Should Your Paid Search Account Care About Bounce Rates?

Most companies measure paid search based upon revenue targets, ROI goals, and conversion rates.

Metrics such as bounce rates are generally left for the web design team to figure out, or the paid search term to obsess about without any clear strategy.

In this column, we will examine bounce rates and put them in the proper context of PPC optimization.

Defining The Bounce

When someone bounces from your website, they are considered a non-engaged visitor. Someone came to your site, didn’t find what they wanted, and before going to any other pages – they decided to leave. Bounces are often used in usability to try to increase user engagement; however, they can also be used in the world of paid search.

First, let’s define a bounce. In Google Analytics, a bounce is a one page visitor. If someone came to your site, spent twenty minutes on the page, and then left, they would be considered a bounce. Some analytics systems consider bounces as five second or thirty second visits. You should understand how your analytics system determines a bounce.

A bounce rate is just the percentage of bounces. For instance, if you have 100 visitors and 20 of them bounce from your site, your bounce rate is 20%.

What Is A Good Bounce Rate?

This is just as hard a question to answer as, ‘What is a good CTR?’ The reasons are very similar. The more specific the keyword intent,the lower the bounce rate, as the query will better match the page. The less specific the query, the higher the bounce rate. Of course, the layout of the website has a lot to do with bounce rates as well. Here are some overall numbers:

  • 20% or less is amazing
  • 20-30% is fantastic
  • 40-60% is fairly common
  • 60-70% is common for keywords that are a bit ambiguous (TV Sets, Laptop)
  • 70% or higher – something needs to be fixed

Of course, you need to temper that with your website’s goals and functionality. There are times 87% bounce rates can be good.

When Bounce Rates Don’t Matter

If you take a quick look at this screenshot, what do you think of the bounce rate?


Most people will consider 87% too high regardless of the site. While revenue is listed, since you don’t know the spend, you can’t tell if the revenue is good or not.

The revenue for this account was generated off of roughly $150,000 in spend. That spend amount makes the revenue look fantastic. It is rare to see such a high bounce rate and revenue numbers on the same screen. That’s why you need to examine the functionality of the site. For NDA reasons, I can’t show the actual landing page, but this is the buying process:

  • Paid search to landing page
  • On landing page, you can input your credit card
  • On landing page, you can:
    • Checkout
    • Review order
    • Navigate through other parts of the site

On this site, most users checkout from the landing page. Therefore, most two page visits are actually conversions. This site has both an 87% bounce rate and a 10% conversion rate.

In this case, bounce rates are not necessarily a prime metric.

Consider this example:

  • Searcher clicks on your ad and arrives at your website
  • Searcher calls you
  • Searcher spends twenty minutes on the phone with you
  • Searcher buys a product over the phone
  • Searcher leaves your site to check for their receipt in email

In this scenario, the searcher was a bounce according to many analytics systems. When phone calls are involved, someone can be a bounce and a new customer at the same time.

When Bounce Rates Matter

Many sites require a user to navigate through multiple pages before they can checkout. In that case, a bounce means a lost customer.

Some sites make money on page views (via selling ads), therefore, bounces are bad for revenue as page views per visitor along with RPV (revenue per visitor) are very important numbers.


When your analytics looks like the above image, it is easy to become complacent about bounce rates. Not too many sites have a campaign that brings in 229,197 visitors with only a 10% bounce rate (row 2 in previous image).

In cases where bounce rates matter, you should not just look at revenue, but also areas of opportunity. First, examine the areas where you have the highest revenue per visitor and buy more traffic on those keywords.

Secondly, you can sort analytics to find your areas of opportunity. Follow these simple steps:

  • Examine the metrics by both campaign and ad group (you can use keyword if you desire, but it will be a lot more data to sort through).
  • Sort bounce rates high to low.
  • What most will see is lots of ad groups with a very small percentage of visitors. Therefore, add another filtering.
  • Use the advanced filter to filter by a minimum number of visitors based upon your site’s traffic.


This now gives a starting place to examine areas where there is little visitor engagement. What often happens is that companies are buying traffic that is higher in the buying funnel than direct sales.

Therefore, you cannot necessarily apply typical ROI principles to these keywords. However, you do want to ensure the visitors are engage with your site for these keywords. Utilizing bounce rate reports can help you achieve these awareness goals.

Most Common Reasons for High Bounce Rates

When you see high bounce rates in paid search, it is usually due to one of a few reasons:

  • The keyword is very broad and has an ambiguous intent
  • The search query does not match the landing page
    • Commonly associated with poor account organization or use of broad matched keywords
  • The ad copy made an offer that isn’t on the landing page
  • The ad copy didn’t accurately reflect what would happen after the click
  • The site loads slowly, improperly, is ugly, or is hard to navigate
  • The analytics code is not installed properly
  • Consumers are taking action from a single page

When you see high bounce rates – do not blame the keyword first. Take a look at:

  • Keyword or placement
  • Actual search queries
  • Ad copy
  • Landing page

High bounce rates can occur when just one of those items does not compliment the others. You might be able to just change the offer in your ad copy and see your bounce rates decline if the ad copy was not properly describing the landing page.


Bounce rates may not be a primary metric for most paid search advertisers. Paid search is generally optimized from a revenue standpoint. However, there are only so many tweaks that can occur inside your PPC account before you must examine other metrics to continue improving your paid search profits.

Once you branch out from your account settings to examine your website and landing pages, then you significantly expand the number of metrics you can work with that will help you optimize your account.

One of the best places to learn more about your paid search account’s performance is by examining bounce rates. Find areas of your account where the visitors are not becoming engaged in your site and test variations of ad copy, keywords, and landing pages to try and lower the bounce rates.

Just remember, bounces rates don’t always matter. If your primary metric is a phone call, you might completely ignore bounce rates and instead focus on pages that don’t lead to calls.

When bounce rates do matter, then remember: when someone bounces off your website, you lose a potential sale.

Every time you turn a visitor from a bounce into an engaged user, you have a chance at increasing your profits.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • alanmitchell

    Hi Brad,

    You’re right that high bounce rates are not necessarily a bad thing, and can be a sign that the visitor has found exactly what they were looking for.

    For example, if the visitor made a product name search, such as ‘casio exilim x500′, and you took them to your casio exilim x500 page, the visitor can immediately see the price of the product, so bounce rate may be high.

    But if you took the visitor to a generic casio category page, bounce rate will no doubt be lower, as the visitor needs to click through multiple pages to find the casion exilim x500. You may have a lower bounce rate in the second scenario, but visitor experience is not necessarily any better.

  • Emma Coakes

    I also see a connection between bounce rate and very competitive keywords. It’s not so much competition being malevolent as certain words and phrases being regularly checked out by lots of people. So they might visit to see who is doing what and then leave fairly quickly, recording as a bounce.


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