing intern for Weidert Group. Her work involves culture-based social media that supports our inbound recruiting initiatives as well as client-focused workflow and automation support.

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