GA4 Bounce Rate: You Must Adapt To These Huge Changes

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Are you struggling to understand the GA4 bounce rate? I know; it’s showing wildly different figures from those in Universal Analytics…

But this is actually great news. You see, there’s nothing wrong with your GA4 setup. Google simply refined and adapted the bounce rate in GA4 to provide a more accurate picture of user behavior on your pages.

As a digital marketing agency owner, I’ve witnessed many small business owners wrestle with the changes brought by GA4. Many relied on the bounce rate metric in Universal Analytics and now find it challenging to adapt.

You don’t have to struggle with the UA to GA4 transition. The sooner you adapt, the bigger the advantage you can gain over your competitors.

In this article, I’ll explain how the GA4 bounce rate works and why these changes matter for your business. You’ll also learn how to combine bounce rate in Google Analytics 4 with other metrics to better understand user behavior on your pages. Once you start applying the tips I’m about to show you, you’ll know exactly which page elements need polishing in order to maximize engagement and boost profits. Now, let’s get started!

Table of Contents:
GA4 bounce rate.

There Is Still Bounce Rate In GA4 – But This Metric Has Changed A Lot

Despite being many’s favorite – bounce rate was one of the most misunderstood metrics in Universal Analytics. Chances are, it misled you sometimes to make early conclusions and unnecessary website overhauls.

That’s why it didn’t surprise me that Google decided to prevent this from happening in GA4. At first, the bounce rate metric wasn’t even included within the new platform. And even now that it’s back (after negative reactions), the Google Analytics 4 bounce rate is calculated significantly differently.

The change was for good.

I found the GA4 bounce rate to be a game-changer. It shows a more accurate and realistic picture of visitor engagement. You see – it’s not just about whether a visitor bounced or not. Understanding how they interacted with your page before bouncing is what makes the difference. If people found what they were looking for on your page and left satisfied, is that really a bad thing?

Today’s websites and apps are more sophisticated than ever before. They’re capable of providing comprehensive solutions on a single page.

Now, let’s discuss another scenario. Like many others, I often catch myself reading blog posts on a specific topic and leaving without clicking anywhere else on the website. The fact that I rarely open any other blog posts on those websites doesn’t mean I don’t find their articles helpful. As a business owner, I usually have other things burning under my feet. But with UA, my actions would have been considered a bounce.

With GA4, the story changes. Such actions are recognized as ‘Engaged Sessions,’ highlighting my positive reactions. So don’t be surprised if you notice a decrease in your bounce rates with GA4. This refined metric now acknowledges that a single-page visit doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of engagement.

To help you better understand this clever change Google introduced, let’s compare formulas for getting Universal Analytics bounce rate vs Google Analytics 4 bounce rate.

How Was Bounce Rate Calculated In Universal Analytics?

In Universal Analytics, the bounce rate was pretty straightforward. It was the percentage of sessions where visitors viewed just a single page on your website. Simply put, if a visitor arrived at your site, read one blog post, and left without exploring further, this was registered as a ‘bounce.’

Let’s say two people landed on your product page. If one left and the other clicked on the ‘About us’ section to see if you’re to be trusted, your bounce rate would be 50%. Why? Because half (or 50%) of these sessions consisted of a single-page view.

You’d get your bounce rate percentage by simply dividing the number of ‘bounces’ (visitors who viewed only one page) by the total number of sessions:

Bounces (Single-page sessions) / Total Sessions = Bounce Rate %

So, to put it another way, the bounce rate in UA was the ratio of single-page sessions to all sessions. It was a measure of all sessions on your site in which users viewed just a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

How Is GA4 Bounce Rate Calculated?

Now let’s check how to calculate the bounce rate in GA4. The process is significantly different. Instead of simply evaluating single-page sessions, Google Analytics 4 presents a more nuanced view of user engagement. Here’s how it works:

GA4 defines bounce rate as the percentage of not ‘engaged sessions.’ This brings the question: what counts as an ‘engaged session’ in GA4? According to Google, an engaged session is one that:

  1. Lasts longer than 10 seconds,
  2. Triggers at least one conversion event, or
  3. Views 2 or more pages or screens.

Consequently, a session is considered a ‘bounce’ in GA4 if it meets ALL of the following criteria:

  1. The session was less than 10 seconds long,
  2. It had zero conversion events, and
  3. It had less than 2 page or screen views.

Here’s the formula for calculating the Google Analytics 4 bounce rate percentage:

Bounces(non-engaged session)/Sessions x 100 = Bounce Rate %

Here’s an example: If you had a total of 100 sessions, out of which 60 were ‘engaged sessions,’ you would first calculate the number of non-engaged sessions by subtracting the number of engaged sessions from the total sessions: 100 sessions – 60 engaged sessions = 40 non-engaged sessions (or bounces).

To get the bounce rate, divide these 40 bounces by the total number of sessions (100), and multiply by 100:

40 (bounces) / 100 (total sessions) * 100 = 40% Bounce Rate

So, in GA4, a 40% bounce rate indicates that 40% of your sessions were not considered engaged. This is a more granular and comprehensive perspective of user engagement than what we had with the bounce rate UA was showing.

Here Is How To Find Bounce Rate In Google Analytics 4

The GA4 transition has led to some significant changes in how metrics are displayed and evaluated. And bounce rate is a prime example.

For clients of my PPC agency in Chicago, understanding user engagement through bounce rate is critical, and GA4 provides a deeper insight than Universal Analytics in this aspect. However, bounce rate isn’t a default metric in GA4 reports; you must add it manually.

