(As published in the Sunday Star Times, May 10,2015: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/68319798/counter-your-bounce-rate)

How about a bit of audience participation to explain how the “bounce rate” works in Google Analytics? Imagine you’ve printed off the pages of your website (your home page, About Us, Contact Us etc) and laid them out on the floor in front of you. Now sit back, look skyward and imagine your website visitors falling onto these pages.

For most websites, you’ll find people stacking up on your home page – their first port of call. Those with a highly optimised website will see people falling on a more even spread of pages. (If no one falls from the sky at all, your website is a write-off – start again.)

The pages these visitors are landing on are what Google Analytics terms – guess what – your “landing pages”.

If your home page does its job well, you should see your visitors stand up and jump from this page to another. And another. And another, as they move around your site. If they stand up and walk away from the scene, never to be seen again, your home page has problems. Those people who fall onto your home page and then walk away forever is what Google Analytics calls the “home page bounce rate”. GA shows this in a percentage form.

It’s vital to track the home page bounce rate because the home page so important to the performance of your website as a whole.

The main role of your home page is to welcome and help your visitors find what they are looking for. It’s kind of like a salesperson in a shop, meeting and greeting new customers and letting them know where things are.

A bad home page is like having a nose-picking, talking-to-their-friend-on-the-phone, swearing like a sailor salesperson – a terrible first impression that will make any new customer swiftly exit the store, never to return.

With the home page bounce rate stat, the lower, the better. Our best clients have home page bounce rates below ten percent, while others struggle with 50 per cent or higher.

Your website’s “bounce rate” is the percentage of people who leave after only viewing one page ie the page they landed on. A target value here is between 20-40 per cent.

Some visitors will fall onto one page, stand up and walk around a few other pages before they walk away. The page that they stand on before they walk away is called the “exit page”. If you look at your Google Analytics and see your Contact Us page has a very high Exit Rate, don’t worry about it: your visitor has probably found your phone details, email address or shop address before they’ve left your website.

Have a look at your Google Analytics for the month. What’s your home page bounce rate like? How does it fare when compared to your site’s average bounce rate? Too high? Focus on improving it – perhaps move some content around, add to what’s there to entice people to move deeper into your site or even look at a redesign so that it is attractive as well as easy to understand and navigate.