Engagement Rate: A New Take On The Bounce Rate

by Jey Pandian

Ever seen the bounce rate metric in Google Analytics? Try explaining this metric to clients or internal stakeholders at your company. Chances are that you get a lot of blank stares from them. You might as well talk in Greek to these folks. They won’t get it and beyond the first 30 seconds of your conversation with them, they’ll lose all interest in what you were trying to tell them.

A bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. I don’t know if that made sense to you (it didn’t make sense to me when I first saw it).

So lately, I’ve been thinking of a new way to present this metric, a way that actually makes sense to people when they first hear it and I thought to myself:

The whole purpose of bounce rate is to show which pages have “low engagement” and which pages have “high engagement.” Why not simply call this metric an “Engagement Rate” and make it the inverse of a Bounce Rate?”

To recap: An Engagement Rate = Inverse of Bounce Rate

So if a page has a Bounce Rate of 90%, one can also say that page has an Engagement Rate of 10% – which essentially means the same thing, as we are just using different words to describe the same  concept.

And so, the Engagement Rate was born. I could walk up to a client and tell them the Engagement Rate of this page is 10% and that 90% of visitors didn’t engage with it. Lo and behold; clients no longer argued about x, y, and z and the validity of the tool. THEY got it. I’d get a few questions about how it was calculated, but ultimately – people got it.

Now my clients can see that 90% of the(ir) users were not engaging with (the page. Moreover, they become talkative and animated, making my job 90% easier. #win

Key takeaway:

As a web analyst, it’s important to talk in a way that makes sense to people. Bonus points if you can do so without using the custom vocabulary that came with your web analytics tool.

It might seem simple to you but none of us understood those words when we first saw them – it took years of practice.

What about you? Do you have any phrases coined by a web analytics tool for which you did something similar? Please share your thoughts via comments below.

About the author

Jey Pandian Jey Pandian is currently the SEO Manager for Catalyst Search Marketing in their Manhattan office. Jey has been active in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since 2002. Follow him on Twitter or check out his LinkedIn profile to learn more about him.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Timothy Carter April 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Jey, great inaugural post. When I first started using Google Analytics, I had no idea how “bounce rate” worked. But calling it an “Engagement Rate” would make so much more sense.

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jeypandian April 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Thanks for your compliment and thoughts Tim, I think many of us were once in the same boat. I agree, engagement rate makes more sense and it is easier for people to understand versus ‘bounce rate.’

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Josh April 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

This is a great way to explain a term that makes most people say “huh?” and make them say “Oh!”. It all comes down to the experience the user has on that page. Is it good content? Does the page load quickly? Are there elements on the page distracting to the user? An underrated data point for sure. I would love to see some actual data you’ve collected to provide a visual. But that’s just me :)

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jeypandian April 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Absolutely. Making people say “Oh!” instead of “huh?” is a great way to think about it. As a web analyst or a data junkie, its vital to make people understand instead of getting a blank stare (definitely doesn’t help either side). I agree wholeheartedly with your point.

I’ll be sure to upload data graphics next time. :)

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Kate Morris April 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hey Jey,

This is an awesome idea for companies. I still think the bounce rate is a metric that is not applicable in all situations but for most businesses it most certainly is. Thinking about it in terms of engagement will allow all marketing channels and c-level executives to understand what the point is for this metric.

Nice post ;)
Kate

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jeypandian April 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Thanks for stopping by Kate and for your kind words. I agree its not applicable in all situations but thinking about it in terms of engagement does get the point across a lot easier.

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Doc Sheldon April 26, 2011 at 12:19 am

Great point, Jey. It’s certainly a more effective way to get non-technical types to understand the concept.
Keep ‘em comin’!

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jeypandian April 26, 2011 at 2:35 am

Thanks again for your comment Doc, it’s definitely all about getting the nontechnical types to understand (as these people are usually the decision makers!).

