Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate: What's the Difference & Why Should You Care?

Business

Since most people look at "bounce rate" in their analytics more than "exit rate", it's easy to get confused between the two. But what is the difference between bounce rate and exit rate?

By Ahmed khalifa

One of the most common metrics that we all spend a lot of time looking at on Google Analytics is the glorious "bounce rate".

I'm not sure why, of all the metrics, bounce rate gets the most attention, potentially after the number of sessions and pageviews on Google Analytics.

Especially when there is also another mystery-related metric called "exit rate" which can also offer valuable insights, and potentially more important insights into your website's performance than bounce rate.

Which begs the question, what's the difference between bounce rate and exit rate? And how can they help us?

Let's dig in a little deeper to learn more.

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What's the Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate? (TL;DR)

If you want the short and sweet answer at a somewhat quick glance or you want a video format, you can do that below:

  • bounce rate is the percentage of people who landed on a page and immediately left
  • bounces are always based on a one-page session
  • exit rate is the percentage of people who left your site from that particular page
  • exits may have come as a result of viewing more than one page in a session, i.e. they may not have landed on that page, but they found it by navigating through the site

Google's definition of the two metrics can be confusing for some people, especially when it goes in-depth, as they sound very similar to each other. But as you can see from the bullet points above, there is one big significant difference:

  • exit rate is the percentage of visits that were last in the session, whereas bounce rate is the percentage of those visits that were the only one in that session.

But if you really want to get the most out of understanding these two metrics and how you can use them to your advantage, I suggest we get a bit more in-depth about them and learn some hidden gems below.

You never know, you might be able to get more leads without even increasing your traffic.

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What is Bounce Rate?

When a visitor has landed on your site (perhaps via search on Google, social media, a newsletter or someone has shared a link with you to "check out this post") and then leaves without going to another page, this is a "bounce".

And as you can imagine, the more bounces you have, the higher the bounce rate. And this is why some people often refer to it as the "percentage of single-page sessions".

Let's see an illustration:

Illustration by Ahmed Khalifa

There are various places to view your average bounce rate, such as Audience > Overview and also Behaviour > Overview:

Even though it gets a lot of attention (and sometimes for the wrong reasons), bounce rate is still an important metric to keep track of. But you should always make sure that you look at the bigger picture and not just focus on the actual number to make an immediate assumption.

More on that later.

What is Exit Rate?

Exit rate may sound similar to bounce rate, but it's very different and provides a completely different context.

This is when a percentage of visitors have visited some pages on your website and then click away to leave that site.

And it's not necessarily to go to another site. There are several ways to exit a site that you might not have thought of such as closing down the browser.

Again, let's put it into a simple illustration:

Illustration by Ahmed Khalifa

And the main places to look at exit rate on Google Analytics are Audience > Overview and also Behaviour > Overview:

Which Metric is More Important?

That's easy to answer: both. But it will always depend on their purpose and what data you want to get out of them.

A high bounce rate could be down to poor user satisfaction (because of content, site speed, brand, etc.) and a high exit rate is usually down to problems with your conversion funnel AND issues relating to high bounce rate too.

The worst thing to do is to interpret the average bounce rate alone. It is not only the most dangerous metric to look at, but also one of the most useless metrics on Google Analytics.

So instead of using the above images to look at the average rates, you should look at page-by-page, or group the content together via an advanced filter, or by creating "content grouping" to look at a particular set of pages at the same time, such as all blog posts, product pages, store pages, etc.

If you look at the example below, the Pages are filtered to groups: those containing /google+redesign/ within the URL together, so that you can look at the overall average bounce/exit rates, as well as well looking at it on a page-by-page level:

So now that you are going to use both metrics at the same time (I hope), you might ask what would be a good percentage to aim for?

Which brings us to our next section.

What is a "Good" and "Bad" Bounce Rate?

This is probably one of the most common questions asked and also frequently searched for on Google:

(Unsurprisingly, "what is a good bounce rate" gets searched for more than "what is a good exit rate").

But it's not that straightforward to answer.

