It has become a mantra that a good user experience signal is a low bounce rate and a high avg. time on page.
A user who is enjoying the site won’t be abandoning the page but spend quite a good amount on it. Ergo: low bounce, high time on site.
But…is this always the case?
In my opinion, this is not (always) the case. And I’ll explain why.
Pages are born different. Some pages are more important than others, and different page categories have different scopes. Blogs, videos, products, checkout, log in…they have designed with a different goal in mind.
Bounce Rate vs Avg. Time on Page – What’s their value telling us?
Let’s consider a homepage. Would we consider a homepage with high time on site successful? Probably not as its main purpose is to encourage visitors to browse and explore the site. Conversely, would we consider a blog page successful a low time on page? Most likely not, as a blog main purpose is to drive users to consume the content (from texts to images and videos).
So, how do we measure bounce rate and average time on page to establish successful marketing? We measure those metrics based on the page main purpose. We expect pages that are more like gate-keepers -such as the homepage, the category page, the login page – to have a low bounce rate, but also a low average time.
Blog and informative pages
Blog and informational pages – including videos and even product pages- are expected to have a high bounce rate but also a high avg. time on page. Users might read the blog, get the information they are after and then leave. However, I would also expect these pages to have a high percentage of returning users and work well as landing pages.
Product pages are a bit tricker. Before making a purchase, a user might need to come back to the product several times before committing. In an initial discovery phase, users might come back several times. In this case, I would expect a high bounce rate and a low avg. time on page. During the decision process, users might spend more time on the product page, looking for more details regarding the product.
In this instance, I would expect a high bounce rate but also a high avg. time on site. However, users might decide to explore more pages in case the product is linked to additional resources (i.e. a tutorial). In this scenario, the bounce rate will be low.
Finally, at the purchasing phase, users will spend little time on the product page and go directly to the check-out page. In this instance, I would expect both metrics to be low.
But how do we define High & Low?
Now, the real trick is to establish what constitutes a high and low value. The easiest solution would be to look at benchmarking in Google analytics.
Both bounce rate and avg. time on page values is an indication of marketing success depending on the page main purpose. If in doubt, we expect a high bounce rate and:
- Low time on page for new users or occasional visitors
- High time on page for returning users and for informational pages
Or, a low bounce rate and:
- Low time on page for customers and for gatekeeping pages such as the homepage and the category page
- High time on site for loyal customers
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