Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate — What Is the Difference?
In one of my recent posts I dealt with bounce rate (if you haven’t read it – catch up on it here).
You probably know that the bounce rate alone can be tricky in some ways.
Now things are going to get even trickier.
As you have probably noticed, there is another metric that looks very similar to the bounce rate. It’s called % exit.
Today I’ll try to help you fully understand these two metrics and their subtle differences. Moreover, I’ll try to give you some ideas on how to use these two valuable metrics in order to improve your website.
Let’s start with definitions:
Google Analytics reports a bounce, if a user came to a page, didn’t take any additional interactions and left. An interaction is a hit sent to Google Analytics: it might be a pageview (so a user just went to the next page), an interaction event, virtual pageview, transaction, social share or user define hit.
The bounce rate is the percentage of one-hit sessions among all sessions. If it is analyzed on the page level, as below, it is calculated as the number of one-page sessions that started from a particular page divided by the total number of sessions that started from this page (called entrances).
The bounce rate tells you how many users came, didn’t take any action on your page and left immediately. Remember to analyze it in conjunction with Entrances rather than Pageviews.
Google Analytics reports an exit for the last hit on a given page in a session. Taking the total number of exits, and dividing them by the total number of unique pageviews Google Analytics calculates the exit rate (% exit).
The exit rate tells you how many users left your site from that particular page. The metric tells you what the percentage of sessions that actually ended on this page is. With this in mind, you should analyze it alongside Unique Pageviews as this metric tells you how many unique sessions are contained on a particular page.
The crucial difference
The bounce rate applies only to entry pages (the first page a person visits) and the exit rate applies to the page a visit ends on.
So, if a user came to your website, from an ad or an external link, and left without any interaction it’s both a BOUNCE and an EXIT. If the user took any interaction on your site: for example saw two or more pages, sent any event or did a transaction and left the page – that’s an EXIT.
How to approach bounce rate analysis?
In general, the bounce rate is a metric that shows you how well your website matches your users’ needs. It’s a good indicator of relevance between your ads and your landing page.
A high bounce rate (above 50%) in most cases should be a red flag: users are coming to your website and leaving immediately, so they are clearly not satisfied with the content you are providing them.
The whole thing is superbly illustrated by Avinash Kaushik: the user came, puked and left. So, you have lost your user on the doorstep and at the same time you have lost a chance to get him converted (and you have also lost the money you’ve spent on traffic acquisition as well). That’s what the bounce rate is all about. And your task is to find out how to reduce it, in order to get more money from your website.
A higher bounce rate on landing pages in the mobile segment is a red flag: check if there are no technical problems on your mobile website that are making your users leave without any action.
If you measure and analyze the bounce rate properly, it can help you find low-hanging fruits on your site. Reduce the bounce rate and you will ensure the quality of your traffic and get a better ROI on your marketing campaigns.
Lower bounce rate = more users to convert.
How to approach % Exit analysis?
While a high bounce rate is almost always a bad sign, a high exit rate shouldn’t always send chills down your spine. There are some obvious pages where people leave, such as the thank you page or contact page. They leave because they have achieved their goal.
Another example could be directing customers to any external links. Let’s assume you have a blog and an e-commerce website on two different domains. If your user goes from your post about new cameras to your product page, it’s nothing to worry about, isn’t it?
And anyway, your user will need to leave your site sooner or later.
But if you notice an exceptionally high exit rate on a particular page, and you are not able to give a good reason why your visitors are leaving at that point – you have found a dead end that needs fixing. Reducing exit rates is like plugging holes in a bucket. The exit rate is a great way to identify where people are exiting from your conversion funnel.
You should be more than alarmed if you see very substantial exit rates on mid-funnel pages.
There are many different reasons why a user might end his or her journey on a particular page:
● Problems with the navigation. Sometimes users just can’t quickly find which way to go further. For example, your call-to-action button is almost invisible. Users get frustrated and leave the page.
● Problems with customer paths. You have to lead the users through the whole process: from the entry page to your desired conversion. If there is a page where you are not absolutely clear what you want your users to do next, they will leave. You have to communicate what their next step should be (for example using a call-to-action text: Get 30-day trial for free Now)
● “A dead end”. This is a design mistake. A dead-end is a page which contains no links to go further or to go back. I’m sure you have seen this already: you get stuck on a page and you are left with no choice but to just click the exit button.
● Poor Unique Selling Proposition. If your Unique Selling Proposition is lame on a particular page, don’t except users to go further. They will simply leave if what you are offering is not compelling.
The exit rate seems to be an underestimated metric: people care more about bounce rates. In my opinion, this is just plain wrong: the bounce rate is good for landing pages.
If you have an e-commerce site you should definitely pay attention to the exit rates on particular pages, the steps of the funnel and content groups.
If you manage to reduce the Exit Rates on crucial pages (for example by adding additional navigation clues or improving your Unique Selling Proposition) you will get more users to convert.
Exit rate vs bounce rate in practice
Remember that the % exit and the bounce rate have different denominators. When you analyze the bounce rate, you should analyze it along with the number of entrances to a particular page. On the other hand, it is the number of unique pageviews that you should keep in mind when analyzing the % exit.
Can a page have a high bounce rate (say 90%) and a low exit rate (say 10%)? Absolutely, yes. This can happen if there are only small numbers of sessions that start from a particular page in comparison with the overall number of sessions that include this page.
When you analyze the % exit always look at the level of the bounce rate and compare the number of entrances with unique pageviews. Sometimes a high exit rate is caused by a high bounce rate.
The bounce rate and the exit rate may appear to be quite similar metrics. But in fact, they tell you two different things about your users.
It’s highly recommended that you make use of them both in your analyses, but each for a different reason. I hope this will help you to make the most out of them both; helping your users to stay on your website, leading them easily through the whole journey: from the first impression of your website to a successful conversion.
By the way, if you’re looking for some help in terms of digital analytics, contact us today and learn our unique approach. We will do everything in our power to meet your expectations.
Author: Mariusz Michalczuk
I am a co-founder of Mavenec. For over 5 years I have been focused on creating business value by leveraging data from digital channels. With strong statistical background and certifications from top analytics vendors I change business leaders’ approach to digital marketing from gut- to data-driven.
Follow me on Twitter: @mariuszmich