Data Quality

Solving the low bounce rate problem in Google Analytics

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?

 

13 thoughts on “Solving the low bounce rate problem in Google Analytics

  1. Hey, thanks for this. I am definitly having this problem and this was really easy to understand. I think I know what my problem is now. I own a Blog at http://www.Blogbright.org. It’s about Blogger’s education and personal finance and Analytics are important. I want to get mine right so I know just what’s going on. My bounce rate is almost zero and I know something’s up. Thanks again.

  2. Hi my bounce rate is 6.53% now that seems petty low ? Do you think it has anything to do with putting my universal tracking snippet code in the header an footer code ? Im with zoho website builder and in the setting you have Google tools & bing webmaster tools which you put in the GA tracking ID for Google etc. But I have also gone in to the header an put the universal tracking snippet code, but I don’t know if I should remove it or just leave it there ? I thought the site would be ok with just the GA tracking ID but someone told me I had to have the universal code as well, so I’m confused as what to do next and why my bounce rate is so low.

    My website http://www.fatburnfinder.com

    1. Hi Scott,

      If you’ve put your tracking snippet in the header AND footer code, then yes. That will definitely result in a low bounce rate, and you will double count pageviews too.

      If you’re inserting the tracking ID into your settings field for Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console, that won’t work. That’s not related to Analytics at all.

      So, first make sure that you only have the tracking code once. Either in the header or in the footer (header will be more precise).

  3. Sure enough, it was step 3. But, the second load came from a plugin. Just as a heads up, if anyone can’t find where they manually inserted the code a second time, look through your stats/seo/analytics plugins.

  4. Wow, great article! Too bad it’s way over my head!

    I’ve been struggling with a bounce rate that has dropped over the past two years. It was about 25% and now it’s dropped to 6%. I am fortunate that folks spend lots of time on my site but my traffic has TANKED the past two months and I don’t know why.

    I’m trying to make my site (https://www.FourSeasonsLodge.com) as perfect as possible to increase traffic.

    Thanks in advance for any insight…
    Teena from beautiful NH!

    1. Hi Teena,

      Thanks for the feedback. You definitely have a bounce rate problem on your website and it’s related to problem #3.

      You are in fact loading Google Analytics twice. I can’t tell you exactly how you’re managing to do it, but a common issue is that you’re loading Google Analytics via a setting AND a plugin in your CMS, or via a setting/plugin AND by hardcoding the GA tracking code into your website theme.

      Looking at the source code of your frontpage, you’re loading GA on line 1627+1628 as well as on line 1817+1818.
      One of those code blocks should be removed.

      1. Thanks so much for responding to my question Phillip!!

        I have the GA code in my header four times because when I switched to https in March, the instructions told me to add code for https://www, https://fourseasonslodge, http://www, and http://fourseasonslodge.com

        I don’t pay that much attention to the bounce rate but hope it’s not causing a problem anywhere else by having four times!

        The thing I’m really unhappy about is that my index status on GSC dropped from 154 to 42 when I added https. YIKES!!! I am clueless how to fix that.

        Happy Wednesday,
        Teena

        1. I think you’re confusing Google Analytics and Google Search Console. The four identical codes you have placed on your site are for Search Console – you only need one. This code verifies your ownership of your website and in turn allows you to access Search Console to see impressions, clicks and so on for natural searches on Google. The number of indexed pages will usually be lower when setting up a https site until Google has re-indexed all your pages. You can speed up that process somewhat by implementing 301 redirects from all http pages to their https counterparts. But this may affect your rankings negatively if you have a lot of high quality referring links to your http pages.

          Google Analytics is where you measure traffic, organic included and where you count pageviews, users, sessions – and bounce rate. GA works by having the Google Analytics Tracking Code on your website. You have two identical tracking codes, which explains your very low bounce rate. Having the code twice also double counts all your pageviews, it makes your Exit Pages report pretty much unusable, and it also affects your Time on Page and Session Duration metrics. They become inflated and provide an incorrect picture.

          Summing up, your meta tags from Search Console should only be there once. And your GA Tracking Code should also only be there once.

          PS: Your place looks awesome – I have to go there sometime! :)

          1. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple GA instances in a page. The problem arises if multiple hits are sent to the *same* GA property on page load.

  5. Hi Phillip,

    I’ve noticed our bounce rate has reduced from an average of 50% to 033%. I know there is definitely something wrong but can’t figure out what it could be. I noticed this change since I added the coding in the CMS for google tag manager. Do you think it could be related to this?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Rakhee,

      Yes, that is often an issue. Let’s say you a website with a working Google Analytics configuration where GA has been added to the website by hardcoding the tracking code into the theme/template of the website. If you then add GTM and setup GA inside GTM while still having the hardcoded tracking code, then you will be double counting your pages and will get a low bounce rate.

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