Solving the low bounce rate problem in Google Analytics

Digital Konsulent - Phillip Studinski
About me

I'm a self-employed digital consultant with more than 12 years of experience with web analysis, data strategy and website optimisation. Get in touch.

Have you ever observed pages on your website with a 0% or very low bounce rate? If so, then chances are that you have a faulty Analytics setup. Well, of course it’s possible to have a website or a landing page that is just so amazing, that all of your users interact and stay on your website! But, every time I’ve seen a close to zero percent bounce rate, it’s been caused by an error in the Google Analytics implementation. I’ll explain the most common of those in this post. So what should you do if you observe a landing page, frontpage or an entire website with a bounce rate that is simply too low? We’ll get into that, but first of all, it’s necessary to understand what a bounce is:

A bounce is defined as a single-page session - i.e. sessions in which a user enters your website at a page, and leaves again without interacting with that page or without visiting any other pages

…the operative keyword being ‘interacting’. An interaction - in Google Analytics - is not limited to pageviews, but can also be an event or a transaction or any type of hit that is send to Google Analytics. With that in mind, these are the most common causes for a too low bounce rate:

#1 Event tracking is fired automatically

This has to be the most common cause for 0% bounce rates. Basically, an event (using the Google Analytics event tracking feature) is sent to Google Analytics immediately after the pageview hit has been sent. Some sites will load the Google Analytics library, send a pageview, and then send an event. The stupidest weirdest funniest strangest use of this I’ve seen was an event that fired when the page finished loading. The event simply sent an event to Analytics with the information that the page had loaded. Well, there may be reasons where you want to send an event on page load. But as a rule of thumb: Never send default events to Analytics unless they are triggered by the user. If you need to send events that are not triggered by users (e.g. to measure page load manually, measure if certain elements have been loaded in the viewport etc.) then use the non-interaction setting for those events. Usually, you’ll send three parameters (category, action and label) - but with non-interaction events, you’ll be setting a fourth parameter indicating to Analytics that this specific event doesn’t count as an interaction. And in doing so, your bounce rate will remain unaffected!

#2 You’re using iframes!

Remember the definition of a bounce? A session is counted as a bounce if the user only views one page. So if you use iframes on your website and the documents in those iframes have the Analytics tracking code installed, then you’ve instantly created a non-bouncer. Example: User enters your frontpage and a pageview is sent to Analytics. The frontpage then starts loading an iframe. The document in that iframe also sends a pageview, and bam! Two pageviews within a single ‘interaction’. So this not only results in a 0% bounce rate, but also results in two pageviews being counted, which screws up your pageviews per session metric. So if you absolutely must use iframes, then please make sure that you won’t be counting double pageviews.

#3 You’re double loading Google Analytics

This actually happens for a lot of websites. Specially WordPress. If you for some reason happen to load Google Analytics twice on one page, then you’ll experience the same issue as with Reason #2. Users enter your site, and a pageview is sent to Analytics. But if you’re loading the Google Analytics Tracking Code an additional time, you’ll be sending an additional pageview hit as well, effectively creating an instant non-bouncer and an extra pageview. This often happens in self managed CMS installations like WordPress. I’ve seen installations where a custom theme has a hardcoded Analytics tracking code in the header file as done by the theme author/developer. But then a CMS user has installed a plugin or extension made for implementing Google Analytics as well. So if using a CMS and you experience a too low bounce rate, then make sure to check your HTML source code to see if Google Analytics is being loaded multiple times.

Low Bounce Rate Summary

All three causes for a low bounce rate are closely related. It all comes down to the number of hits or interactions being sent to Google Analytics upon loading a page in a browser. Remember that a bounce occurs whenever a session has only one interaction of the pageview type - and nothing else. A bounce can’t occur the moment a second interaction of either pageview or event type occurs within the same session. Google has developed an extension for the Chrome browser called Tag Assistant. This extension lets you record all the interactions that are sent to Google Analytics within a session (only on your own computer though :) and as such let’s you debug your installation pretty easily. Once you’ve fixed your low bounce rate, you can begin your analysis. Is it good to have a low bounce rate? Or high? Well, it depends - read the bounce rate guide for analyzing content to get started. Also, keep in mind that this problem is just one of many potential errors in your Google Analytics configuration. So make sure to go through the entire Google Analytics audit checklist. Because, what good is your data if you can’t trust it?

Digital Konsulent - Phillip Studinski
About me

I'm a self-employed digital consultant with more than 12 years of experience with web analysis, data strategy and website optimisation. Get in touch.

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