Bounces vs Exits in Web Analytics

By | February 21, 2020


In web analytics, the bounce rate and
the exit rate of a page are commonly tracked by most tools but because both these
metrics involve tracking when users leave a site
from a certain page, how they differ from each other is a common question I
hear during our course on Analytics and User Experience. All bounces are exits but not every exit is a bounce. To understand why, let’s start by defining what
exactly constitutes a bounce. If you think about a
literal bounce of a ball, for example, one bounce of the ball is a single hit interaction
with something else. Like this table. In analytics, a bounce is counted when a user lands on a certain page of your site, only hits that single page and then leaves without doing anything else. This could be due to many things, both positive and negative. We can’t know for sure. All we know is that the user had only that single hit interaction of loading that one page. An exit, on the other hand, is counted whenever a page is the last page in a user’s visit. In our ball analogy, rather than only that single
hit interaction of a bounce, imagine instead that the ball landed and rolled around various
parts of the table for a while until it eventually dropped off. On a website, this would look like a
user landing on the site, navigating to a few other pages before then leaving the site. Whatever that last page was on the site will get counted as their exit page. So the exit rate tells you what percentage of users
left the site from a page, regardless of when during
their visit they got to it compared to those who
continued on to another page. While the bounce rate tells
you the percentage of users who both entered and exited
the site on that single page without viewing anything else compared to those users who
did click on to a second page. Remember exits are inevitable. All good things must come to an end. Certain pages like the
confirmation page after a process we’d expect to be an end
point for many users. So a high exit rate would be normal. But if the intent of the
page is to lead users deeper into a process and it
has a high exit or bounce rate, that could be a usability issue we’d want to investigate further. So, yes, all bounces are exits because it was the last
page in the user’s sessions but not all exits are bounces if that visit involved multiple
page views or interactions. The primary difference
between a bounce and an exit is whether that last page
was also the entrance point. If it was that single interaction bounce.

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