Your Bounce Rate is Probably Wrong – For Bloggers Anyway

I use Google Analytics, which I’ve talked a bit about a long time not too long ago. During that time period, I wanted to know if people were actually reading this blog. Well, about 76% of you will if the page shows up in under one second. If it takes longer than that, only 56% of you will. But to discover this, I learned that my bounce rate was wrong, and by extension, your bounce rate is probably wrong too…

First, let’s look at what Google considers a bounce: a session with no engagement hits. An engagement hit is something that the user did that means they’re engaged with you site. By default this is clicking a link to another page on your site.

This is great for some sites that lead users, like e-commerce and applications. This doesn’t really make sense for a blog. After all, it’s likely that you came here to read this post, not click around and read more blog posts — though, it’s really cool if you’re one of the 1-2% of people who do! If someone comes and reads a post, then, goes back to what they were doing: they engaged with my site — however briefly — and then left.

I’m ok with that, because there’s a 22% chance they’ll be back.

So, I would consider reading this blog an engagement. Now, I can’t turn on your webcam and track your eyeballs; turn on your microphone and see if you read it out loud; give you a quiz; or stand over your shoulder and see if you actually read this. Instead, I decided to wait about 5 seconds.

In some hallway testing, I discovered that number was a good benchmark for your brain to decide if you were going to continue reading or not. Your mileage may vary, experiment and find your number.

I did face a little moral dilemma on waiting 5 seconds or 7 seconds, and instead went with 5 seconds — only if this page has focus in your browser. This is using the old analytics code, but here’s the example:

	window.readCount = 0;
	setInterval(function() {
		if (document.hasFocus()) {
			_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'article', 'reading', 'in-progress', window.readCount++]);
		}
	}, 5000);

Pretty simple actually. What that code does, is, every five seconds, if this blog is in focus: fires an event to Google that you’re reading the blog. Now, it could get fancier. I could instead only fire the event if you’re scrolling down.

What this also does, is count as an engagement action to Google Analytics. This means that if you start reading this blog, I won’t count you as a bounce. However, There’s another metric to decide if you actually read the post or not. I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

The point is, if you have a blog, your bounce rate is counting everyone who reads a single post and leaves as a bounce. Even if they take 20 minutes to read it! When I first turned this on, I found people were following my how-to posts and spending 15-20 minutes! Before, there was a massive bounce rate…

I recommend doing this on your own blog, especially if you want to know how long people are taking to read your posts!

Cheers!