Google analytics: bounce rate, exit rate, and cookies


We recently shared our thoughts on Google Analytics in our webcast, Google Analytics: 0 to 90 in 40 Minutes, and received some relevant questions we’d like to explain in detail below.

When someone deletes their cookies, history, etc. how does that affect loyalty, visits, etc. data?

Google Analytics, like other analytics packages, uses cookies to track user visits to your website. When users delete cookies (or have plugins that block cookies), such an action affects data on a site’s new visitors vs. returning visitors. In this case, a returning visitor will actually be considered as a new visitor.

There are a few analytics packages that employ other tracking methods to circumvent this issue, but then their approach to accessing customer information is questionable. Such approaches are not in accordance with our Best Practices.

Fortunately, since cookies are used to remember passwords or other browser tasks, only a very small percentage of users are really religious about doing this.

What is a good bounce rate?

In our experience, anything below 30% is awesome. However, most sites seem to hover between 30 to 40%, so this is still a safe zone to be in. If this number is closer to 50% and above, then it does require some attention. A high bounce rate could mean multiple things:

  • Is the traffic source really sending you qualified traffic (good quality)?
  • One way to look at this data is to compare the bounce rate from a traffic source with your site’s average; if this is higher, then you know a traffic source is bad.
  • But if the bounce rate is high in general, then you need to look at your site’s user experience (from content and navigation perspective).

What is the meaning of the difference between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate?

Lets understand Bounce Rate and Exit Rate using a scenario. Lets assume 3 users, A, B and C.

User A

Visits the homepage (this is the first page the user is visiting), does not interact with the site, and just leaves the site.
In Google Analytics, this would get counted under Bounce Rate (user started the session on this page and left the site also on this page).
From an exit perspective, this would also be factored into the Exit Rate, as a user has exited the site from this page.

User B

Visits the homepage (this is the first page the user is visiting), clicks on a link which directs him/her to another page (P2).
Exits the site on this page without interacting with the page P2.
In this case, the page P2 is counted towards Exit.
There is no Bounce Rate recorded against page P2, since the visit did not start from this page (he/she started from the homepage).

User C

Visits the page P2 (this is the first page the user is visiting in this session)
Exits the site on page P2.
In Google Analytics, this would get counted under Bounce Rate for page P2 since the visit started from this page, P2.
From an Exit perspective, this would also get counted for page P2 as user has exited the site from this page.

What questions do you have regarding Google Analytics and web analytics in general? Let us know by typing in a comment below!

For more information about Google Analytics, check out our webcast on our YouTube Channel. You may also download our webcast slides here.


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