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A Reminder About Google Analytics, Triggering Events, and a Little Thing Called “Bounce Rate”

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I’m finding myself in a strange halfway zone with Google Analytics these days.

On the one hand, it’s no longer just a stock install tracking pageviews. On the other, I’m not advanced enough to be using anywhere near the full feature set within the platform.

So being, I’m learning a few valuable lessons about how GA defines certain things and, more specifically, how a guy in my position can unwittingly impact those metrics.

Bounce rate is one of those.

Bounce Rate: A Definition
The definition you see at the top of the results of a Google search for “bounce rate” is this:

“The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”

That’s a pretty common definition, right? The problem is, Google Analytics would beg to differ.

In their eyes, a bounce is defined (according to Yehoshua Coren) as:

“A bounce in Google Analytics is NOT a visit with a single pageview. A bounce is a visit with a single engagement hit.”

It sounds simple, but when you consider these hits include things like EVENTS, it gets tricky. Let me show you a simple example.

Before and After
Here’s a chart showing the bounce rate on a page I was tracking a month or so ago compared to the same week from the previous month:


Pretty impressive, huh? I was above 80% one week and closer to 30% the following month. So what happened? One thing: I started to get more specific with my tracking by, you guessed it, triggering an event as soon as someone started scrolling on the page.

Because about 70% of those visitors scrolled and because I used an event to record that and because an event is a “hit” and because now these visitors had two hits (pageview + event), they were no longer counted as “bounced”.

Double Check: Pages / Session
We can double check this by looking at “pages / session” for the same period.

If my bounce rate had indeed dropped so significantly (aka, many times more people were viewing more than one page), my pages / session should have skyrocketed.


Instead, it was nearly identical to what it was before.

Kinda Tricky
This is a little tricky because, as you’re starting to see, you can actually manipulate bounce rate.

But instead of using this lesson to trick your boss, just keep it in mind as you implement a new site design that may or may not have as many event triggers built into the code as the previous version.

Bounce rate, in that context, is rarely going to tell the right story.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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