Tracking your website data with Google Analytics is a must. But, it will do you no good if you don’t understand the metrics. Knowing where people leave your site is a good place to start. So, let’s discuss bounce rate vs exit rate.

Google defines bounce rate as:

The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page.

Bounces are sessions where a user visits your website and then leaves. They don’t interact or continue. Instead they close the window, type a new URL in the browser address bar, or click the back button.

Google defines exit rate (% exit) as:

The (number of exits) / (number of pageviews) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s).

They are Calculated Based on Different Sessions

For any given page, the bounce rate will be calculated based on sessions that entered on that page. But, the exit rate will be calculated based on all sessions that viewed the page.

Bounce Rate won’t be Calculated if Multiple Pages are Viewed

Bounce rate is calculated when the page the user views is the only page in the session. Exit rate is calculated any time a user exits which could be after 1 page or 10 pages.

All Bounces are Exits

Bounce rate indicates a user visited one page of the site, then left. Not all users will bounce. But, all users will eventually exit.

bounce rate vs exit rate

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Do Not Affect Each Other

These metrics may seem similar when you first hear about them but they are not related to each other. A page with a high % exit could have a low bounce rate.

It’s very possible that a page at the end of your funnel could have a high % exit because people aren’t ready to commit. But, it’s unlikely many users would enter the site that far in the funnel so that page would have a lower bounce rate.

Is Bounce Rate or Exit Rate More Important?

Both of these metrics are important. They work together to give you a better picture of where you are losing people on your website.

Depending on the page and the question you are trying to answer one can be more important to you at the time. But, it’s contextual. It’s not beneficial to try and rank them in general.

How Do They Impact SEO?

Bounce rate can have a negative impact on search engine rankings. Exit rate has no impact, positive or negative.

When a user visits your website from a search engine result, then goes right back to the search and clicks on another listing this is called pogo-sticking. This is what causes bounce rate to have a negative impact on your SEO.

pogo-sticking

If a user views your website then leaves right away to view another result that means your website wasn’t a good fit for the query. If this happens enough times, Google will adjust the results so the pages that users are spending more time on are increasing in rank.

How to View the Metrics in Google Analytics

Viewing Bounce Rate

To view the overall bounce rate for your site go to Audience > Overview. You’ll see several metrics listed on that page. Towards the bottom you’ll see the bounce rate metric.

You can also view the bounce rates of individual pages.

To view the bounce rate by page go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. You will see there is a bounce rate column on that chart so you can see the overall bounce rate at the top and then view the metric by page.

Viewing Exit Rate (% Exit)

To view the exit rate navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. The column that says % Exit will show you the exit rate by page.

How Can You Improve These Metrics?

So, now you know what the bounce rates and exit rates are. You’ve reviewed the data for your pages in Google Analytics. But, how can you improve these metrics?

How to Reduce Exit Rate

Add Internal Links

Add text links in your articles that link to other pages on your website. This encourages readers to stay on the site by viewing more relevant articles.

Have External Links Open in New Tab

Don’t confuse users by sending them to a different website. There’s nothing wrong with adding external links but have them open in a new tab. That way, when they close the new website they don’t mistakenly close your website as well.

To make a link open in a new tab add target="_blank" in the anchor tag. Here is an example:

<a href="https://example.com" target="_blank">new tab example</a>

How to Reduce Bounce Rate

Follow the Tips to Reduce Exit Rate

Adding internal links and making external links open in a new tab will help reduce bounce rate as well as exit rates.

Optimize for Mobile

Make sure your website is optimized for the device your audience wants to view it on. This means, make sure your website is mobile friendly.

The menu system should be usable on a mobile device and buttons should be large enough to click with a finger.

Also, make sure your call-to-action is obvious both on a mobile screen and desktop screen.

Improve Pagespeed

No one wants to wait for your website to load. A slow website is a great way to get a user to bounce and go back to the search results to find a faster website.

You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to get an idea of what you can do to improve your pagespeed.

Remove Intrusive Ads and Audio

Do you have pop-up ads or videos that automatically start playing when a user visits your website? Try removing them. Run a split test to see how it impacts your bounce rate.

Popping up an ad immediately when a user lands on your website is a good way to get a user to bounce. Instead, try popping the ad up after the user has been on the page for a certain length of time or when they go to exit the page.

If you have a video play automatically make sure the sound doesn’t start. This can be a jarring experience. Since the user isn’t expecting it, their instinct is to press the back button.

Add an Event if Your Website Benefits from a Bounce

There are some instances where a bounce is a good thing.

Some pages intentionally include no internal links so the user is more likely to fill out a lead gen form. The goal of the site is for the user to visit that page and that page only, and fill out the form.

In that case, you’ll want to add an event so you are capturing the form submit. You can indicate that the event should count as an interaction so users that take that action won’t be counted in the bounce rate metric.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

Bounce rates vary greatly by industry and your targeted audience. The best way to determine if your bounce rate is good is to compare it to your historical bounce rate.

You can compare date ranges in Google Analytics. I’d recommend comparing it to the previous year to rule out any seasonality trends.

If your bounce rate is lower than it was last year, that’s good.

If you want to get an idea of average bounce rates by industry you can review the chart below:

bounce rates by industry

Do you have any tips to improve bounce rate or exit rates? Please share them in the comments!

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What is an event?

Before we start talking about tracking events in Google Analytics, let’s take a step back and first discuss what an event is.

An event is a custom tag that can be added to elements on your website to track user behavior details in Google Analytics. Some of the behaviors you can track with an event are:

  • Downloading a PDF
  • Playing a video
  • Clicking an outbound link
  • Submitting a form
  • Clicking a social share button
  • Clicking a click-to-call phone number

Adding events allows you to get a clear picture of the interactions that matter most to you.

Events are used to track custom behaviors on your website. To track custom acquisition sources look into UTM tags.

Step 1: Make sure you have Google Analytics set up

The first step to implement Google Analytics events, is to configure Google Analytics on your website. Once you’ve done that you’ll be ready to tackle the events.

Step 2: Configure Events

Before we dig into the technical details on how to configure an event, let’s first discuss the components of an event. An event can include a category, action, label, and value.

  • Category
    • The category is the parent group you would like to classify the event in. Some examples of common categories would be Videos, Outbound Links, and Downloads.
  • Action
    • The action is the type of interaction the user took to trigger the event. Some examples of common actions would be click and play.
  • Label
    • The label is the specific identifier for the event. This is an optional field but I would recommend using it whenever possible. This field will help identify the unique campaign used to trigger the event. An example of a label would be Spring 2019 Email Newsletter.
  • Value
    • The value is the numeric value associated with the event. This is another optional field. This doesn’t always apply but is worth using when you are able to associate a number value with the event.
  • Non-Interaction (True or False)
    • You can choose whether you want an event to affect bounce rate. By default, this value is false meaning that the event does count as an interaction and will affect bounce rate metrics.

You can configure your events either by using Google Tag Manager, or setting them up manually. I would recommend using the same method you used to configure Google Analytics.

To Configure Events with Google Tag Manager

Confirm the variables you need are enabled

Click Variables and then under Built-In Variables click Configure. Ensure that Event is clicked under the Utilities menu. Then, click the variables you’d like to track.

The variables you want to enable will vary depending on what you want to track. Try to enable only what you need.

Here are some of the most common variables you’d want to use:

  • Clicks
    • Click Classes
      • This will allow you to track click events based on the CSS class. (We’ll go over how to identify a class later in the article.) This is useful to track elements where a group of items you want to track all include the same class such as downloading PDF resources.
    • Click ID
      • This will allow you to track click events based on the CSS ID. (We’ll go over how to identify an ID later in the article.) This is useful to track unique elements such as clicking a social share button or click-to-call link.
    • Click URL
      • This will allow you to track events based on the URL. This can be helpful to track outbound links.
  • Forms
    • Form Classes
      • This will allow you to track forms based on the CSS class.
    • Form ID
      • This will allow you to track forms based on the CSS ID.
  • Scroll
    • If you want to track scroll depth as an event enable all of the scroll variables. Scroll depth will allow you to track how far a user scrolls up or down the page either based on pixels or a percentage.
  • Videos
    • If you want to track videos you’ll want to enable all of these variables.

Create a new tag

  1. Go to Tags and click New.
  2. Click in the Tag Configuration box to edit.
  3. Select Google Analytics – Universal Analytics.
  4. Under Track Type select Event.
  5. Then you enter in your category, action, label, and value. For each of these you can either enter in a static value or you can click the icon on the right of the field to enter in a variable.
  6. Choose if you want Non-Interaction Hit to be True or False. If it is false then the event will affect your bounce rate. If it is true than the event will not count as an interaction and therefore will not have an effect on your bounce rate. Leaving this at false is most common.
  7. Under Google Analytics Settings select your Google Analytics tracking variable.
  8. Next, click in the Triggering box to edit. This is where you’ll identify how to target the element you want to target as your event.
  9. If you’ve already created your trigger select it from the list. Otherwise, click the ‘+’ icon in the top right to create a new trigger.
    1. When creating a new trigger, click in the Trigger Configuration box to edit.
    2. Select how you want to trigger your event. You will most likely want to use a trigger under Click or User Engagement.
      1. To track a click event select Click – All Elements.
      2. Then select Some Clicks under This trigger fires on.
      3. Then choose the variable you want to use to identify your target such as Click Classes or Click ID.
      4. Save and name your trigger.
  10. Save and name your tag.

Not sure how to find a CSS class or ID on your website to use in the trigger?

You can find this information out by viewing your website in the chrome browser.

  1. Navigate to the element you want to track on your website in the Google Chrome browser.
  2. Right click on the element and click Inspect.
  3. This jumps you to the part of the website code that controls that particular element. Look at the highlighted code. If the element has a class you will see class="ClassName". If it has an ID you will see id="IDname". The name in quotes is what you’ll use for your trigger (ClassName or IDname in this example).

Publish your new tag

Now all you have to do is publish your changes to your website.

  1. Click the Submit button in the top right.
  2. Name your version and add a short description if you’d like.
  3. Then, click Publish to set your changes live.

Manually Setting up Google Analytics Events

Adding an onclick event

If you want to add a Google Analytics event directly to a hyperlink anchor tag you’ll want to add it as an onclick event. A hyperlink anchor tag looks like this: <a href="link">link here</a>.

To add a Google Analytics event to the link you can add an onclick event.

If this was your original link:

<a href="link">link here</a>

This is what it would look like with the onclick event:

<a href="link" onclick="eventDetailsHere">link here</a>

To know how to add the event details to your onclick event you’ll need to know if you’re using Google Analytics Classic, Universal, or the gtag.js tracking code. The code varies slightly for each.

For Google Analytics Classic (ga.js) tracking code:

<a href="link" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'category_here', 'action_here', 'optional_value_here'])">link text here</a>

For Google Analytics Universal tracking code:

<a href="link" onclick="ga('send', 'event', 'category_here', 'action_here', 'optional_value_here');">link text here</a>

For Google Analytics gtag.js tracking code:

<a href="link" onclick="gtag('event', 'action_here', { 'event_category' : 'category_here', 'event_label' : 'optional_value_here'});">link text here</a>

How do I know which version of the Google Analytics tracking code is on my website?

To find out which version of Google Analytics tracking you’re using:

  1. Go to your website.
  2. Right click and select View page source.
  3. Press ctrl (cmd) + F to open the find menu.
  4. Search for the various tags.
    1. Search for ga.js. If you find a reference to this you are using the Classic tracking.
    2. Search for analytics.js. If you find a reference to this you are using Universal tracking.
    3. Search for gtag.js. If you find a reference to this you are using the gtag.js tracking code.

How to add a manual event when you can’t edit the hyperlink

If you can’t edit the link to add an onclick event, you can target the link using jQuery. jQuery is a javascript library designed to simplify implementation.

Using jQuery, you can add an event listener to add a Google Analytics event. This is more complicated but it works great when you can’t directly edit the link.

Unless you’re already familiar with jQuery or javascript I wouldn’t recommend this route. Instead, I would recommend installing Google Tag Manager and set your events up that way.

Google Tag Manager provides several ways to target a link (by CSS class, CSS ID, URL, or even link text) and will make both implementation and maintenance much easier.

Best Practices for Google Analytics Events

Use a Consistent Naming Convention

To make the most use out of your event data make sure you use a consistent naming convention. If you want to be able to easily compare the performance of various campaigns under the same category then make sure that category has the same name for each campaign (label).

This means use the same spacing and capitalization too. Any change will display as an additional row in Google Analytics instead of grouping the data together.

Create a Spreadsheet for Multiple Contributors

If you plan to have multiple people creating events (or even if you just want to make it easier on yourself) create a spreadsheet. Keep track of your category names and actions.

With documentation in place all you have to do is copy and paste when you want to create a new campaign in an existing category. This will help avoid duplicate categories due to type-os, plural, or capitalization issues.

Step 3: Set up Relevant Goals

Once you have an event configured, it’s easy to associate it with a goal in Google Analytics.

To set your event as a goal:

  1. Navigate to Admin and then click Goals under View.
  2. Click on New Goal.
  3. Name your goal.
  4. Under Type select Event.
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Add the conditions that meet your requirements. You can specify all parameters (category, action, and label) or you can just choose to trigger your goal based on one.
  7. Click Save and your new goal is ready.

Step 4: Testing

Use Real-Time Reports to Test Your New Event (and Goal)

Once everything is configured, test your work and make sure everything reports how you expect.

The best way to test events and goals is to use the real-time reports. Navigate to Real-Time to view the data in Google Analytics. Then, click on Events to test your events or Conversions to test your goals.

The view defaults to Active Users. To make it easier to view your various tests click Events (Last 30 min) or Goal Hits (Last 30 min).

Now, test by going to your website and clicking on the element you have set up to trigger the goal or event.

