What Happened to Bounce Rate in Google Analytics 4: Engaged Sessions
As some of you start migrating to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you will naturally start to see that it is very different from Universal Analytics (UA or GA3). The interface is different, some things are in different places and some features are just gone altogether. It’s left people asking a lot of questions. One of which being ‘what happened to bounce rate in Google Analytics 4’?
‘Bounce Rate’, was a handy tool that gave us insight into the kind of users that abandoned a website after viewing only one page. By knowing your website’s bounce rate, you get a better idea of engagement on your site. If your bounce rate is high, it’s probably a good idea to start thinking of ways to encourage users to stick around.
But recently, Google has decided to switch things up. GA has received an update called Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It’s packed full of useful features. But in setting up GA4, Google has removed Bounce Rate. So how can you find this information now?
What is Bounce Rate?
Before we can explain bounce rate, you need to have an understanding of how sessions work in Google Analytics.
A Session – Sessions are the way in which GA tracks user interactions on your site. GA records each of a user’s interactions from the moment they land on your site, up until the moment they leave it.
A Single Page session – As the name suggests, a single-page session is when a user views a single webpage and leaves
As alluded to in the introduction, bounce rate focuses on single-page sessions. It’s calculated by the number of single-page sessions divided by all sessions. For example, if 5 in every 10 users leave your website after viewing only one page, your bounce rate would be 50%.
Obviously, if you’re a business that is running a website, bounce rate is something that you should be concerned about. You want to be creating engaging content that draws a user in and encourages them to explore more of your website.
What Did Bounce Rate Tell us?
As you can see from the image below, bounce rate featured quite heavily in Google Analytics reports. As well as our bounce rate, we could see the average number of pages viewed for each session.
Another particularly useful feature was the ability to see our bounce rate in relation to our marketing campaigns. When you’re trying to bring new traffic to your site, you obviously want as low a bounce rate as possible.
In short, bounce rate was an extremely handy tool in informing how successful your website has been in retaining visitors.
How is Google Analytics 4 Different?
Over the years we’ve seen lots of different versions of Google Analytics. This has included Urchin Analytics, Classic Analytics, Universal Analytics, and, most recently Google Analytics 4. Each version of the software has built upon its predecessor, and Google Analytics 4 is no different.
There are a plethora of new benefits including:
- Better machine learning to provide better and more insights
- Integration with BigQuery for standard users rather than just GA360
- Better sessionisation and is thus better at cross-platform tracking
There’s much, much more to GA4. But the fundamental change we are looking at today is the removal of bounce rate. The removal of bounce rate might anger some businesses, but it shouldn’t. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be unhappy at the loss of bounce rate.
Engaged Sessions has Replaced Bounce Rate in Google Analytics 4
Don’t panic, bounce rate in Google Analytics 4 isn’t gone altogether. Essentially, it had a rebrand. We now have a new metric ‘Engaged Sessions.’ These are sessions that meet one of three metrics where a session has:
- Lasted more than ten seconds (this can be changed to 30).
- Contained a conversion event (when a user completes an activity that is important to your business).
- Contained views of more than two web pages.
The engagement rate is measured by the total number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions on a website. Basically, engaged sessions are a beefed-up version of bounce rate. With engaged sessions, you can learn more about the kind of interactions that influenced a user to stay on your site.
Perhaps most important of all, the new metric accounts for app users. With 3.2 billion mobile users on the planet, it’s essential that app users are included in reports. It’s not uncommon for an app user to stay on one page and still complete meaningful interactions. In GA3, app users were at risk of contributing negatively to the bounce rate.
What Other Engagement Metrics are There?
Along with the ‘Engaged Sessions’ measurement, Google has introduced a couple of other metrics built to calculate engagement. These include:
Engaged Sessions per User
This is calculated by dividing the number of engaged sessions by the number of users.
This measures the amount of time that a user was engaged on your website.
How to View Engaged Sessions (the New Bounce Rate)
To view your engaged sessions, you first need to open your Google Analytics 4 interface. From the toolbar on the right, select ‘Life Cycle’. This activates a drop-down menu. From here, select ‘acquisition’ and then ‘acquisition overview’.
This will bring you to the ‘User acquisition’ page. By default, this page shows users that are classed as ‘First user’ (there are lots of different mediums to choose from). Information in each section can be used to help inform how you improve your engagement. Let’s go through each area.
From the top left, we have a bar chart. In this instance, it’s showing the different sources that brought users to your site.
This information is also displayed in a graph to give a sense of how users were acquired over different periods of time.
Finally, we have a table collating all this information. It’s here that we can kind find our Engaged sessions. Usefully, engaged sessions are shown alongside information that shows where traffic is coming from. For example, you might find that your engagement rate is higher for users that find your site from a referral. With this information, you can start deciding which are your most valuable partners.
Can I Still View the Old Bounce Rate?
For the reasons outlined above, the Engaged Sessions metric is a much better option than the bounce rate. If for whatever reason, you still want to view your bounce rate, you can do so from Universal Analytics (UA) until the 1st of July 2023 for standard UA users and the 1st of October 2023 for GA360 users. As this is when Universal Analytics accounts will stop processing new hits.
In short, don’t panic!
Bounce rate hasn’t really gone. When you look more closely at the features included in the Engaged Sessions metric, you’ll see that it’s actually a lot better than the old system. The significance of engaged sessions accounting for mobile users cannot be overlooked. A huge proportion of people are now using mobile apps to access websites.
The fact is bounce rate was increasingly providing us with bad data. If you’re running an app under Universal Analytics, a large percentage of your user base will probably be counted as bounces.
So yes, don’t panic. Google Analytics still provides us with the same features as bounce rate, it just handles it a lot better.
Just remember an important mistake not to make when migrating to GA4 is forgetting to change session timeout from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. It’s recommended that you do this as having the default 10 seconds can make your engagement look worse than it is.
Only make this change when you initially migrate though. If you already have lots of data, it’s not worth skewing your data.
Take a look at our blog for more tips on Google Analytics and more.