Here’s how to find the GA4 bounce rate report:

  1. Access your GA4 property: Start by logging into your Google Analytics 4 property. Navigate to the “Reports” section in the left-side menu.
  2. Visit ‘Pages & Screens’: Within “Reports,” select “Pages & Screens.”
  3. Edit your report: If you have appropriate permissions, you’ll notice a pencil icon in the upper right corner. Click on this to edit the report you want to customize.
  4. Add ‘Bounce Rate’ metric: Select “Metrics” and then “Add metric.” Find ‘Bounce Rate’ in the dropdown list and select it. Arrange your columns in your desired order and click “Apply.”
  5. Save your changes: ‘Bounce Rate’ should now be included in your reports. If you want this to be a permanent feature, make sure to hit the “Save” button.

And that’s it. Now, you can track and analyze the website bounce rate in GA4. This can provide you with valuable insights into your users’ engagement levels. Once you perform GA4 Google Ads integration, you can have this metric for your ads too.

But does the bounce rate metric tell you everything? Stick with me as I explore this controversial question in the following section.

Other GA4 metrics.

Don’t Judge Your Page By Its Bounce Rate – Pay Attention To These Metrics Too

When you notice a high bounce rate, your first instinct might be to take everything you can to turn things around. But what you might fail to realize is that a good bounce rate is a relevant thing. What is considered to be a good bounce rate for a product page might not cut it for a blog post, and vice versa. 

While the GA4 bounce rate better reflects how engaging your visitors found your pages to be, you still shouldn’t completely rely on this metric. 

To make the most of your data, you need to work on building context (annotations in GA4 can be an invaluable tool here). You must combine performance metrics to gain a comprehensive picture. A holistic approach to data analysis always yields the most actionable insights. We shouldn’t judge our pages just by their bounce rates. Here are some other metrics I like to check before making any conclusions:

Engagement Rate

GA4 Bounce rate and GA4 engagement rate are opposite but interconnected forces.

The engagement rate is calculated by dividing the number of engaged sessions by the total number of sessions. As I’ve previously explained, an engaged session is one that lasts longer than 10 seconds, triggers a minimum of one conversion event, and includes at least two page views.

The beauty of focusing on the ‘Engagement Rate’ rather than the ‘Bounce Rate’ is that it shifts the perspective to the positive side of user behavior. It encourages a proactive approach to improving user engagement rather than merely trying to reduce the bounce rate.

That’s why I often tell my clients to pay attention to their GA4 engagement rate. It’s an indicator of what’s working on your site and of what keeps your visitors engaged. A higher engagement rate generally means that more of your sessions involve meaningful interaction – a good sign for your site’s overall performance.

Views per user

This metric represents the average number of screens each user views on your website. If someone lands on your homepage, checks out a product, reads your blog, and finally contacts you for more details, each of these actions is considered a ‘view.’

By calculating the total number of such views per user, you gain insights into the user engagement depth.

If your ‘Views per User’ metric is high, it can imply that users find your content engaging enough to continue exploring your site. And if your website has a lot of content spread across multiple pages, this metric can be especially helpful. High numbers usually indicate a smooth and intuitive user experience that leads users to browse multiple pages.

How to Find ‘Views Per User’ in GA4:

  1. Login to your GA4 account and navigate to ‘Reports’ on the left-hand menu.
  2. Under ‘Reports,’ click on ‘Engagement.’
  3. From there, navigate to ‘Pages and Screens.’
  4. Here, you can find your ‘Views per User’ metric alongside other user data. This metric is calculated by dividing the total number of views by the total number of users in a given timeframe.

Average Engagement Time

The ‘Average Engagement Time’ shows you the average time users actively engage with your webpage. It takes into account only the active time people spend on your website. If someone leaves their browser open while going for a lunch break, it won’t count as engaged time.

The higher this metric is, the chances are that users are finding your content exciting and engaging. Time is a scarce currency nowadays. And they don’t mind investing time reading, viewing, or interacting with your content.

Unique User Scrolls

Unique User Scrolls in GA4 is a metric that measures the number of times users scrolled 90% of a page on your site. This information is extremely valuable. It sheds light on user engagement beyond just page visits. It shows you how many visitors actually made it to the end of your article.

Of course, sometimes people will find information that interests them before reaching the end of your blog post (or any other page). But if you start noticing more and more unique user scrolls after updating your content piece, that’s a great sign.

If many users are scrolling through a large portion of your pages, your content is probably on point. 

And if the 90% threshold doesn’t suit you, you can use Google Tag Manager to customize scroll tracking percentages.

GA4 Is a Great Opportunity – And You Can Capture On It

Google Analytics 4 brought many changes – GA4 bounce rate being one of these. It doesn’t surprise me that many businesses struggle to adapt to its advanced capabilities.

But you must realize that GA4 is a golden opportunity to start gaining insights into user behavior like never before. Once you set it up to your unique needs, all the dots in your head connect.

I witnessed it first hands with my agency. It’s like having a clear roadmap that shows you all the details you need to connect with your audience love you.

However, Google Analytics 4 takes a steep learning curve. Investing 50+ hours in careful study and implementation is problematic when you’re running a business. As a seasoned Google Analytics consultant, I’d love to help you get things under control much faster.

Feel free to schedule a call with me today so we can start preparing you for the future of web analytics.

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