rmurphey Adventures in JavaScript

Suspicious StumbleUpon Bounce Rates?

3 Jan 2008 edit

I've been promoting some of my blog posts by submitting them to StumbleUpon, and it's been generating a fair bit of traffic -- my post "How I Learned CSS" has done especially well. I've been watching my site using Google Analytics, and I've noticed that visitors from StumbleUpon have a substantially lower bounce rate than, say, visitors from dzone. So I think, "yay, StumbleUpon" and start submitting anything interesting I write to there.

But in poking around in my Google Analytics a bit more, I've also noticed that, on pages that I've promoted through SU, I'm seeing strange navigation patterns: for "How I Learned CSS," 40% of visits to the page came from the page itself (and, as it logically follows, 40% of next pages were the page itself). The page was viewed a total of 4,700 times, but a little more than 2,800 of those pageviews were unique. Since bounce rate basically measures whether a new arrival went to another page before leaving the site, I'm not sure it shouldn't count as a bounce if the second page the user visits is the same as the one they were already on.

I'm not seeing this pattern with pages I don't promote on SU, which makes me curious. SU is clearly driving a ton of traffic to my site; it's just not clear that the traffic is actually resulting in the remarkably low bounce rate that Google Analytics shows. If I took out the 40% of people whose next page was the page they were already on, I'm left with not even 1% of people who went to another, different page on the site before leaving -- and suddenly dzone is looking good again.

I did a Google search and didn't come up with much except this, which discusses the importance of bounce rate, and this, which suggests using StumbleUpon to reduce your bounce rate.

I'm curious whether anyone else is seeing this, and whether it's actually related to StumbleUpon, Google Analytics, or something else. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that this is a result of people using the StumbleUpon toolbar (since it's not happening in all cases), and maybe the toolbar is pre-visiting the page on the user's behalf to make sure it still exists?

Update: See the comments and a more in-depth discussion.

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