The true definition of bounce rate? UPDATE 2024 Skip to content

The true definition of bounce rate, why it needs to be demystified?

Here is the true definition of bounce rate.

“A bounce rate is never good above 70%.”

This phrase could make a lot of money. If we had to earn €1 every time we heard it, we’d all be rich already 💸 On a more serious note, this article aims to debunk some myths (🤓) about bounce rate. The most recurrent myths:

  1. “A bounce is less than 3 seconds on your home page without taking any action,
  2. “A site should never have a bounce rate higher than 70% ,
  3. “Bounce rate has a direct impact on Google ranking (SEO).

The true definition of bounce rate

Let’s take the first myth.

“Bounce is less than 3 seconds on your home page without taking any action.”

Here we have the misconception of the bounce rate. Either from a marketing course, or from a colleague who’s convinced he’s learned his marketing course well.

[We are the first 👋]

The true definition of bounce is this (source: Google): “a bounce is a single-page session on a site, not triggering any queries. In other words, a visitor who takes no action on one page only, then leaves the website. The bounce rate is simply the percentage of all these single-session, non-action pages divided by the total number of sessions.

“But the myth is right, isn’t it? “ 🤔

If a visitor :

  • leaves a site in less than 3 seconds,
  • without having triggered any action,
  • like visiting another page of the site,

So yes, it will be a bounce! But on any page, and not ONLY on the “home page” 🙃


Then, what this definition avoids saying is that bounce sessions very often exceed 3 seconds.

For example:

  • when a visitor reads an article,
  • reads the whole of a well-stocked home page,
  • accesses a so-called “One-Page site, where the entire site is based on a single page.

The bounce rate must therefore be balanced against other website indicators, such as those provided by Google Analytics.

What is a good bounce rate?

Second myth.

A site should never have a bounce rate higher than 50%.

But you might ask, even after reading the correct definition of bounce “why is a bounce rate above 50% ok?”. It all depends on the objective you give your site 🎯

If you want multiple page views for every session on your site, then you’re not looking for a high bounce rate.

Examples: sites with several product pages, a home page with little information, etc.

If, on the other hand, you have :

  • a single-page site,
  • an extensive home page,
  • a blog
  • and therefore very few advanced actions

So a high bounce rate is normal ✅

Because in these cases, single-page sessions are ultimately the norm. The only thing you should worry about is the lack of action. If, indeed, your objective is to receive :

  • a completed form,
  • a call,
  • or a newsletter subscription.

So, the action of optimizing your page is on your side 🔃. To answer the question, there’s no such thing as a “good bounce rate”. It’s all a question of expected objective, website format and action to be taken if objective is not achieved.

-> You can also change the definition of your bounce rate on Google Tag Manager.

Does the bounce rate really affect a site's Google ranking?

Third and final myth.

Bounce rate has a direct impact on Google ranking (SEO).

Marketeer’s word, this last myth was hard to accept 🤪. What saves our beliefs, however, is that it has an indirect impact.

Why is this myth so problematic?

It makes people believe that in the calculation of Google’s (admittedly complex) algorithm, one of the variables is the bounce rate. But it isn’t.

Google has clearly indicated that this information is false. But since we’re marketers/entrepreneurs/students, we don’t believe it. The Google Analytics account itself says it on X (ex Twitter). Bounce rate is not “the pulse of a site’s health”. In other words, the bounce rate is not THE indicator of a website’s health 🏥. But other indicators are.

Définition du taux de rebond - Twitter Google Analytics

Also, a former Google head, Matt Cutts, previously Google’s Head of Webspam, often said that “a bounce is not necessarily negative, because it means the user has found the information they wanted.” He also often denied that bounce rate was part of the algorithm’s calculation. Instead, the rate of return to the SERP* (results page) is directly involved in the calculation. This means that the user has not been convinced by the information provided on the page.

Loading time also has a direct impact on your SEO. If you exceed 3 seconds per page on your site, the visitor will most likely leave the page. And Google will understand the only message it’s interested in: the site wasn’t useful to its user, so I’m not promoting it. But how does bounce rate indirectly impact Google rankings?

For a page where the objective is to get a minimum action, but where the bounce rate is high, the action is on the marketer’s side. Certain layout adjustments need to be made to encourage click-through. Many of these adjustments are linked to variables in the Google algorithm. By improving the site, the Marketer helps to improve Google’s position.

Read also:

SEO: 8 basics for a good Google ranking Optimizing your search engine optimization: which SEO tool should you use?

In a nutshell,

There’s no need to be afraid of the bounce rate. It’s not going to tell the Google algorithm “this site is a disaster, we need to rank it on page 50 of Google 😱 “. Instead, he’ll tell YOU what to do for one or more pages on your site. In particular, on their UX* and SEO optimization. In the end, think of the bounce rate as a messenger to warn you! The modern-day pigeon 🐦

The most important thing to distinguish from bounce rate analysis is :

  • if it is for a page intended to be read in a single session,
  • or a page that aims to bring in a prospect, or direct customer.

From there, you’ll know whether or not you really need to optimize your site, and where. See also:

How can you optimize your bounce rate?