I don’t know how many times I have heard that question, that is like asking how many times do get acknowledged when you say hello? Sorry to sound to presumptuous here but it would be a wasted conversation because the person asking the question does not understand the web or even does not know what outcome they want to drive and hence ask for a “prescriptive” set of numbers so that they can measure against.
Why is it hard for people to be more outcome driven? Because bounce rate although they are an ok metric, it is contingent upon other factors such as :
Location: If you are targeting a particular geography and you have high bounce rates from sources outside of the geography should you care ?
New vs Returning: This is another factor that you need to consider on the bounce rates. New users are great but if you have a higher rate of people returning then that is a good thing
Device: What are the devices people using to come to your website? If you find a high bounce rate because your site is not mobile optimized.Then you should do something about that
Medium: How are people coming to your site? SEO, Email campaigns, Social media, Paid Search, organic etc. If you break up your traffic this way you will be able to see what are some of the more effective mediums to reach out to your clientele.
All these divisions/ segments are interrelated I guess the net of this blog is that know you what your outcomes are and segment accordingly. Bounce rates are great start if you don’t know web metrics but what you should be really looking at are exit rates (thanks to Avinash Kaushik: http://goo.gl/qjpn0). To me exit rates are more revealing about the leaks in your conversion funnel and what you need to fix.
Another more important metric would be churn rates, similar to exit rates except churn rates focus on the customers you already have. What are you doing to take care of your existing customers and at what rate are they leaving (http://goo.gl/t1ADj).
So when some asks you about what is the ideal bounce rate? Please take the time to educate them and let them understand what outcomes are they trying to drive ( Increase registrations, downloads, donations, buy products etc,)
Caveat: If your company is obsessed about bounce rates, then you have a good inkling that the organization has never thought of the web as a viable channel and you have long road to educate people.
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments