Soft vs Hard Bounces: A Closer Look at Bounce Rate

What if I told you that your bounced visitors include some of your best customers and one of the most profitable segments for your site? Sound crazy? Read on…

Bounce rate is one of the most loved metrics. Bounce rate is an indicator of page performance and tells you if your page was compelling enough to entice entries on this page to click-through to an additional page of your site or if they decided to leave your site all together. It is calculated as single page visits divided by entries (single page visits is also called single access visits in SiteCatalyst).

Omniture Discover allows us to take a deeper look at bounce rate by differentiating between a hard bounce and a soft bounce. By a hard bounce I mean that they came to your site, saw one page, left, and never came back. By a soft bounce I mean that they had a single-page visit once but they did come back some other time.

You can imagine that someone coming to your site and immediately leaving is a bad thing but how many of those bounces are because a big fan of your site has bookmarked your site to load every time they start up their browser? This person may visit your site regularly and buy lots of stuff but may also often load his browser (and your page with it) and then navigate elsewhere. This illustrates one case of how someone bouncing from your site doesn’t mean they hate you. This kind of analysis is great for all sites but especially for sites like,, blogs in general, or any other site that is mostly just one page. If your site just has one page than you are pretty much guaranteed to have a high bounce rate so it is worth taking a closer look.

Here is how you can look at these soft and hard bounces in Discover. Below are the total visits and single page visits for a site over the past few weeks (see this Discover tip for trending single page visits). At the site level, visits are the same as entries so we can use visits to calculate the bounce rate (41MM/83MM) which is 50% for this site (ouch).

To take a closer look and see what amount of these single page visits are a hard bounce we can use the following segment:

This segment is looking for visitors to the site that have only one visit and a path length of 1 (aka, a single page visit). Simply put, this is a visitor whose only interaction for the time period was a single page view. When we add this segment to the report we can then see how many of these single page visits are the “forever lost” kind.

Notice that 53% of all single page visits are a hard bounce (22MM/41MM). That’s only half of them! You can either subtract hard bounces from all single page visits to get the soft bounces or you can apply the following segment:

This segment is looking for visitors with multiple visits where at least one of those visits was a single page visit. These will be our soft bounces. And here are the results.

47% of Single Page Visits are from our Soft Bounce segment. These are single page visits that interact with your site outside of the single page visits counted here. Keep in mind that this in not in chronological order and so they may have had a bounce visit before or after another visit.

Now it gets really interesting when we look at revenue per visitor by segment to understand how much money I’m making off of these people. You can see that of these three segments below, my soft bounce group has substantially higher revenue per visitor than both of the other segments. The other segments here are “All Visits” which is a simple site average and “Ex Hard Bounces” which is all visits minus the hard bounces (just to make it a little more fair when comparing to the soft bounce group). Compared to the site average, the soft bounce visitors are three times more popular (and yes, this is real data.) Apparently, even though the soft bounce group does have a single page visit on their record, they certainly make up for it during other visits. (Notice that by week the numbers are lower…this is caused by a deduplicated visitor count used as the denominator. Stay tuned for a future post on working with visitors in Discover.)

So there you go…soft and hard bounces. Hopefully this gives you pause if you are trying to be tricky and provide discounts to people that are immediately leaving your site. These people may have already purchased or are likely to return without you having to give away money to do it. Look at the data for your site to see if this is the case.