If you have your internal IP filtered out your data won’t be tracked in Google Analytics. To ensure your test isn’t being blocked by anything I test on a mobile device. Make sure your WiFi is turned off so you are using data and not on your standard IP address.

If everything is configured correctly you should see the event or goal trigger in your real-time reports.

Step 5: Viewing Data in Google Analytics

Of course, all of this effort will be wasted if you don’t review the data in Google Analytics.

To review your event data navigate to Behavior > Events. Both the Overview and Top Events reports provide great insight into event performance.

On the Top Events report you can easily toggle between category, action, and label as the primary dimension.

To review your goal data navigate to Conversions > Goals > Overview. This report provides insight into your goal performance.

Remember to review this data. Tracking the data is great, but it’s pointless if you never review it.

Are you tracking events in Google Analytics? Do you have any implementation tips or best practices? Share them in the comments!

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So, you have a website and you already have Google Analytics setup and tracking data. That’s a great start! But, you want to start tracking more. You want to find out who clicks what on your site and which elements are critical in the conversion process. You’d like to determine which campaigns are performing the best and sending qualified traffic to your site.

You can and certainly should do all of this. To accomplish this, you would use a combination of UTM tags, event tracking, and possibly even virtual pageviews. It’s important to understand the difference between these tracking methods so you don’t override any data erroneously.

The first thing to understand about the tracking methods is UTM tags are used to track external links; events and virtual pageviews are used to track internal links. You’ll notice the data from UTM tags will appear in the Campaigns section under Acquisition. Whereas, Events appear under Behavior. UTM tags are intended to track acquisitions from your campaigns and events are meant to track elements within your web property.

UTM Tags are Used for External Sources

Only use UTM tags on external links. Don’t use UTM tags on internal links that go from one page of your website, to another page on the same website. Adding UTM tags to internal links will override the original referrer source and medium. So, if a user got to your website from the source of Google, and then clicked on an internal link with a UTM tag that included a source of YourSite; Google Analytics would override the original referral source of Google, with the new referral source of YourSite.

Does this mean you would never use a UTM tag on your website? No, you can use a UTM tag on a link on your website if it links to a different website. If it goes to a different website then it is an external link. You should know though, that this would not actually provide any Google Analytics data for you, unless you also own the other domain. To capture clicks on the link and collect data on the original website, you could add an event. If the site you’re referring to also needs to track this information you can still include the UTM tag. If the link on your website is an external link you can track it by using both a UTM tag and an event. The event will track the click under Behavior on your site, and the UTM tag will track the click under Acquisition on the site you sent the traffic to.

Use UTM Tags to Track Campaign Efforts

One of the great uses of UTM tags is to track your campaign efforts. You can add these tags to links in e-mail campaigns, social posts, and paid ads. This way you’ll be able to see Campaigns under Acquisition and determine which marketing efforts are having the largest impact.

How Do UTM Tags Work?

UTM tags work by appending parameters to your URL to identify the source, medium, and campaign. There is extensive Google documentation that explains what UTM parameters are and how to use them. Google even offers a Campaign URL Builder that makes it easy to add UTM tags to your URL.

Get More Value Out of Your UTM Tags with a Consistent Naming Convention

When creating UTM parameters, one important tip to remember, is to use a consistent naming convention. To make it easy to understand your campaign efforts, make sure you’re naming your sources and mediums in the same manner during repeat use. If you tag one link with a medium of email, another with a medium of Email, and yet another with e-mail they will all be listed separately. Whereas, if you named the medium for all three campaigns email you would easily be able to review which campaign and source performed best in that medium.

To help with this, I’d recommend always using lowercase and not using spaces. Spaces are allowed but will be replaced with %20 in the URL. This could cause some confusion down the road. Instead, use hyphens (-) or underscores (_) between words. There are also tools you can use to help keep your UTM tags consistent. For example, the Effin Amazing UTM Builder is a Chrome plugin that allows you to set UTM tag presets. That way, when you’re on a URL you want to share, you can just click the plugin and select the UTM preset tag from a drop-down. I like to create presets with placeholder text for the unique campaign name such as [Enter-Campaign-Name-Here]. That way, it’s easy to identify what needs to be modified before sharing the URL.

How Does This Differ for Events?

It’s a good idea to also keep a consistent naming convention for events and virtual pageviews. Typically, this is a little easier as you can reference existing events and virtual pageviews to use as a template. It’s a little more difficult to do that with UTM tags as they are used in external sources and not stored exclusively on your website. For technical setup information, you can view the Google Analytics Event Tracking complete guide or visit the Google developer documentation on virtual pageviews.

How do you use UTM tags and event tracking? Feel free to share any of the tips or tricks you’ve learned to get the most value out of these items.

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