I recently needed to look at user engagement on one of Genie Ventures’ biggest sites. So my first stop was Google Analytics (GA), to see at how users were behaving on specific page types when landing on them from organic searches.

Bounce rates

A primary metric I wanted to focus on was ‘bounce rate’. For those unfamiliar with the term, check out Google’s definition; but simply put, ‘standard bounce rate’ equals the percentage of visits that exit a site before viewing a second page.

However, the standard bounce rate GA displays as default isn’t ideal when trying to analyse user engagement. The main reasons for this are:

• Page types: Certain pages on your site may naturally have a high bounce rate, due to the type of content. Examples on our own site include blog posts, forum threads or guides.

• Average time on site: Due to the way GA tracks visitor time on-site, any page with an average bounce rate higher than 0% causes the average time on site to be skewed downwards. GA only starts tracking a visit’s time once a second page is viewed, using the difference between the initiations of successive page views to calculate total time on site. This results in an average time on site of zero seconds for any visits where only one page was viewed.

Here are some of the bounce rate averages I saw using this basic research:

Blog posts

blog-posts
 

Forum threads

forum-threads
 

Topic guides

topic-guides
 

Site average

site-average
 

In these examples the blog, forum and guides pages look to have very high bounce rates compared to the site average. But does this mean all the pages in these sections have such poor user engagement?

Adjusted bounce rates

So, it would more useful to know which pages visitors are engaging with for a satisfactory amount of time, and which are immediately leading to a ‘bounce’. This would give us a better understanding of the pages our visitors are actually happy with.

That’s where ‘adjusted bounce rate’ comes in; by implementing a small change to your GA code, you can set a ‘minimum time on page’. Once a visit hits this threshold it is no longer considered a bounce. 

The minimum time on page required for an engaged user will vary depending on the site and is always going to be somewhat arbitrary. We decided on 20 seconds and after a month it was clear to see the difference in the results:

Blog posts

blog-posts
 

Forum threads

forum-threads
 

Topic guides

topic-guides
 

Site average

site-average
 

The average bounce rate percentage for each page type decreased dramatically. The new bounce rates were much closer to the site average, while the average time on site had improved nicely too.

Conclusions

Adjusted bounce rates let you better identify the pages visitors aren’t engaging with to a satisfactory standard – but also the ones they are. This should allow you to improve poorly performing content, using the stronger pages as a guide to what your site is doing right – as well as helping to inform future content strategies. 

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