Understanding Exit Rate - The Key for Higher Visitor Retention on Your Website

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Google Analytics has long included a metric called "exit rate," which doesn't always get the attention that it deserves. When properly used, the exit rate can be even better at pinpointing website problems than studying your existing CTAs. Here's what it is and how it works.

Exit Rate Explained

The exit rate is the percentage of site exits that occurred from a specific page/set of pages.

"That sounds like a bounce rate to me," is the common response right here, and it's very important to understand the difference between the two, because they aren't actually that similar. The bounce rate only measures the people who visit one page and immediately leave that one page – whatever the first link they click on shows, they don't like it. Exit rate, however, measures the percentage of people who 1)aren't bothered by the first page they see, and go on to visit other pages on your website and 2)eventually do leave from a particular page.

Using exit rate, you can review your pages and see which pages visitors are especially likely to leave from and explore other sites.  

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 Why Exit Rate Matters

It's important to know why people leave your website! Bounce rate accounts for one set of problems (technical, link difficulties, content, etc.) but only addresses part of the issue. Exit rate takes a look at how people who stay around leave. There are two general categories exit rates fall into:

Exits are Totally Fine: This happens when an exit is expected, and it's generally nothing to worry about. The best example is the checkout page after an order has been confirmed: No one sticks around here. It's natural for people to leave at this point, and it's a good sign when they do.

Exits are a Big Problem: Here's where you need to pay attention. If people aren't leaving after a final CTA or purchase, but rather on another page, you need to figure out why. This may be a serious problem – customers are willing to explore your site at first, but then find something that turns them off so much that they leave your site entirely and go somewhere else. It could be a page with seirous technical issues, a page that lacks any clear navigation for where to go next, a page with unpleasant design aspects, and so on.

How to Use Exit Rates

So where do you put exit rates in your current strategy? Bunch them up with bounce rates, and look at both at the same time to diagnose website difficulties. 4 basic steps to analyze them for SEO include the following:

  • Map the Customer Journey: Technically, you should already have this done. It's important to have a sales funnel fully mapped out with plenty of channel information to understand where customers are coming from and how they progress through your site. Google Analytics provides this information.
  • Watch for High Exit Rates: Get exit rate scores for your pages, and watch for unusually high numbers. Exit scores are pretty relative as a metric, so you don't need to worry too much about other site scores. Take a look at your own highest exited pages, and narrow it down to the top contenders for each page type.
  • Find the Causes Behind Unusual Exits: Again, not all exits are bad. Seeing a lot of exits around product pages, for example, is pretty common: People are review your product offers and then exiting to think about it or compare to another site. This is normal. What you are looking for is a page that has unusually high exit rates for that type of page. "Behavior Flow" in Google Analytics can help you take a look at how visitors move through your site, which helps you see what they're looking for. Watch for problems.
  • Modify Your Layout and Content: Once you've figured out the problem, change that page to address the issue. Sometimes the problem is obvious and easy to fix. Sometimes it's less clear, and you may have to work harder at putting yourself in the mind of the customer. IT and marketing consultations may be able to help here!

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Sarah Hayes

Project Manager at 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. A self described life long learner that thrives on detail, I love bringing these skills to the table to help others succeed.

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