Should Bounce Rate Still Be a Marketing KPI?

Posted on October 1, 2021 by Nick Ilev

If you’re a B2B company, should bounce rates be considered one of your marketing KPIs? The simple answer is no, it should not be. 

But before we explain why, let’s first consider what bounces and sessions mean to one another. 

Bounces vs. Sessions

Website bounces occur when a user leaves your site after visiting one page or simply has only one interaction, whereas a session constitutes a series of multiple interactions on your site. An example of a session could include a web page view, filling out a web form or buying a product. Sessions expire after 30 minutes of inactivity by default. However, it is possible to have two sessions with only one page view. If your bounce rate is 70 percent, that means you had 100 sessions in a day and 70 bounces. 

The problem with emphasizing bounce rates in your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) lies in the fact that there is no universal set of KPIs for all types of businesses. There are business-to-consumer models and then there are business-to-business models. The right KPIs are predicated on information and data and if those are askew with the wrong business model, well then, you have a problem.

Now, if you’re an ecommerce site or a content website that generates revenue through ad sales, then yes, you should absolutely care about bounce rates — the more time on site, the more pages per visit, the better! That’s fair. 

But if you’re a B2B company, let’s break down why bounce rate shouldn’t matter to you.

Why Bounce Rates are Not as Important as You Thought

First of all, you can’t make strong, informed decisions about your marketing based on bounce rate, except in rare circumstances. 

Does that mean bounced sessions are universally negative? Here are three scenarios that illustrate that they are not:

  1. A person may want to know “what does this thing cost?” lands on your pricing page, learns what they need to know and leaves. 
  2. Someone is looking for the date of your webinar, clicks on the webinar landing page, finds the date and leaves. 
  3. Someone lands on one of your webpages, watches a 30-minute video then leaves having learned what they wanted to know.

These visitors would feel perfectly satisfied with their visit, but your metrics would say it’s bad. 

Do you want to change how your website works to make it harder for those people to find what they want in a single page? Of course not! So why should you think of those kinds of visits as bad?

Of course, we can’t reliably know why people bounced — maybe they bounced because your site didn’t provide the content for which they were looking. That’s certainly a failed visit. 

However, can you tell that just from looking at the bounce rate? Probably not. If you can’t tell what bounces are fine and what bounces are bad, how do you decide what needs to change?

Secondly, if we can agree that not every metric can be a key indicator of performance, take some time and think about what metrics really help you make decisions that improve your marketing. 

KPIs that Matter

The following are all metrics that can help you make decisions about what marketing is working and what marketing isn’t moving the needle:

  • Traffic by channel
  • Conversions by channel
  • Cost per conversion
  • Conversion rate by channel
  • Conversion rate by landing page
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
  • Lead quality
  • Revenue contributed

This doesn’t mean that bounce rate can’t tell you anything. If 100% of visitors to a paid landing page bounce, that tells you that it isn’t working. Of course, you would have also known that from its 0% conversion rate, but that bounce rate is still informative. If your sitewide bounce rate is 74%, but an outlier page is 28%, then that might be worth digging into further. 

Avoiding an Incomplete Picture

What this scenario reveals is that bounce rate isn’t the most important thing, the outliers are. If your sitewide bounce rate is within the industry average (50-70%), don’t worry about small shifts within that range. Your KPIs should be the metrics that help you make useful, informed decisions about how your marketing can improve. Your focus should be on those. 

The takeaway here is that bounce rates don’t tell the whole story. B2B marketing encompasses a different approach than B2C, therefore KPIs will also be different. For B2B, it’s not all about visitors bouncing. It’s about leads converting. 

At GMG, we take a pragmatic, informed approach to developing custom-tailored B2B marketing plans for our clients. We understand that one size certainly does not fit all. 

Contact us today to discover how GMG can move the needle for your company by taking the right approach with a qualified marketing communications strategy and proven tactics in advertising campaign planning.

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