Video Play with Event Eliminates Bounce for the Session

A visitor begins a session on your home page, plays a video, and leaves. Does Google Analytics count that session as a bounce?

If you have used the default YouTube embed, the session will still count as a bounce. This is because Google Analytics records a visitor interaction only when it generates a hit.

If you have instead attached a Google Analytics event to a YouTube Player API embed, a video play will eliminate a bounce, since it will send a hit to the Google Analytics servers.

The same is true for a PDF download that you’re tracking as a virtual pageview, a Tweet link that you’re tracking as a social interaction, or a tracked Ecommerce transaction – all types of hits avoid a bounce for the session.

As a note, you can define an event as non-interaction. For instance, if a video begins automatically after 15 seconds on a page, you could still capture the video play as an event but opt to set the non-interaction parameter to true so that the video play in itself would not eliminate the bounce. For most events that you capture, however, a default interaction event is suitable.

In any case, it’s important to record all significant user interactions as some form of hit so your bounce rate and your overall Google Analytics data more accurately reflect user engagement.

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Rather than a Single-Page Visit, Think of Bounce as a Single-Hit Session

Bounce Rateview at full size

Bounce is not defined by pageviews only.

While we may be tempted to define a bounce as a single-page visit, a much better definition is a single-hit session.

Let’s first examine hit. In Google Analytics, a hit corresponds to any data that is sent from your website (or app) to the Google Analytics servers, including:

• physical pageview (or screen view)

• virtual pageview

• event

• Ecommerce transaction

• tracked social interaction

If three users arrive on your home page and respectively play a video, download a PDF, and click through to your Twitter page, and you have those actions tracked as event, virtual pageview, and social, those sessions will not count as bounces, even if the users do not view any other physical pages.

As a note, hit in the context of Google Analytics doesn’t correspond to the broader meaning of hit in Web server parlance, which means any file request, such as HTML, image, JavaScript, or CSS. (As website optimizers, we want to remain aware of these types of hits as well – and minimize them to reduce download time for mobile sites – but this consideration is separate from Web analytics.)

Now, why session instead of visit?

If a user arrives on your site, views one page, speaks on the phone for 31 minutes, and then accesses another two pages, Google Analytics records two sessions for that same user, with the first session counting as a bounce. The visit consisted of three pageviews, but in the first session, there was only one pageview.

For these reasons, in defining bounce, hit is more accurate than page, and session is more accurate than visit.

It’s just one definition, but it encapsulates two important concepts in Google Analytics.

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“Adjusted” Blog Bounce Rate with Customized Tracking Code

In our previous post, we discussed the high bounce rate that, by default, you can expect to see for your blog. In today’s post, we review a way to customize the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) so the bounce rate for your blog – or for any primarily single-page website – represents user activity more accurately.

Because the GATC is written in JavaScript, we can incorporate native JavaScript functions, such as setTimeout, which calls another function after a specified delay.

Here is what’s happening with the customized GATC below:

  1. The GATC generates a regular pageview when the page loads.
  2. Using setTimeout and _trackEvent, we’re setting an event to execute 15 seconds after page load. (The “15000″ parameter represents milliseconds and equates to 15 seconds.)
  3. If the visitor stays on the page for 15 seconds, the event fires, and Google Analytics no longer considers this visit to be a bounce.


<script type="text/javascript">

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
setTimeout("_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'adjusted-bounce', 'read','15-seconds'])",15000);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

</script>

If possible, it would be slightly preferable to call setTimeout within the GATC on
the home page only, but there is not much harm if it’s included on every page of your blog, since the event is significant mostly for Bounce Rate calculations and not in itself.

Thanks to the official Google Analytics blog for introducing this technique for adjusted bounce rate. (Unless your own blog is very heavily trafficked, I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the caveat at the end of that blog post.)

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Expect a High Bounce Rate for Your Blog

High Bounce Rate for Blogview at full size

While alarming for most websites, a Bounce Rate of 63.45% would be fully acceptable for most blogs.

You spend hours meticulously composing every syllable of every post on your blog, so why is the Bounce Rate so high?

Actually, no matter how engaging your blog is, you can expect a high Bounce Rate for the very simple reason that Bounce Rate is defined as the percentage of the visitors who leave your site after viewing only a single page, and blogs in general are designed for consumption directly on the main page rather than navigation to internal pages.

Exceptions, of course, are blogs that display only the first part of each post on the main page. Since a full read of each post would require a clickthrough to another page, a high Bounce Rate would in fact be a negative indicator.

In an upcoming post, we’ll look at a more useful way to measure Bounce Rate on a typical all-in-one-page blog or a single-page site.

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Non-bounce Visits Advanced Segment Isolates Hidden Conversion Problems

Non-bounce Visitsview at full size

The Non-bounce Visits segment can help to isolate more subtle conversion problems.

Google Analytics recently included Non-bounce Visits in the pool of built-in Advanced Segments. This segment is useful, but in a somewhat subtle way.

Virtually every website experiences some level of bounce. No matter how carefully you have crafted your unique value proposition and positioned your call to action, there will always be a certain number of visitors who lie outside your target audience but still find their way to your site. This portion of visitors is more likely to bounce.

For this reason, it can be useful to evaluate metrics such as Conversion Rate specifically for the Non-bounce Visits segment. With this segment applied, you can track conversion patterns for traffic that was at least engaged enough to view a second page on your site. In this way, you may be able to uncover conversion issues that would be more obscured with the All Visits segment.

Keep in mind that discussions of Bounce Rate generally do not apply in the same way to blogs, since blog visitors can be fully engaged without ever leaving the home page.

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