The danger when solely looking at these metrics is that you will despair when it is high. But there are occasions where a high bounce rate on specific pages could make sense:

  • when landing on a blog post from a search engine which has answered a question they have searched for, e.g. "how to boil an egg", "how to fix a leaking sink"
  • when landing on a contact page to find the phone number of a particular retailer after the shop has sent a Tweet with that URL
  • when landing on a page to look for opening hours of a local café by clicking on a link within a newsletter

It is a different story when visitors have landed on your page and did not continue where you expect them to go. Examples of high bounce rate that is "bad" can be during the following scenarios:

  • paid search and social campaigns to a landing page for a free download of your book, but they leave the site immediately
  • traffic going to your home page, but no further than that
  • traffic going to your money pages, like your product pages, but they are not making any purchases

Now I am not one to recommend a benchmark on what to aim for when it comes to a "good bounce rate". But, if you do want to get an idea of the average benchmark in your industry, this is a fantastic guide which can give you some insights.

But a word of warning: do not be dependent on just that data alone. Always combine it with other metrics to understand the context of your audience, and the page they are interacting with, before making an assumption.

What is a "Good" and "Bad" Exit Rate?

When it comes to a good exit rate, this is a completely different matter to look at as it could be down to problems with your funnel.

If you think about a typical e-commerce website and the journey for most users:

  • you land on the home page
  • you go to a product page which has an item that looks interesting, or you've been wanting to buy
  • but you then you exit the site

Therein lies a potential problem.

If your exit rate is high on pages such as your product page, then there could be:

  • a problem with that page, e.g. difficult to use, too "busy", bad image, poor description, etc.
  • it could be because of the product, e.g. low-quality product, too expensive, out of stock, etc.
  • it is a site problem, e.g. broken page, very slow to load, can't make a purchase because the button is not working

This is a classic example of why you should not ignore exit rate at the expense of bounce rate in a scenario like this.

But here is a completely different scenario where a high exit rate is positive.

If a visitor has arrived at a website and started to navigate to look for a particular solution to a problem, they can leave happily (we assume!) if they have found what they're looking for.

An example would be:

  • you land on a retailers' or suppliers' website to look for information about opening hours in your area
  • then you click on 'Store Finder' and search for your location
  • after that, you search in your area for the store or stockist where you can pop in to have a look at the product
  • there you found the information about opening hours
  • and finally, you exit the site after you found what you're looking for

Based on the above experience, is it really a bad thing if they left the last page above, and as a result, the exit rate is high?

Not necessarily.

They've reached the end of their experience and potentially found what they're looking for. So if your site has met their needs, then that should be the ultimate aim for anyone's website.

How to Reduce Your Bounce/Exit Rate?

So let's say that you are having problems with your bounce or exit rates: what do you do next?

This question can go into a lot of depth, and there is a separate blog post on how to reduce bounce rate, which can also overlap to exit rate too.

But even though there are overlaps, there is one noticeable difference in reducing exit rate.

If a specific page has a high exit rate when it is actually supposed to encourage your visitors to go further down the funnel, then it's time look at what is causing your visitors to leave that page after showing initial interest.

It could be anything above, or it could be something else, and this is where you need to test and analyse to find out what is causing your visitors to leave the page or leave the conversion funnel.

But if they have gone down the funnel or landed on your page and found what they're looking for, then they will leave the site satisfied (and you have done your bit).

Related Article: How to Reduce Your Site's Bounce Rate?

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Even though bounce rate is like one of the go-to metrics on Google Analytics, you might be surprised to learn that exit rate is potentially more important than bounce rate. 😱

But what's even more important is that you interpret both metrics correctly and focus on your key pages such as landing pages, product pages and lead generation funnels.

And if you combine these pages and metrics with other useful data, such as sources of traffic and combine that with understanding the purpose of that page and your visitors' intentions, then you've got a better understanding of why your audience has left your site, whether it's a bounce or an exit.

If you get really focused, you may be able to get more leads and conversions without adding an extra visitor to your site.

So my question to you is: have you ever looked at exit rate on your Google Analytics account before? If you have, what did you get out of it? If you haven't, do you think it would be useful for you after reading this post?

Do leave a comment below and let me know.