What’s the difference between bounce rate and exit rate in Google Analytics?

Maria Drummond
Friday 2 September 2016

There are two metrics in Google Analytics that can cause some confusion: bounce rate and exit rate. Both are concerned with the action of a user leaving a site, so why are they two different things? This post outlines the differences of these metrics and highlights which one is the one for you.

Bounce rate

As described in my previous post on basic terminology in Google Analytics, bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (a session is a period of time a user is active on your site). Google’s technical description for bounce rate is: “for all sessions that start with the page, Bounce Rate is the percentage that were the only one of the session.”

For example, say a person clicks on a link to your homepage, looks at it, and then decides to do nothing else and leave your website. They’ve only visited one page in their session, and left. That would count as a ‘bounce’.

If your bounce rate is 65%, that means that 65% of people land on a page on your website and leave after only viewing that one page. Decreasing the percentage will improve your bounce rate, it can be improved by:

• ensuring content is up-to-date and relevant
• adding more links within the content
• defining a clear call to action.

Bounce rate
Just one of the ways you can measure bounce rate in Google Analytics

Exit rate

Similar to bounce rate, exit rate documents the page the user leaves the website on, but it also takes into consideration the other pages the user had visited during their session. Google clarifies exit rate as: “for all pageviews to the page, Exit Rate is the percentage that were the last in the session.” Bounce rate only takes into consideration users who begin a session and leave the website on the page that started the session.

For example, say a person wants to find a specific phone number on your website, so they click a link which takes them to your homepage. This would begin a session. Once on the homepage, they click on a link to ‘contact’ and move there. They have now viewed two pages. So they’re now on the contact page, and have found the phone number they’re looking for, so they make a note of it and exit the website. They exited the contact page after visiting a couple of more pages.

Exit rate is useful for tracking which pages cause the most drop-offs, but it can also indicate whether the right pages are causing people to leave the site.

Which do you need?

It depends on what you want to track. The key difference is whether you’re wanting to track the overall level of user engagement with webpages or you’re wanting to discover the webpages which are causing people to leave your site. Look at bounce rate for the former, and exit rate for the latter.

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