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Rebekah May April 26, 2011 at 6:29 am

I really love the way you think! This is an excellent example of how you need to change your vocabulary when speaking to clients. I’ve had issues explaining bounce rate too – and was also confused by it at first, especially when seeing other metrics like exit rate. Thank you for the example – I will now be using this where applicable.

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jeypandian April 26, 2011 at 6:38 am

Thanks for stopping by, RTing my article and for your compliments Rebekah, I appreciate it. I agree, this metric draws a lot of blank stares and seeing it with another metric like Exit rate doesn’t make life easier (they both look alike when we first see them).

I have to say though that Exit rate is an interesting metric – for some reason I see a mental picture of a bullet exiting a body or in our case, web traffic exiting a website . I’ve found that it’s smart to use familiar analogies, it makes it easier for people to understand the concept.

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Mukul Gupta April 26, 2011 at 8:09 am

Great post Jey and I love the idea about “engagement rate”. I have subscribed to your blog. Keep up the great work!

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jeypandian April 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

Thanks Mukul, I am honored. Thanks again for stopping by and subscribing.

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Mel Nelson April 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I love it when common sense and SEO come together!

Henceforth and forever I shall use”Engagement Rate” when talking to clients. First off engagement rate has positive connotations and Bounce Rate negative.

Keep up the good work!

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jeypandian April 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for your compliments and for stopping by Mel – amen about the positive connotation, thats a good way to put it. I was having difficulty describing why clients become defensive and you just hit the nail on the head. Spot on comments Mel.

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Arnie Kuenn April 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Jey – I have asked a lot of SEO’s and Analytic peeps this question and I get various responses…. if a user comes directly to a page on your site (blog post, video or otherwise), spends 5 minutes reading or viewing the content and then hits the back button or closes that tab, is that a bounce?

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jeypandian April 27, 2011 at 12:11 am

Hi Arnie, thanks for stopping by and commenting. To answer your question, it is classified as a bounce in Google Analytics because of how the data is captured. In my opinion, it should not be classified as a bounce because the content may, as you mentioned, very well fulfill the user’s needs.

This is a common bone of contention when dealing with clients. To help answer this question, I use more than one type of analytics.

1) ClickTales – Records individual users on a HTML site and let’s you play back a video of every single user on your site down to mouse movements and partial form field abandonment.

2) Woopra – Livechat feature + realtime visitor monitoring – you can set up signals – eg 5 minutes and no interactions then trigger the Livechat and query the customer directly.

3) KissMetrics – their one question surveys are a great way to get these questions answered because, if the visit was truly a bounce, most users will not hesitate to voice that concern.

What’s your take? Do you believe it should be classified as a bounce?

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Arnie April 27, 2011 at 2:34 am

We use ClickTales once in a while too. To answer your question, no I do not think that should count as a bounce, but I understand their logic… Ultimately you want the user to take action, but some times great content serves it’s purpose if it reinforces your brand and messaging.

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jeypandian April 27, 2011 at 6:01 am

I agree Arnie, thanks again for coming by.

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Stephen Boni April 28, 2011 at 1:10 am

I’m a creative director, not an SEO specialist. However, I constantly find myself in situations where I’m trying to communicate the value of SEO insight to internal partners and clients. I think your suggestion on terminology will come in handy, especially because even folks who believe themselves to be digital stalwarts are not dialed in yet to the depth of insights they could be taking advantage of.

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jeypandian April 28, 2011 at 1:26 am

Thanks for stopping by Stephen. I hope you had a wonderful birthday yesterday. Amen to your last statement, I agree.

I saw this post land in my inbox earlier today. It’s about how marketers continue to rely on click through rate (CTR) as a primary measure of campaign effectiveness. It may be of interest to you. :)

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Eren Mckay May 6, 2011 at 12:59 am

I loved the way you explained this Jey. It`s a much more positive way of putting things. Sometimes people get so involved in the technical side of things that they fail to communicate effectively to clients. Good job coming up with a solution.
All the best,
Eren

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jeypandian May 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Eren, I appreciate it.

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