Making sense of bounce rate: Tracking outbound links

One of the possible dangers of using the bounce rate data from google analytics is when you are looking at a page where the links being clicked are sending people away from your site. GA shows you a bounce, but the user is actually clicking on one of the links you thoughtfully left for them.

In our higher education world of decentralised websites this is often the case. For example, a page on a university’s main website, which gives links to all its faculties will often be sending visitors away from the site and could therefore be shown as a bounce in Google Analytics. Thus, GA is telling us the bounce rate is appalling but is the problem the content or the data itself? I’ve started addressing this by adding the handy piece of javascript which the good people of Google have thoughtfully provided. Here’s the bounce rate of our ‘Find Faculties’ page, before I added the javascript.


Holy Crap! – What the graph is telling us is that on some days the bounce rate was 100% – time to get my coat, I think. The average for this time period is around 50%…which sucks.

Here’s the bounce rate for the ‘Find Faculties’ page, with the data included for the period when I added the tracking code. Note the much shorter peaks on the far right of the graph.


Nice  – now we can see that the bounce rate has dropped (or rather, we’re visualising it properly) to something we can live in.  The average for the period where we installed the script is a more agreeable 10%.

And to get even more data from that page we can see the individual links now appearing as ‘pages’ in the content report. And my top tip here is set up the tag in the link so it’s something sensible to read in your reports and is different for each link.