bounceAdvertising campaigns are judged by the metrics they generate, and while cost per acquisition and leads generated are the best low-funnel metrics to use, sometimes a proxy like bounce rate is important to understand your campaign’s effectiveness. But what is bounce rate, and what does a higher-than-expected bounce rate actually tell you about the traffic being generated?

What is bounce rate?

Quite simply, if a user comes to your site and leaves without consuming more than just the landing page, that user is considered to have “bounced” from your site. Google Analytics defines it as the percentage of single-page sessions, which can be challenging on sites or landing pages with single-page designs.

Because a user only consumes a single page of content from your site’s domain, that user is considered to be disengaged from your content – theoretically, they haven’t found enough value in what your site has presented them to stick around and consume more pages or take actions.

Bounce rate cause #1 – Dissonance between ad copy and landing page

Ad copy creates a certain amount of expectation, which, like the first line out of a blog post (ahem), should succinctly tell a user what they are likely to find on the other side of a click. If they arrive on a landing page that is seemingly unrelated to the ad copy, then out they go.

Even when unintentional, misleading ad copy – or generic landing pages not designed to match up to a specific ad group’s copy – may be the biggest cause of bounces in digital advertising.

Bounce rate cause #2 – Low-funnel landing pages

A question all advertisers have to ask is how far down the funnel they want their ads to point. If you send someone too high in the funnel – say, to a purely informational page two or three clicks removed from your call-to-action – then your engagement metrics, like bounce rate, will be good, but your conversion rate and CPA will suffer.

If, on the other hand, your ads send traffic to a conversion page, your bounce rate will be high, but your CPAs and conversion rates should improve.

This juxtaposition of engagement and conversion is part of the natural ebb and flow of funnel-based marketing theory. High-funnel landing pages take the risk of a user who is ready to convert losing interest before filling in their information, while low-funnel pages will quickly convert the most immediately interested but lose those who are looking to explore and learn about your product.

Bounce rate cause #3 – Slow loading landing pages

Any good publisher will tell you that load time is an important indicator of whether traffic will stay on your site or not. When you have excruciatingly little time to capture someone’s attention, just a second or two of extra load time could be the difference between a conversion and an annoyed click on the ‘back’ button of their browser.

This is a widely-discussed topic, and Kiss Metrics points out that users expect pages to load in two seconds or less, and a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% decrease in conversions.

Bounce rate cause #4 – Bots?

In the past, inordinately high bounce rates could also be a sign of a high rate of non-human, or ‘bot,’ traffic coming from a particular traffic source. That is, however, no longer the case – as detailed in a joint study between White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers, bots are becoming smart enough to fake engagement metrics like bounce rate. In fact, bots that come from low-bot premium sites (as opposed to bots from pure spam sites) stayed engaged on landing pages 5% longer than humans.

While bounce rates may have once been an indicator of bot-driven add traffic, it appears that, so long as your advertising partner can show you that their traffic comes from premium sites (see our post on the importance oftransparency, viewability and accountability in ad tech), it is highly unlikely that bounce rate should be correlated with bots at all.

So what’s to be done about it?

Bounce rate remains a good indicator of user engagement. It is never preferable for someone to come to your site – particularly if you paid for the click – and immediately leave. In order to maximize engagement and ensure that your metrics are true, as advertisers you should:

  1. Recognize where in the conversion funnel you are sending traffic; if you are more concerned with conversions and CPAs, send them lower in the funnel, but recognize that bounce rate  is likely to increase
  2. Optimize the load time of all landing pages; keep total page load under two seconds if possible
  3. Tie ad copy to landing page content to ensure that users are getting the content they expect to see after clicking ads

By following these guidelines, you should find yourself in a situation in which not only does your bounce rate decrease, but your insight into how users are actually interacting with your landing pages and site content skyrockets.

For more information, contact us at Swoop marketing.