Jan 5, 2023

GA4: Bounce rate and engagement rate explained

ga4 bounce rate and engagement rate explained Header

Bounce rate is no longer an essential engagement metric in Google Analytics. It has been functionally replaced by a new metric: engagement rate.

We used to track engagement rate as, simply, the opposite of bounce rate:

  • If a page’s bounce rate was 87%, that meant that 13% of visitors engaged.Engagement rate = 13%.
  • If a page’s bounce rate was 30%, then 70% of visitors engaged.Engagement rate = 70%.

But engagement rate has evolved. It’s much more precise in GA4. You can still, technically, measure bounce rate. But don’t do that. This post will explain why.

This post will look at…

  • Bounce rate vs engagement rate
  • What happened in the switch from GA3 to GA4
  • Why we think you should start focusing more on engagement rather than bounce

What is bounce rate?

Bounce rate is measuring how frequently visitors ‘bounce’ from a given page. That is: how frequently they land on a page and then leave your site without ever viewing another page on the site or taking any other action.

Example

Somebody searches a term on Google, then clicks on your link in the search results page.

They look at your page, decide it’s not what they’re looking for, and click back to their search results.

What does bounce rate mean for marketers?

Generally, people see bounce rate as an important engagement metric for the quality of their content. If a page on your site has a high bounce rate, this often indicates that the content quality of your website isn’t satisfying.

People can bounce from your website for a variety of reasons:

  • It doesn’t meet the searcher’s intent
  • Poor quality content
  • UX was confusing
  • No internal links or CTA

Bounce rate in GA3 vs GA4

In GA3 (also known as Universal Analytics), bounce rate is calculated as the number of bounces over the number of sessions.

Bounce rate = bounces [divided by] sessions

In GA4, however, bounce rate is calculated differently. It’s the inverse of engagement rate.

Bounce rate = 1 [minus] engagement rate

It’s the same thing, but that equation tells you everything you need to know about this metric’s place in the GA4 hierarchy: bounce rate is now an afterthought. Engagement rate is the new star of the show.

How to view bounce rate in GA4

Sign in to your GA4 account and follow these instructions:

  • On the left-hand sidebar, click on Reports > Pages & Screens.
  • Click on the ‘Pencil’ icon on the top to edit the report.
  • Click on Metrics > Add metrics.
  • Find bounce rate in the drop-down list and select it. After organizing in your desired order, click on the Apply button.
  • Bounce rate is now added to your reports. Click on the Save button.

In GA4, you can still measure bounce rate but it doesn’t appear by default. You need to use the customization method to measure the bounce rate on that particular page.

What is engagement rate in GA4?

According to Google, an engaged session is a session that fits at least one of the following criteria:

  • Lasts longer than 10 seconds
  • Has a conversion event
  • Has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews

Examples

Somebody searches a term on Google, then clicks on your link in the search results page. They scroll around your page for maybe 15 seconds then click back to their search results. This is registered as an engaged session.

Alternately: they click onto your page, and immediately click on the button labeled “Free Demo.” This is also registered as an engaged session (so long as you’ve set up that “Free Demo” link as a conversion event).

What does engagement rate mean for marketers?

A high engagement rate means that your page is set up for decent baseline engagement. The fundamentals are strong.

It enables insights about the same areas as bounce rate:

  • Search intent
  • UX
  • Content quality
  • Internal links

How to view engagement rate in GA4

Sign in to your GA4 account and follow these instructions:

  • On the left-hand sidebar, click on Reports > Acquisition.
  • Click on User acquisition.
  • A new screen will open where you can view engagement rates and other data.

How the calculation has improved

In addition to changing the focus from bounces to engagements, the calculation is correcting some of bounce rate’s biggest oversights.

Considering for time spent on the page

Bounce rate failed to factor in the time a person spent on a page – even if someone stayed for 10 minutes and read your page really thoroughly. Unless that reader continued on to another link on your site, the session would be registered as a bounce (ie. saying that the reader was not engaging with the page).

That type of labeling isn’t very accurate.

Engagement rate in GA4 does take time-on-page into consideration. If a visitor stays on the page longer than 10 seconds, it counts as an engaged session.

Tracking actual engagement

Engagement rate factors in actual engagement as well, regardless of time on page. If a visitor triggers an event that GA detects as a conversion, this will also count as an engaged session.

Bounce rate did not have this level of sophistication. It simply noted whether or not you clicked to another page.

How Ercule can help

We love Google Analytics, but we also know that many marketers think of it as a chore. There’s a daunting amount of valuable metrics in there, and the user interface isn’t exactly welcoming.

So we created an app that streamlines data collection and content performance management. It’s called Ottimo. It’s totally free. No strings attached.

Do you need more hands-on help with your content performance metrics? We implement performance trackers, content strategy, and library management for clients every day. Send us a note with your latest dilemma and we’ll do our best to help.

We’re *actually* here to help

We’re marketers who love spreadsheets, algorithms, code, and data. And we love helping other marketers with interesting challenges. Tackling the hard stuff together is what we like to do.

We don’t just show you the way—we’re in this with you too.

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