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Data and ROIWebsite design5 min read Misunderstood metrics: Is a high bounce rate bad?

Healthcare websites have a complicated relationship with average bounce rates. Discover why this metric isn't as straightforward as you may think it is.

May 21, 2021Jennifer Garza, Digital Content Analyst, GAIC

We get a lot of questions about average bounce rates. Is a high bounce rate bad? Can it ever be too low? As with most aspects of digital analysis, the answer is complex.

We'll walk you through the considerations you should take in to account when analyzing your website's average bounce rate. Plus, we'll tell you why a high bounce rate is good in certain scenarios.

What does bounce rate measure?

First, let's make sure we're on the same page about what a bounce is. A bounce is a single-page session on a website. That means a user opened a single page on your website and exited without triggering any other requests for the Google Analytics server to track.

To calculate the average bounce rate of your website, Google Analytics divides all of your single-page sessions by all site sessions. This gives the percentage of sessions where users viewed just a single page and then left. In short, it tells you how often people are bouncing off your site.

If you were to leave this blog post now, you'd likely be thinking that a high average bounce rate is bad because it means people aren't interacting with your site. Case closed.

But it's not that simple.

When a high bounce rate may not be a bad thing

Whether a high average bounce rate is good or bad depends on a variety of factors, including user goals, the type of content, the devices used to visit your site and your Google Analytics settings. You shouldn't view your website's average bounce rate independently of these other considerations.

To understand why, let's explore some common factors that affect average bounce rate:

  1. Some users have one-stop goals. Because you're a healthcare organization, users have a wide variety of reasons to be on your site. Sometimes they might be browsing multiple pages as they look for a new provider or research your birth center.

But others may just need easy access to a medical records request form or are looking for the latest COVID-19 vaccination information or a phone number for your nurse line. Instances like these often lead to a bounce, but that's not a bad thing.

When analyzing your average bounce rate, it's important to look at the type of content that's earning bounces before determining if this metric is concerning.

Pro tip: One indicator that we often find more valuable than the average bounce rate is the average time spent on the page. For example, you may be concerned over a high bounce rate for a service line page. But if you see that people are spending a significant amount of time on the page, it means they are potentially reading your content and leaving because they found the information they wanted without the need to explore further.

  1. Top-viewed pages can have high bounce rates. If crucial pages like your patient portal, online bill pay or careers portal are run by a third-party vendor and have a domain that differs from your main site, then clicking into those areas may result in a bounce. So a high bounce rate on those pages could just mean that the user actually followed the desired call to action (CTA) on the page, which is a good thing.

It's important to remember that an average bounce rate takes all of your site's pages in to account. So frequently trafficked pages with high bounce rates are going to skew your site's overall bounce rate.

Pro tip: Instead of puzzling over your average bounce rate, look at the bounce rate for individual pages. While some pages should have a high bounce rate, others shouldn't. In those cases, your high bounce rate could indicate a poor user experience or low user engagement. An example might be your provider directory landing page. A high bounce rate there could mean that users aren't taking the next step to search for a provider.

  1. Mobile users tend not to browse. Mobile and desktop users exhibit different web-browsing habits. Mobile users are more goal-oriented, whereas desktop users are more likely to click around and explore your site.

Pro tip: Remember to consider your number of mobile and desktop users alongside your average bounce rate. More mobile visits usually means a higher average bounce rate.

  1. Your Google Analytics filters matter. The filters you have set up in your Google Analytics account can impact your average bounce rate. For example, a hospital's public Wi-Fi can skew results if it automatically routes visitors to your website when they access the internet.

Not filtering out internal traffic or having your website set as the default browser homepage for employees can also lead to an inflated bounce rate.

Pro tip: Take a look at our previous blog post on hospital Wi-Fi for our best practices to improve your data.

Look at the full data picture

We're not saying that you should ignore your average bounce rate altogether. But don't use it as the sole indicator of your site's failure or success. There's a lot your Google Analytics account can tell you, and no single metric should ever be analyzed alone.

Measuring performance of pages with high bounce rates

So now that we know that a high bounce rate can be ok in some instances, how can you confirm that the page is performing? A great solution is to implement a heat map. This will allow you to view how users are actually interacting with your page for a specified period of time. By being able to see things like scroll depth and click location, we can start to see a full picture of what is happening on a page. A heat map can confirm that users are leaving a page because they are following a CTA (applying for a job), show us what type of content users are searching for (choosing a button to enroll in the patient portal versus logging in) as well as provide feedback about a poor user experience (rage clicks, not scrolling far enough to view a phone number) that all factor in to why users bounce.

Still have questions?

We can help. Coffey provides ongoing analysis for healthcare websites and social media platforms. Call 888.805.9101 or email us to learn how we can demystify your digital performance.