How to Install Adjusted Bounce Rate Using Google Tag Manager

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Let's talk about bounce rate. For me it's one of those metrics you need to take with a pinch of salt because it's often misleading and easily misinterpreted.

Bounce rate doesn't tell us whether people are reading or engaging  with our content in a meaningful way. Get this, a website visitor can read the whole of your blog post, watch a video, make a download and it still counts as a bounce.

All because they haven't clicked through to another page!

I know it can be a useful metric when analysed in the context of other metrics and can help provide insights on your content's performance. However, bounce rate's misinterpretation really comes down to the way it is defined in Google Analytics.

Defining Google Analytic's bounce rate

Google Analytics define a bounce as "a session with one page view", meaning  someone who visits a landing page and does not click through to any other pages.

Seems pretty straightforward right?

Well this is actually a HUGE problem because bounce rate does not tell us whether people are reading and engaging with our content in a meaningful way.

Let's take a pretty common interaction with a blog post for example:

  1. Visitor arrives on blog post
  2. Finds the information they are looking for
  3. Leaves

The above interaction would register as a bounce. A high bounce rate tells us barely anything about user intent and the actions they took on the page.

Why use an adjusted bounce rate?

Adjusted bounce rate actually considers if someone had an interaction on the page.

So for the adjusted bounce rate we will be defining a bounce as "a pageview without an event or interaction".

Implementing an adjusted bounce rate gives us a MUCH better measurement of how a page is actually performing. 

Since implementing an ABR for our own website, we have seen a massive drop in bounced visits and it has provided us with a much more accurate representation of engagement with our posts.

Comparison data of implementing an adjusted bounce rate for Atomic Marketing

Comparison data of implementing an adjusted bounce rate for Atomic Marketing

Here's how you can do the same, let's get started.

Note: If you haven't configured GTM yet, read the first part of this post on Getting Started with your Google Tag Manager Account.

1. Create a new tag

So a really simple way to do this in GTM is to fire an event after a defined period of time. For the sake of this example let’s say 30 seconds. This will let analytics know that from this point on, any time spent beyond your defined time will not count as a bounce.

Create New Tag
You can create a new tag either from the "Overview" or "Tags" tabs.

Tag Manager Tags page screenshot

Choose Product: Google Analytics
We want to track adjusted bounce rate in Google Analytics so select that.

Choose product page in Google Tag Manager

Choose a Tag Type: Universal Analytics
When we create our property in Google Analytics we nearly always use Universal Analytics. It's the default setting so you won't need to change anything here.

GTM screenshot of new tag being created

Configure Tag: Tracking ID
This is your Google Analytics property ID. Normally looks like UA-XXXXXXXX-X. Grab this from the Admin section of your Google Analytics account.

Configure tag screenshot 

Track Type: Event
We want to track users duration of more than 10 seconds on our website as an event in Google Analytics.

Event Tracking Parameters

  • Category: "30 Sec"
  • Action: "30 Sec"

You can use whatever names you would like for these, these are what I used.

Screenshot of event tracking parameters in Google Tag Manager

Next up we need to create a Trigger. Just to confirm, here's what you should have so far.

Screenshot of GTM fire on settinging

2. Setting up the Trigger

For "Fire On" click "More" to bring up other options. Next label your trigger "Timer - 30 Sec" and choose the "Timer" option.

Create trigger screenshot in GTM, timer selected
  • For the Configure Trigger options, leave the Event Name as "gtm.timer"
  • Then for Interval, choose the amount of time you would like to use before the Tag is fired. GTM uses milliseconds so if you would like your adjusted bounce rate interaction to register after 30 seconds then use "30000"
  • Ensure the limit is set to one, as we only want this event to fire once

You will now see three text boxes. We want the trigger to fire on all pages so follow these settings:

  • First box select "Page URL"
  • Second box select "matches RegEx"
  • Third box type ".*" (this means all pages)
Trigger settings screenshot in GTM of enabling triggers

Click continue and go ahead and click the "Create Trigger" button.

3. Testing Using Preview & Debug

Now all we need to do is make sure everything is working.

In the top right of your screen you should see a red "Publish" button. Click on the arrow and select "Preview and Debug".

Wait for the page to reload and you will then see an orange box saying "Now Previewing Version #". (That number will depend on how much you have used GTM)

Screenshot of preview mode in Google Tag Manager

Open up a new tab in your browser and visit any page of your website.

The GTM console will open at the bottom of the browser. This is a live debugging tool that allows you to check if your Tags are is working correctly.

Screenshot of the GTM console in the preview and debugging mode

You will see under Tags a summary of Tags both 'Fired' and 'Not Fired' on the page.

Wait 30 seconds and you will see "gtm.timer" pop up under summary. You will also see that the Tag we created has fired successfully.

4. Check Real Time Events in Google Analytics

Let's check that these events are registering in Google Analytics.

  • Log in to Google Analytics
  • Select Reporting from the main menu

Using the left menu

  • Select "Real Time"
  • Next select "Events"

From here you can see any events that have occurred recently on your website and you will see that your 30 sec timer has been tracked as an Event as show below.

5. Publish and Go Live

Now know it works, leave the Preview mode and Publish the Tag to make it live.

Head back to GTM, and from where you selected Preview and Debug, change the option to "Publish".

You will see a popup that shows a breakdown of the changes are about to go live. Go ahead and click "Publish Now".

Adjusted Bounce Rate is Active 

You will be able to view your 30 second timer events under Behavior and Events in Google Analytics.

Also from this point onwards, any website visitor who stays 30 seconds or longer on your website will not contribute towards your website's bounce rate!

Setting up an adjusted bounce rate really is a great way to get better data from the bounce rate metric. So now, even if people are only visiting one page, or reading a single post, we have a bounce rate that accurately represents their interaction with that page.

I would love to hear what time limits you use and why. Let me know in the comments section, and if you have any questions feel free to post them below!

Written by

Sam Obrart Avatar

Sam Obrart, Digital Marketer

Digital marketer at Atomic Marketing. I write about web design, Analytics, Squarespace & SEO. Passionate about travel and entrepreneurship. Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter!