Why an increase in bounce rate in GA might not be something to worry about
Following a website relaunch, a client raised the worrying issue that despite visual improvement of the websites design & layout (obviously subjective), looking at Google Analytics the bounce rate on the homepage had increased significantly.
Whilst this might initially seem to be a concern, just looking at your key metrics in isolation may not tell you the whole story and this worrying number might actually be a good thing.
Interpretation 1 - A reason to worry about increase in bounce rate
The first interpretation of the increase in bounce rate is that the redesign has not gone down well. Visitors are landing on the homepage and then leaving the site without viewing any other pages on the website. We can only therefore assume that the new homepage design is performing poorly and that it is actually repelling visitors.
However whilst the increase in bounce rate might be an indicator of a disconnect with your visitors, there is an alternative analysis when viewing the data.
Interpretation 2 - A reasons to celebrate (or at least breath a sigh of relief!)
Stepping back a moment, we need to remember that one of the key objectives of this website is to generate phone calls. The new design and messaging really focused on the providing all the key information; leading the visitor to the key CTA - get in touch by phone. With this in mind we need to examine other metrics, and here we find that whilst there certainly is an increase in bounce rate there is also a healthy increase in phone call to session ratios.
Now looking at the numbers we have a different interpretation which indicates that the homepage is doing a much better job of getting people to call. Once they call the visitor leaves the website and is recorded as a bounced visit.
This is still only an interpretation but the data does appear to support this assumption that the increased bounce rate is positive. To really confirm this we could use a unique number on the homepage, ensuring this assumption is correct.
There are other reasons why a high bounce rate may not be an issue - this may be because a call to action is being achived on the same screen via an AJAX/Java script function, or it might be because you are sending visitors onto a sub-domain or alternative URL, resulting in recorded bounces in Google analytics.
So looking at these two interpretations, we can see that simply looking at some key indicators in Google Analytics can actually misdirect you, leading you to different actions. Whilst the bounce rate is important, as shown in this case where the increase was actually a positive result, this needs to be seen in context with what visitor behaviour you are aiming for.
Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.