Bounce Rate is a poor performance metric for data-driven marketers.

Yes, I said it. Add bounce rate to the growing list (along with time spent on site, page views, etc.) of poor or deceptive performance metrics when measuring the level and quality of engagement of your web traffic.

Wikipedia defines bounce rate as occurring “when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs. There is no industry-standard minimum or maximum time by which a visitor must leave in order for a bounce to occur.” Bounce rate is expressed as a percentage of visitors who “bounced.”

Bounce rate is commonly regarded as an important metric in measuring the level of engagement of traffic to your web site. A low bounce rate means your visitors are very engaged and a high bounce rate means your visitors are not engaged, right?

Not so fast.

Bounce rate, as it is measured by major analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, Omniture SiteCatalyst, Webtrends and Coremetrics, are currently missing one important metric in this calculation: time. In the age of limited exit landing pages, blogs and social media, are single page view visits the most accurate way to measure visitor engagement? Probably not. After all, there is a tremendous difference between a visitor with one page view that stays on your site for two seconds and a visitor with one page view who stays on your site for 10 minutes.

One company, Clicky Web Analytics, has attempted to tackle this deficiency head-on by adding “pinging” to their tracking code. By continually pinging, they are able to determine how long a visitor stays on the website, even if they only have one page view.

Consider this example:

You’re reading this blog post that might have been shared on other social sharing sites like Digg or Reddit. You clickthrough and read the entire post and leave, as do 40% of all others who initially clicked (one page view). However, 10% of those who read this post also clicked through to read other posts. We now have a bounce rate of 90%. What a horrendous number! So 90% of visitors were not at all engaged? Wrong! In fact, at least 50% read the entire post.

The point that I’m trying to make is that it’s foolish to get caught up in any single success metric, even sales revenue. Singular focus on any given metric can give you tunnel vision that may cause you to miss something really important.

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